Yes, you want to read more books, but you just don’t have the time for it, right? Audiobooks are a good way to tackle your reading list, but it can be difficult to get started with them. Let’s make it simple.
You might think there is nothing more to an audiobook than just downloading a title you want to listen to and get going. But several other things matter, especially to a beginner. We already instinctively know what to do with a book because of schooling, but you still need to learn tips to read more books. Similarly, it’s not just “listening” here — our brain needs to be trained to work with an audiobook.
Start with a Book You Have Already Read
You might be tempted by the idea of starting your audiobook experience with a book that you have long meant to read but never got around to. Stop!
Starting audiobooks with a new book isn’t the best way. Instead, start with a book you are familiar with. If you like reading, you already have a few favourites. Pick one of the classics and start with that. In fact, you can browse through ten websites for free audiobooks and not spend a dime in your trial run.
Since it’s a book you have probably read multiple times, this serves as a way to get into the “feel” of the audiobook experience. You’ll find that it’s quite different from reading books, so ease yourself into this. Don’t rush it.
Once you are done with your first audiobook and have familiarised yourself with listening to prose, take the next step of listening to an audiobook that you haven’t already read. Maybe you’ll find something cool in seven websites for unknown free audiobooks.
Get the Right Narrator
An audiobook is essentially a reading of an entire book. However, unlike books where there is a single author, audiobooks often have different narrators. The narrator’s style, tone and accent makes a big difference in the listening experience.
Personally, I found that listening to a British accent wasn’t the best start for me. I’ve grown up watching American television, so an American accent felt more natural. The accent matters, so try different narrators and pick the accent that you like best.
Pro Tip: Try and find audiobooks read by the writer, or by a famous actor. For example, Malcolm Gladwell is a fantastic narrator and listening to him read Freakonomics is better than actually reading Freakonomics.
If you don’t want to do that research, then try out something by one of the best audiobook narrators around: Jim Dale. Dale is universally liked and acclaimed for his narration of the Harry Potter series, Alice in Wonderland, and Around The World In 80 Days. The range of voices and voice-acting he comes up with in Alice In Wonderland will take your breath away.
It’s very important to find a good narrator when you’re getting started with audiobooks. As you listen to more of them, you’ll find a few names coming up often, so you can rely on those narrators. But if you find the same book narrated by different voice actors, then download a demo of all of them and listen to a bit before deciding which narrator you want to stick with for that book. It’s a little tedious at first, but the reward is a fulfilling audiobook experience — and that’s the main thing you are looking for.
Remembering What You “Read”
“Wait, who is Andrew? Was he the guy in the bar or the guy in the police station?” Plot points and characters can be difficult to keep track of. In a physical book, it’s easy to flip back to a page. In audiobooks on phone, that can be a bit more difficult. That tiny playback bar isn’t going to give you pinpoint accuracy, so you will be seeking back and forth. Of course, it’s easier if you are streaming and listening to free audiobooks in your browser.
To keep track of major plot points or characters, use the bookmarking or annotation tool that you have on most audiobook apps. It takes a couple of taps, but it saves you a lot of trouble when you need to refer to something again.
As for actually memorizing what you read, there are several tricks. Like with any book, some parts stick in your memory without you having to try. With some others, you will need to make an effort.
MakeUseOf Managing Editor Ryan Dube suggests using an Olympus earpiece/mic and a digital recorder.
“When something particularly striking is said, I rewind the audiobook, press record on my digital recorder that’s connected to the earpiece, and press play again. It’s a bit old-school, but it works.”
Ryan notes that this only works if you’re listening to the audiobook with external earphones, not earbuds — or listening out loud in the car.
It is often suggested that you write down something you read in a book, if you want to remember it. So similarly, when you listen to something, try quickly writing it and sharing it on a social network. Not only can it help you remember, but you can also smartly use special hashtags so that you have a record of all these memorable writings.
Use the Right Apps
There are several sites you can download audiobooks from. There are several apps for audiobooks. To be perfectly honest, there isn’t a huge difference between most of these, so go with whatever you find comfortable.
If you already use a Kindle, that’s ideal. Otherwise, Audible is one of the most popular apps, works with Kindle and supports WhisperSync, and has a large catalogue of audiobooks. Apart from Android and iOS, it’s also a good audiobook app for Windows Phone.
I prefer Audible and would recommend it to beginners because of the “great listen guarantee”. Remember the different narrators we recommended trying? Audible lets you search by narrator, and has samples for all titles before you buy them. Plus, the service lets you exchange one audiobook for another, no questions asked, with the “great listen guarantee”— that way, you can get the best narrator without spending extra.
And importantly, you can use it to listen to audiobooks downloaded from other sources as well.
Recommend an Audiobook!
Which audiobook would you recommend to a beginner? You already know my choice, Jim Dale’s rendition of Alice in Wonderland. Let’s hear your pick in the comments.