CAPTION: Mad Men's Bob Benson (arguably the wolf to Pete Campbell's Peter), listening to Frank Bettger's book, How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling (1952), in Season 6/Episode 10 ("A Tale of Two Cities").
It's June. And June is Audiobook Month. What's in your ear(phones)?
HERE'S WHAT IN MY EARPHONES:
When driving, doing mindless tasks, or just chillin' (e.g., in a hammock), I usually listen to music or talk radio - or a rerun of the perfect combination thereof: Peter Schickele's eponymous Schickele Mix (1992-2007). Occasionally, I'll also enjoy a drama, musical, or lesson. I haven't dedicated much audiobook listening time lately, but I have been stocking up, courtesy of the audiobook sources listed below.
The first prerecorded audible story to make an indelible impact on me was Peter and the Wolf. I've still got that LP, and still get the heebie-jeebies when I hear French horns (i.e., the wolf).
There have been innumerable recordings and adaptations of Sergei Prokofiev's Op. 67 (1936), but I vividly recall studying the jacket of my family's 1960 release conducted by Leonard Bernstein, performed by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, and produced by Columbia Records. According to Wikipedia: Peter and the Wolf, "The popularity of the group's televised Young People's Concerts made this an auspicious release."
NOT-SO-TRIVIA(L) LITERACY TRENDS:
Audiobooks are increasing in popularity and accessibility. Originally called a variety of other names (such as "phonographic books", "talking books", or "radio dramas") and delivered via phonograph records, audiotapes, and radio, "audiobooks" have been popular since the "(g)olden days" of analog media, when I was a tot and decades before then. The advent of technology has greatly expanded the options for creating, delivering, and consuming such media, and has substantially lowered the acquisition cost (oftentimes to $0.00), so it's no surprise that the distribution and popularity of audiobooks has experienced steadily increasing growth.
I envision some readers shuddering at this point, as they envision the proliferation of earphone and earbud-clad hordes listening loudly, perhaps even reciting, content in public places and in long-sacrosanct quiet zones, such as classrooms and libraries. I hear you. But...
That's a good thing. There's gold them in thar stats. The National Endowment for the Arts' study, "Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America" (June 2004), finds: audiobook listening is one of very few "types" of reading that is increasing general literacy.
LET'S PAUSE, REWIND, PUMP UP THE VOLUME, AND REPLAY THAT IMPORTANT POINT, SHALL WE?:
The NEA's finding (that audiobook listening is one of very few "types" of reading that is increasing general literacy) isn't just good news. It's a beacon of light in an otherwise bleak report that found horrifying national trends in the USA: accelerating declines in reading of all kinds, among all demographic groups studied; a concomitant erosion of cultural and civic participation; and the observation that "the decline in reading correlates with increased participation in a variety of electronic media, including the Internet, video games, and portable digital devices."
Here's what: audiobooks fight fire with fire. Modern technological advances, the above-described trends, and their impacts have landed us figuratively "in Rome", gentle readers. And we know what to do when in Rome.
An exemplary program in this vein is SYNC YA Literature into Your Earphones, that...
...gives away two complete audiobook downloads–a current Young Adult title paired thematically with a Classic or Required Summer Reading title–each week to listeners ages 13+ while SYNC is in session each summer.
Titles are delivered through the OverDrive Media Console. You can prepare for the program by downloading the software to your desktop and whichever device you anticipate listening on.
SYNC is dedicated to introducing the listening experience to the young adult audience and demonstrates that Required Reading can be completed by listening.
SYNC gives away 2 FREE audiobook downloads every week each summer.
Also laudable is the Audiobook Publishers Association's "Get Caught Listening" program that inspired this post.
WHERE ELSE TO FIND AUDIOBOOKS:
There's no shortage of audiobook sources. In fact, there are so many that I've adopted a method for navigating the madness: frequenting several online communities that publish lists and discuss news, deals, freebies, and reviews of audiobooks (and ebooks). Here are my faves, listed alphabetically. If forced to pick just one, I'd select Mobileread.
- Goodreads' audiobook discussion groups.
- MobileRead Forums' deals and freebies thread titled "Current Audiobook Specials" and recommendations thread titled "What are we listening to? (audiobooks)" address audiobooks from numerous sources.
- Public libraries, which lend audiobook on tape as well as via streaming media. Many libraries also link to public domain audiobooks one can download, keep, or stream, free of charge. Check out MobileRead's comprehensive list of Ebook Lending Libraries.