I’ll never forget the first time I listened to an audiobook. I was in my early/mid 20’s and I had a solo road trip ahead of me and my ipod was broken at the time. I decided to try an audiobook for the drive and went with, ON CASSETTE TAPE, a copy of Wally Lamb’s I Know This Much To Be True that had been my mom’s.
I was HOOKED and the love for audiobooks only grew once I started blogging in 2010. I was getting them from my library and finally got an audiobook subscription once I was going through them at a rate faster than I could get ones I wanted at my library.
I love how audiobooks have enhanced my reading life in so many ways plus I love being able to listen to them while I do things like: drive, do chores, workout. I get through so many books on my TBR because of them.
That being said. I hear a lot of things similar to these two things:
“I just can’t get into audiobooks.” “I want to get into audiobooks but I’m intimidated/overwhelmed.”
And in some cases, someone might TRULY not be able to get into audiobooks. Everyone’s brains are different and how we process things are different so you might and well truly find that audiobooks are not the medium for you. And that’s okay!
However, when I’m helping people to get into audiobooks, I have a few tricks up my sleeve that help both the people who are beginners to audiobooks to make the most out of the experience but also to help the people who tried them but felt like they couldn’t get into audiobooks for whatever reason.
So I’ve already shared two of my most successful tips with my newsletter subscribers last year but I want to share ALL the tips for listening to audiobooks successfully that I’ve picked up in all the years I’ve been listening to them. So if you want to try audiobooks or if maybe you’ve had trouble getting into them in the past, definitely try some of these strategies and tips for the best ways to listen to audiobooks.
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Tips For Listening To Audiobooks For Beginners
Whether you are a newbie trying out audiobooks or you just feel like the experience of audiobooks hasn’t worked for you, these tips will help you listen to audiobooks.
1. Pick a low cost way to get into audiobooks
Truly, as much as I would not survive life without my LibroFM subscription, I never recommend getting a subscription straight away for your first couple audiobooks if are new to them. That’s A LOT of pressure to pick the RIGHT audiobook to use your credit on or purchase outright.
I often recommend starting with an audiobook from the library so that if that one isn’t doing it for you that you can just feel zero pressure to keep going with it and find a different one that works better for you.
I personally use Libby and Hoopla via my library so definitely check to see what your local library offers. I know mine has cd’s available also.
The other thing I love about the audiobook subscription that I have, LibroFM, is that they have an AWESOME section of audiobook sales that you can just purchase without a subscription — some for less than like 5 bucks. And we are talking some very popular bestsellers at times. So there are definitely ways that you can get cheaper ones to try.
Then, once you are more comfortable with audiobooks, definitely go ahead and get a subscription of some sort because it definitely saves me money and is perfect in conjunction with what I borrow from my library.
Some of the more popular services are:
– Audible: I used this up until 3 years ago. It’s by far the most well-known.
– LibroFM: They are THE BEST (you can read why in my review of LibroFM). You can get 2 audiobooks for the price of 1 to start.
– Scribd: This one is different than the two above. It’s a subscription service but rather than a credit base you get to read anything within the catalog they have that month. New things are always being added and taken away.
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2. Listen to a book you’ve already read
I know, I know. You want to read new books but hear me out on this. Think of a book you’ve read a few years ago — it’s fresh but not TOO fresh — that you’ve been really wanting to maybe revisit or perhaps a first/second book in a series with a new book releasing so you have all the fresh details in your head.
Why this tip works: Familiarity. It’s not 100% new so it makes it easy to follow because you already know the basic plot of the novel and the characters. When you are getting into audiobooks it can be overwhelming to make sure you are catching EVERY SINGLE DETAIL. It can help you learn to listen to audiobooks in a more relaxed way because you already are familiar with it in some way.
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3. Listen to non-fiction
Most of the time when I ask people what they’ve tried listening to they tell me it’s fiction. After digging further I find MOST of these people LOVE listening to podcasts or talk radio shows.
If you can listen to podcasts, non-fiction books might be the BEST way to ease you into the audiobook world. LibroFM has some great playlists and bookseller picks in different non-fiction genres — honestly half my wishlist on there is non-fiction I discovered because of them.
Try things like:
– engaging memoirs read by celebrities (Talking As Fast As I Can, Becoming, Open Book)
– true crime books if you like those types of podcasts (Lost Girls, The Stranger Behind Me, The Good Nurse)
– essay type non-fiction that really works for short bursts of listening. (I Miss You When I Blink, Weird But Normal, The Witches Are Coming)
– business or personal development books if you like podcasts like that (Atomic Habits, Dare To Lead)
– any subject that you find yourself listening to podcasts about (sports, history, social issues, parenting)
Why this tip works: Sometimes when you are learning the skill of listening to an audiobook it’s too hard to try to follow the plot and the characters and keep your brain IN IT. I find non-fiction to be just a more accessible way to get into audiobooks because it feels like things (podcasts, talk radio) that so many people are already into.
4. Play with the speed and adjust it faster or slower
Now this is something I didn’t even REALIZE was possible until a few years ago when a fellow blogger asked me what speed I listen to my audiobooks on. I was like HUH? And then she showed me the life-changing magic of being able to change the speed.
