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An ear for a good book

In the first half of the 20th century, audiobooks made their biggest mark as austere vinyl-format productions for vision-impaired consumers.

Today’s audiobooks, however, are much more sophisticated.

If you’re still to experience one – book fans overwhelmingly enjoy them in digital format now – here’s what you need to know to decide if they’re right for you.

The appeal of modern audiobooks

2022 Nielsen BookData research shows that two in five Australian audiobook consumers listened to their first audiobook within the past 12 months.

Other international research indicates that readers are gravitating to audiobooks for a number of key reasons:

  • They can enjoy them if they are vision-impaired
  • They can enjoy them while they multitask (driving or hanging out the washing)
  • They can experience the novelty of a new way of consuming books
  • They make less of an environmental impact when they enjoy them

Features of the modern audiobook

Today, audiobook companies are equipping audiobooks with many new features.

Businesses such as Audible, Apple Books, or Kobo connect readers with audiobook apps featuring capabilities such as:

Playback speed control: Tap the playback speed icon to double the speed you finish your book at, or to half the speed of a narrator who reads too fast.

Sleep timers: Set your sleep timer for a particular period, tap the icon, and your audiobook will automatically stop at an allocated time or point in your book.

Audiobook recommendations: Discover new books through the personalised recommendations your app’s recommendation engine makes for you.

Immersive audio: Audible and Dolby have partnered to produce audiobooks that feature Dolby Atmos spatial audio. This feature widens and deepens the aural ambience of the universe of your favourite books. 

Choosing the best audiobook subscription service 

Audible is perhaps the best-known audiobook app, but new players are regularly entering or intensifying competition in the market. Last year, Spotify launched its audiobook service in Australia, along with countries including the US, UK, and New Zealand. Other players, meanwhile, include Booktopia, Scribd, Blinkist, and Google Play Books.

As there is significant variance in these services’ capabilities, it’s important to decide what you expect from an audiobook subscription service before committing to one.

Common questions you might want to ask of a subscription service are:

  • How much does it cost to subscribe?
  • How many titles does a service offer?
  • Does the service offer an adequate range of titles in the genres I enjoy?
  • Can I access books on my devices (such as my smartphone or tablet model)?
  • Does the service offer specific features I enjoy, such as recommendations?
  • If I run into any technical issues, can I access timely customer support service?
  • How easy is it to cancel my subscription?

Are audiobooks for me?

Although audiobooks are forecast to increase in popularity in the next five years, they will resonate with some book-lovers more than others. 

If you love books but struggle to find time or energy to read as much as you like, you might discover they are a convenient alternative.

However, carefully consider which subscription service best suits your needs, as some will definitely suit you more than others.