All About Audiobooks

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The first time I really remember adding audiobooks to my listening habits was years ago (I think it was 2005) when I was returning from dropping Tenley off at gymnastics camp in Athens, GA. Back then, it was not uncommon for me to listen to audiobooks on cassette. Over the eleven years since then, I’ve migrated from listening on CD, to listening to them on my old iPod, to finally listening to them through the Audible App on my phone. There’s usually still a cassette involved, as I use an adapter to send the sound through my car’s audio. (Right now I have a rental which routes it through a USB and I feel all techie when that happens!). The first book I prominently remember reading via audio was Life of Pi. I’ve lost count of how many there have been since then. Hundreds?

Audiobooks Are Big Business

Just how “big” are they?

According to the Pew Research Center, 14% of Americans have read an audiobook in the past year.

The Wall Street Journal says audiobooks are the “fastest-growing format in the book business today,” citing the Audio Publishers Association as stating “sales in the U.S. and Canada jumped 21% in 2015 from the previous year.” I can say I’m certainly doing my part to make that true.

For more on the history of audiobooks, this On Point show is really interesting.

That Voice In My EarAudiobook Readers

This post is partially inspired by a conversation I was having with other reading fanatics. Some of us had read Everything We Keep by Kerry Lonsdale in a traditional format, and I had read it via audiobook. I had shared how much I loved narrator Amy Landon’s voice, how I liked it so much I could listen to her read the phone book. That led to a discussion of other narrators we love (or don’t love….).

Another of my favorites is Cassandra Campbell. She has narrated many notable audiobooks, including being part of the ensemble narrating The Help, but it was her narration of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks that really blew me away. Just the way she said “culture” (which is said OFTEN in that book) was worthy of “I could listen to her read the phone book” status.

I also typically enjoy it when authors read their own memoirs. Memorable books in this category include Between Breaths by Elizabeth Vargas, The Diva Rules by Michelle Visage (visit my blogs about this book here and here), Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes, Troublemaker by Leah Remini, and Born With Teeth by Kate Mulgrew.

I also credit Jenna Bush Hager’s reading of Ana’s Story: A Journey of Hope with giving me a deeper picture of her as an individual, and by extension, her family. She has some VERY particular pronunciations of things (like saying “buddon” instead of “button” but for that one book it worked).

Narrating an audiobook is a skill (and art), for sure, as demonstrated here by Amy Landon:

What Is It About Voices?

Since I don’t plan (right now) to post about it separately, allow me to take a slight detour on the topic of voices in general.

I wonder what it is about voices that lead us to conclude they are “pleasant” or “unpleasant.” As audiobook readers who frequently pay discretionary income for books (there are some sources of free audiobooks out there I must mention), we certainly have a right to voice our preferences.

For my mother-in-law, who was blind, and listened to many of her books as voiced through the impersonal generic narration of the books on tape she received from a talking books service for the visually impaired, I’m pretty sure she would have agreed that variety is GOOD (as technology improved, she was able to listen to audiobooks with a variety of narrators. I really regret that she didn’t live long enough to take advantage of easily clicking on a book she really loved, with narration she also really loved. She was so close with the ownership of an iPhone. SO. CLOSE.)

It’s quite impossible for me to write about voices, though, without thinking about NPR’s underwriting-credit announcer challenges. I have to admit I can’t remember what Frank Tavares, who did it for years, sounded like, but I vividly remember the uproar when Sabrina Farhi took over and illuminated vocal fry’s moment in the spotlight. I’ve always felt a little sorry for her, even though I, too, was not a huge fan. I never criticized her via social media, but I certainly sent her successor, Jessica Hansen, a congratulatory note praising her work. Jessica Hansen has another voice I love.

Is it Reading or Listening?

I’ve often heard the debate: is consumption of an audiobook reading or listening?

That’s easy: IT IS READING.

Although I feel strongly that it is reading, I can understand why book lovers ask if consuming an audiobook is “really reading.” Forbes takes a stab at answering the question here, asserting that “reading and listening are strikingly similar cognitive processes.” (It’s a fascinating article; I encourage you to click through and read it.)

While I am somewhat alarmed at my diminishing focus on reading paper books, I cling to the idea that listening is still reading. Audiobooks have kept me in love with reading and expanded my exposure to ideas, people, and concepts while pushing my imagination to new horizons.

To that, I say, turn the page; click the button for the next chapter. Whatever you do, JUST KEEP READING.

Audiobook Readers

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Currently Thinking About Josue

If you have read my blog for a while, you may know that my involvement with Unbound originated with my in-laws. More than a decade ago, they decided to sponsor Silvia, a young girl in Guatemala. They chose Silvia because she was around the same age as my daughter, Tenley, my niece, Elizabeth, and several other of their grandchildren. My mother-in-law, Barb, and I held many conversations over the years about Silvia, putting together birthday and Christmas packages, reading her letters, and preparing letters back to her. One of the high points of our sponsorship journey was Tenley’s and my meeting Silvia and her mother in 2011!