I now listen to it a bit faster and it flows even better for me. I’m normally at a comfortable 1.75 depending on the narrator. I did work myself up to that slowly.
(Speaking of adjustments, I also notice sometimes I need to adjust volume too)
Why this tip works: Sometimes if you find it hard to concentrate it might be a case of it being too fast or too slow to keep you in it. Most of the time when I’ve had people make adjustments they needed it FASTER, but not too fast you can’t retain anything or miss stuff, because they liked the pace of a real life conversation or at the rate they might physically read it themselves.
But maybe you might find you need it a wee bit slower to really take it in. Just play with it! It’s funny how fast I’m used to listening to it now and don’t even think about it — my brain definitely gets used to it and I NEED it to be at that speed or I get a little impatient.
5. Pair it with a task you don’t enjoy doing or something borderline mindless:
I always laugh when people ask me what they are to do while listening to an audiobook because I’m like hmm more like what DON’T I do with an audiobook in my ear — that’d be a shorter list. I rarely am sitting down doing nothing when I’m listening.
The first two things I paired audiobooks with were driving and walking on the treadmill. Driving isn’t mindless, obviously, but it just WORKS for me as long as I pick the right audiobook and the drive is either familiar or it’s not a high stress situation (aka I cannot listen to them while driving in the city).
Listening to audiobooks while working out was the BEST thing I could have done to make that time more bearable. Other tasks I’ve added to my audiobook time: dishes, cleaning, laundry, cooking.
I know others who pair audiobooks with hobbies like puzzles, hand-stitching, knitting, painting.
You will quickly learn the tasks that you CAN’T pair it with. If the task requires too much of me, I tend to find I miss things and get frustrated.
Why this tip works: I think it just makes it a good association bundling a thing I love with something I don’t necessarily because I look forward to it. But also I find if I’m engaged in something I actually DO focus better instead of likely sitting doing nothing and my mind will wander.
6. If you want fiction, stick to more plot-based ones to start:
I feel like even though I’ve been listening to audiobooks for a while there are certain types of books I personally shy away from when I’m choosing audiobooks — really dense fantasy does not go well for me nor does really meandering literary fiction that is pretty dense.
I tend to recommend to people thrillers, your light & easy type reads, and young adult books (because a lot of YA authors know how to move plot without sacrificing other things from the get-go and have compelling voice that is often in close third person/first person point).
P.S. I am a big fan of YA books even as a 30-something — some of the most profound and meaningful books I’ve ever read are YA. Check out some new YA books out this year.
Why this tip works: With a well paced plot it’s easier to keep your attention when you are learning the skill of audiobook listening. Less likely to have your mind wander through purple prose or 12 pages of a rambling monologue when things are moving along.
7. Pick a shorter book to start with or a book with short chapters
It’s a quick win and will help you hone in on just how to listen to an audiobook with a book that isn’t going to drag on and on potentially.
When a book has short chapters I find it’s easy to say “okay I am going to just focus on one chapter and then be done for a bit” to build on listening to it. Just little bursts of learning how to focus when listening.
Why this tip works: You aren’t going to get into running by starting with a a marathon (okay most people wouldn’t). Same thing. If learning to focus and concentrate on audiobooks is a struggle, ease yourself into it!
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8. Listen to samples to suss out the narrator
I genuinely think that narrators can make or break an audiobook experience making it easier/less easy to focus on the audiobook. Most places you listen to audiobooks you can get a sample of what it sounds like before you buy or borrow it.
Once you get more into audiobooks you will soon find favorite narrators and ones you don’t enjoy and I truly think connecting with the narrator can be a huge difference in how well audiobooks click.
Why this tip works: The narration is a huge element. Some great books have awful audiobooks or narrators I couldn’t click with (I’m thinking of one romance novel I listened to where the narrator made me start to dislike the book until I switched to a physical copy). Figuring that out ahead of time could save you a lot of time and energy.
9. When in doubt, headphones!
This one is a newer tip! Ever since I had Riley I found that I had a lot of trouble focusing on audiobooks while doing housework because I’d have it playing through my phone sans headphones and just the sounds of her playing and talking would interrupt me.
I decided to get Airpods and they have CHANGED MY LIFE. I put one airpod in (and leave one out so I can hear her while I’m cooking or whatever) and all of a sudden I was able to focus on the story again because it was right in my ear versus over on the counter many feet away from me with any number of distracting noises surrounding it.
So if you are really struggling with concentrating or getting distracted, try only listening when you can have headphones in to minimize distractions.
Why this tip works: I’m sure there is some scientific reason for this but I don’t know what it is. However, I just know I concentrate better and distractions are minimized if others are in the house with my headphones on. I have zero issues with nobody is here and it’s quiet.
Now at the end of the day — Audiobooks just aren’t going to be for everyone. You could try all the tips in the world and still not be able to get into them. That’s okay! But my hopes are that, if you’ve been wanting to get into audiobooks or have had some trouble before, that some of these tips will make you have a better audiobook experience.
What are some of your best tips for audiobook listening?
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