Don’t Just Sit There; Learn Something!
Is talk radio driving you to distraction? Are you sick of hearing the same oldies over and over and over again? Have you listened to the last bit of hip-hop you ever want to hear? Are even your own CDs sounding a bit stale? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you should consider tuning out the stuff you don´t want to hear and tuning in to audio books. Instead of filling your ears with fluff or meaningless jabber, you can transport yourself to distant places, escape from the humdrum of the workaday world or, heaven forbid, even learn something. Audio books are the fastest growing segment of the trade book industry with a growth rate at about 10 percent per year. As people get busier and busier, they want to make certain they are spending their time more wisely.
What are all these people listening to? The uninitiated might be amazed at the range of subject matter and types of materials available. If you think audio books refer only to “books on cassette,” then you are not grasping the whole picture. Audio books include any audio recording that is primarily spoken rather than music. Amazingly it covers original productions in a wide variety of categories including language instruction, self-help, storytelling, non-fiction, fiction – virtually any subject you can name. Pretty much any subject you can think of has spawned dozens of audio books. And the sources of audio books are nearly as varied. Perhaps the easiest way to get the audio book bug is to stop into a local library. Many public libraries offer a wide selection of audio books right next to their traditional “stacks.”
Beyond that the big chain booksellers, like Barnes & Noble and B Dalton, have jumped into the audio books business in a big way. On the Internet, outlets that offer both sales and rental proliferate, led by the industry giant Books-on-Tape. Typing “audio books” into your favorite search engine will pull you up a wide variety of sources, some large, some very specialized. Finally, Amazon.com stocks and ships a wide variety of mostly abridged books-on-cassette. Just so you don’t think that audio books listeners are concentrated among the old and infirm in our population, the 35-64 age group was the most loyal and avid listening group. The median income of listeners is $54,900. The average male listener is 41.9 years old, while the average female listener is 44.2 years old. Male listeners tend to listen to more titles per year, but there are more female listeners in total. Also interesting are the facts that the highest amount of listening time comes from males aged 21-34 and females 50-64. So what are people listening to? Everything from children´s books to non-fiction.
Parents have found recorded books a great way to help fill their children´s time on long car trips. With cassette players so cheap and children´s titles so plentiful, it makes sense to equip each of your children with an individual player so you can customize their listening. At the same time, you might want to plug in an unabridged novel or the latest self-help or business book for yourself. As to the future of audio books couldn´t be rosier. Not only are traditional books on tape on an upward trajectory, but new technology also promises to make the spoken word even more accessible. Web sites offer downloads to devices via MP3 and similar technology, and with the use of a digital player you can listen in your car or on a jog through the park. Oddly enough, the digital revolution might well be the biggest boon to oral storytelling since the advent of the campfire. In any case, there is no doubt that next time you have a hankering for a “good read,” it might be wise to let someone else do the reading for you.