Reader’s Advisory for Audiobooks

Audiobook Month takes place annually in June, and is much heralded by audio producers and distributors with ready-made lists of the season’s hottest new titles and award-winning productions. The Audies Awards, announced May 30 by the Audio Publishers Association, celebrate not only the Audiobook of the Year, but present additional awards in 28 categories by genre and subject area, audience, quality of narration, technical production, and even packaging.

I discovered the pleasures of audiobooks when my work location changed and I suddenly found myself with two 25-minute daily commutes. The silver lining was more time to read with my ears. An excellent narrator brought a whole new dimension to a work, introducing me to provocative non-fiction, hilarious essays, poignant memoirs and sassy romances that I would never have picked up in print. An easy convert, I quickly progressed to loading up my MP3 player with titles downloaded from Library-to-Go, to make my workouts and noontime walks around the jogging circuit more enjoyable. Before long, the meaning of NPR’s “driveway moments” dawned, as I lingered in the car or did a few more repeats before pressing the pause button. Other audiobook fans extend their listening time while cooking, gardening or doing household chores.

The more you listen, the more discerning you become about voice quality, accents, sound effects, and overall production. Professional narrators who have become personal favourites often lead us into unfamiliar reading territory to hear that beautiful voice perform again. Audio awards lists, both winning titles and contenders, enhance discoverability of new authors, genres and subjects in audio productions guaranteed to be truly exceptional. Check out The Audies, Publishers Weekly’s Listen-Up Awards, Audiofile Magazine’s Earphones Awards and Booklist’s Editors’ Choice Top of the List Audio for outstanding audio titles across various genres and audience levels.

As with movies, it’s fun and enlightening to occasionally compare the print and the audio versions. While some print titles fall flat or even grate in audio, an average book can become a much fuller experience in the hands of an accomplished reader.

How to promote this format? Include audiobooks with your staff picks displays to encourage patrons to try something new. Try displaying the audiobook along with a print copy of a title, or promote a selection of titles appropriate for family listening. Highlight memoirs, travel and autobiographies read by the author. Display great beach reads in a new medium or challenge your patrons to tackle a classic or a title they’ve always meant to read.  Some libraries sticker print editions to indicate the title is also available in an alternate format such as ebook or downloadable audio.

On your web site’s staff picks lists, feature a list of award-winners available in downloadable audio format, or a list of audio works by top narrators (for suggestions see Audiofiles’ Golden Voices and ALA’s The Listen List ), or a long list of fan favourites on the Literate Housewife blog ).

With summer approaching and school holidays beckoning, what better time to promote your audio collection, whether it be physical CDs to take along on those long summer road trips, or downloadable audio delivered via mobile device while hiking, cycling or just chilling out on the deck.  As a number of library blogs have noted, audiobooks are great for family listening too, keeping everyone in the car entertained while painlessly increasing literacy skills.

Here’s to a few more converts to the art and craft of audiobooks!

Colleen Stewart, Head, Collection Services, GVPL

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