Play Hard

Why audiobooks may be the gamechanger we need in our lives – and where we can find them

Written by Sophie Swift
Published 20.03.2021

By Sophie Swift

Before stories were written down, they were told. For tens of thousands of years, tales were passed down through generations by word-of-mouth. Now it appears – with news of audiobooks on the rise – that we may just be going full circle.

In the last few years, audiobooks have gone from strength to strength. Penguin released 30 of their classics in audiobook format in 2020 and Amazon’s Audible published a 72 hour-long reading of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Collection (narrated by Stephen Fry) in 2017. And by the looks (or should it be sounds?) of it, they’re only becoming more popular.

But why? Ever the detectives ourselves, we’ve brought together a few reasons why maybe we should all be getting more into audiobooks – and where we can access them for free.

WHY ARE AUDIOBOOKS A GREAT WAY TO READ WITHOUT, WELL, READING?

Because they let you do other things too

Audiobooks are a brilliant way to multitask, mainly because they’re hands-free. Going for a walk? Take your audiobook with you. Cleaning the kitchen? Pop on your audiobook. They’re perfect for those of us with busy lives, but who still want to get that reading time in. We’ve started plugging an audiobook into our headphones and taking it with us on our lunchtime walk – it’s been a gamechanger!

They’re perfect for distracting you from boring jobs

You know that massive pile of ironing that has sat in the basket for days? The best way to get going with it is to play an audiobook. Listen through your headphones, smart speaker, or your phone and the pile will become a lot more manageable.

They’re more accessible for those of us who may find reading challenging

Audiobooks offer a more inclusive way to read. Whether you have physical barriers to reading – many blind people don’t love braille – or whether you’ve just never really got into the whole reading thing, audiobooks can still take you on that magical journey that only a good story can.

They can help us broaden our horizons

We all want to read more non-fiction and attempt ‘the classics’. But at the end of a busy day, those are often the last thing you reach for (wine is often the first). But this is where audiobooks can help. Audiobooks are also a fantastic option when it comes to reading autobiographies or biographs. Often the books are read by the author, bringing the story to life in a more exciting way. Similarly, fictional books are often read by celebrities, so there’s that added element of interest straight off the bat.

WHERE CAN WE ACCESS AUDIOBOOKS FOR FREE?

BBC Radio 4

BBC Radio 4 are offering a wide selection of audiobooks via their website or the BBC Sounds app. There are taster chapters available, but also entire books. Generally, the audiobooks are read by their author and are free. Options include A Promised Land by Barack Obama, Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig, and Hunger by Roxane Gay.

LibriVox

LibriVox is a free public domain for audiobooks. All the books on this platform are read by volunteers from around the world. As a result, users of LibriVox have the opportunity to read the books for others to listen to, as well as the ability to listen to the audiobooks themselves. Some of the classics on there include Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf and The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

BorrowBox

BorrowBox is an app that can be accessed via your local library to rent e-books and audiobooks. If you’re already a member of your library, we’d recommend checking out whether they’re connected to BorrowBox, as they have a wide collection of audiobooks available, including lots of new releases. Highlights include Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge and Ghosts by Dolly Alderton.

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