How the rise of audiobooks has revolutionized reading

Most experts agree that audiobooks have completely changed the way books are consumed today.

Audiobooks allow those who aren’t fans of reading physical books a new way to consume the content, while simultaneously giving busy book lovers a way to listen to novels on the go.

Audiobooks are quite simple. They allow listeners to hear books read out loud, either by the author himself or herself, or by another narrator.


Here’s a history of audiobooks and their rapid rise in popularity.

Audiobooks provide a way to read books while completing other tasks.  (Stefano Guidi/Getty Images; Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

What is the history of audiobooks?What are the benefits of listening to audiobooks?What is needed to listen to audiobooks?Are audiobooks free to listen to?

1. What is the history of audiobooks?

Audiobooks aren’t necessarily a new creation, although they’ve evolved over the years.

The earliest versions of audiobooks came out in 1932. They were released by the American Foundation for the Blind, according to PBS. The American Foundation for the Blind is based outside Washington, D.C., in Arlington, Virginia.

The intent of early recordings was to assist the blind. Congress passed an amendment a year later, according to the source.

The amendment allowed the Library of Congress to produce audiobooks.

Both those who love to read and those who don’t use audiobooks as a way to hear books read aloud to them.  (iStock)

Audiobooks continued to evolve in the following years, from cassette tapes to compact discs.

Today, audiobooks can be quickly downloaded right to mobile devices.

2. What are the benefits of listening to audiobooks?

For some people, reading is just not for them — and audiobooks provide a different mode of reading.

Listening to someone read aloud is an easier way to finish a book than reading for many.


Audiobooks don’t just appeal to non-readers, though. They also appeal to those who love to read but may find it more appealing to listen to a book while completing other tasks.

Reading a book takes a lot of concentration, time, peace and quiet. When you’re reading a book, that’s all you’re doing. It’s difficult to multitask with a book in hand.

Audiobooks solve that problem.

Audiobooks are popular for long road trips or lengthy daily commutes. You can also listen to an audiobook throughout the day while making dinner, exercising or doing household chores.

Another popular way to leverage audiobooks is by using them as a tool for re-reading.

Those who read books often will sometimes reread books if they really loved them — or if a new book in the series they’ve read is coming out and they want a refresher of what has happened so far. Instead of reading the paperback book again, many readers find it easier to listen instead, just to refresh themselves on main points.

Audiobooks allow a great way to listen to books on long commutes to work.  (iStock)

While many consider this way of consumption favorable, it can sometimes be hard to concentrate on an audiobook.

Factors as simple as the narrator’s voice and how much time you have to listen to your audiobook all contribute to the user experience.

3. What is needed to listen to audiobooks?

There really aren’t many things you need to start listening to audiobooks.

First off, you need a device, such as a phone, laptop or tablet to listen to your audiobook.


If you’re going to be listening to an audiobook in public, you’ll also need a good pair of headphones so you don’t disturb others.

Lastly, you will need a provider from which to download your audiobooks.

Don’t forget that you do need to be connected to Wi-Fi to download an audiobook to your device. Once it’s downloaded, you can listen offline.

4. Are audiobooks free to listen to?

Yes and no. There are free platforms to get audiobooks, but they may not hold the title you want.

Audible is one of the most popular places to get audiobooks. Audible is an Amazon company with thousands of titles for users to browse through.

You can buy individual titles from Audible if you prefer, but if you plan on using the service often, you get much more bang for your buck by purchasing a membership.

Audiobooks can be found on an Apple device through the Books app.  (Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

With the base Audible membership, you can listen to a large selection of titles.

With the premium membership, members get access to one title per month from an extended selection of bestsellers and new releases, according to the Audible website.


Another popular platform for audiobooks is Apple Books.

Through Apple Books, you can access e-books as well as audiobooks. The big difference between Apple Books and Audible is the subscription.

There is no subscription to use Apple Books. You have to individually purchase the audiobooks you want.

If you don’t want to pay for audiobooks, you can get them through your local library. Not all libraries offer this, but many do. All you need is a library card and an app to download the books. Libby by OverDrive is the most popular app used by libraries.

Libby does have some drawbacks. For example, just like the physical library, you may have to put popular audiobooks on hold and wait for them to become available before you can listen.

You’ll also have a limited time to access the audiobook, so if it takes you a while to get through them, this service may not be for you.

Lastly, you may not be able to find the audiobook you’re looking for on Libby, especially if it’s a new title, so you may have to buy it elsewhere.

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Ashlyn Messier is a writer for Fox News Digital. 

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