Thursday, January 21, 2010

Do you like Audio Books? Many Boomers do.

I'm not a big fan of audio books, but I used to be. When my kids were young, we'd put on classic books to entertain us during long car rides. Now I prefer shorter formats. In particular, I like to listen to NPR's Selected Shorts Podcasts. This PRI (Public Radio International) program features actors reading short stories, and I find it riveting.  I signed up for Selected Shorts Podcasts in the iTunes store and download these stories for free.

I have several baby boomer friends that use audio books while they commute to and from work. They'd be lost without them. Some of these friends check out audio book CDs from the library, but many get their books online and download them to an MP3 Player or iPhone.

Now many libraries offer an option, through a company called Overdrive, for patrons to "check out" and download audio books from their public library's web site. I'm sure many boomers who have grown away from using libraries were unaware of this new service.

An  article at in 2009 discusses why boomers like their audio books so much. The author, who isn't named, suggests as a good place to go to find audio books. According to that website, once you pay for your book,  "you'll be taken to a page to download your new audio content. Once the files have been downloaded to your computer you can listen to them whenever you want, transfer them to a portable player (yes you can get your audio book to your iPod!), or burn them to CD to enjoy on a conventional home stereo or in-car audio system."
I decided to investigate's website to see how it works. The one thing I noticed right away was that audio books vary widely in price. Take a look at the website, and you'll see one book for $1.50 and another for $29.99. While you can download many of the books as MP3s directly to your computer and then load them onto your MP3 player, it appears that the way to get these audio books onto an iPOD is to download them to your computer, burn them to a CD, then upload the CD to iTunes. After all that, you can transfer the audio books to your iPhone. One advantage that has over its more famous competition, is that the pricing structure is straight-forward. You pay the price listed, with no membership fee. is probably the best known website to look for and purchase audio books for download. It is similar to in that users also have to download the items to their computers, and then transfer them to a CD for upload to iTunes. Audible also makes users download a software program to facilitate the processes. One of my objections to Audible is that the service uses a complicated system of payment. You are enrolled in their website for a price ($7.99 for 3 months with an introductory offer, and then $14.99/month). For that amount, you get one audio book a month and discounts if you want to buy more.  If you are sure you are going to listen to that many audio books, by all means use Audible! It'll save you some money. However, it could be a bad deal if you are just an occasional listener.

I also took a look at the iTunes store, to see what their audio book selection looked like. Here is a page from the iTunes store. These books are downloaded directly to your iTunes account and then to your iPOD or iPhone when you sync with the computer. They are usually expensive options that cost about the same amount as a hard back book.

Of course the public library is the least expensive way to give audio books a try. If you want to use your public library's Overdrive program, you may have to download some software from the library's website. After that, you will have access to your audio book for a predefined "lending period." You may prefer this if you are able to complete listening to books in a timely fashion. It certainly is the least expensive way to try out audio books!

So, fellow boomers, I'd like to know if you are listening to audio books and if you are, do you find them difficult to find, download or use? Please feel free to comment. Thanks.


1 comment:

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