Josue’s Story

When Unbound asked me to share the story of a child on my blog as part of an effort to find him a sponsor, I felt like Barb, who passed away in 2013, was looking over my shoulder as I read this line about Josue’s father: “There’s a software JAWS (Job Access With Speech) that tells you what’s on the screen.” Jose, the father, who is blind, works in local radio for a small town. The software and access to a computer is essential for him to try to make a living for himself, Josue’s mother Daysi, Josue, and his two other children.

I’ve shared profiles of other children hoping for Unbound sponsorship before. Because I am intrigued with the “currently” prompt which I saw on Simply Elle, I’m going to try to blend a little creative writing with a LOT of factual data to share a profile of Josue’s family with you!

CURRENTLY: Jose and His Familia

Currently Thinking About Josue

READING

From Josue (he prefers to be called Toñito): I am 5 years old, so I am not reading yet. I like to draw and I like coloring books. My parents pray that I will get an education so that I can read and have more potential for work as I grow up.

EATING

From Daysi (Josue’s mom): Jose gives me four dollars a day to get food for the five people in our family. Because he is blind and his job options are limited, the income from his radio announcing in this small town is not consistent. Even four dollars a day is often difficult to come up with.

THINKING ABOUT

From Jose: I am thinking about my dreams for Toñito and my other children. I dream for them to be good people, but the situation here in El Salvador is difficult. As a parent, I do my best to educate them to be good people who will grow up to make good decisions. I would like for my children to get an education and go to college.

LOOKING FORWARD TO

From Jose: I am looking forward to my children growing up and having more options than I have. When Toñito was born, Daysi was only 27 weeks pregnant. He stayed in the hospital for three months as the doctors worked on his heart problem and repaired a hernia. Now that such a difficult start is behind him, I am looking forward to a healthy future.

LEARNING

From Jose: The more I can learn about computers, the better. Before I had access to a computer, I had to work under the hot sun, selling items in the market. I have also worked as a shoe maker, sold newspapers, made crafts for sale, and made furniture. I did anything I could to try to move forward.

LOVING

From Jose: My family. The joy I feel inside my heart. Trying to motivate others! My wife Daysi’s humility and fighting spirit.

WORKING ON

From Jose: I continue to learn all I can about computers, because that helps me have other wage-earning possibilities. JAWS (the software) tells you what is on the screen, but I only have a PC and keyboard, so that limits how much JAWS can help me.

LISTENING TO

From Jose and Daysi: In a household with three kids, there’s always noise! I hear the sounds of our town’s animals, and love it when the local musicians are playing.

LAUGHING AT

From the whole family: The local street dogs do funny antics!

WISHING

From Jose: As a parent, I feel like I am a drowning man anxiously holding an arm out of the water for someone to throw me a rope! This request for sponsorship is not for me: it is for my child. All three of my kids are growing up and they need to be prepared for a world threatened by climate change yet enhanced by advanced technology. Where we live, there are no job opportunities; if you don’t have an education it is almost impossible, and I am very worried for them.

If someone decides to sponsor my son, to say “Here I am, I’m next to you,” I will be endlessly grateful. I would send so many blessings to that person because, honestly, I would not have words to express how I would feel.

Notes from Paula

I hope this “currently” exercise gave you a glimpse into the life of Toñito and his family, and the reasons why sponsorship can make such a huge difference!

A little more about the family’s living situation: They live in a humble adobe home. Jose says, “I know there are many repairs that need to be made in my house, but my biggest concern is having money to buy food for my wife and children.” They do not have running water; they have a community well. They do have electricity, but it was very hard to obtain.

Although four of Jose’s clients pay monthly, most of them are seasonal, which leads to variability in income. He also teaches Braille four days a month to supplement the family income. The family net income is around $100 a month (remember they spend about $4 a day to eat, and last time I checked $100 minus $120 did not lead to a positive balance).

A contribution of $36 per month can help Toñito have his basic needs met so that he can grow, get an education, and thrive.

More About Unbound

Unbound’s website is accessible by clicking here.

Visit Unbound on Facebook by clicking here.

Visit Unbound on Twitter by clicking here.

Visit Unbound on Instagram by clicking here.

Read selections of my previous writing about Unbound here, here, here, here, and here.

Again, to sponsor Toñito, click here. If you are not in a position to sponsor now, please consider sharing this with someone who may be. Prayers are ALWAYS accepted and appreciated!

Currently Thinking About Josue

UPDATE: Josue has been sponsored! What a blessing! I am so grateful to my friend who decided to sponsor him!!! There are many more children, youth, and aging awaiting sponsorship in 22 countries around the world! For more information, please click here

 

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