Books That Talk to Us

The first ‘talking books’ were on LPs exclusively for those who were visually impaired. With the availability of the internet followed by cassettes and CDs, they became known as audiobooks. The term talking books is still used by some. Audiobooks became popular with not only VIPs (Visually Impaired Persons) but also with people who spent time in their cars commuting and traveling.  We now can download them onto electronic devices. For those without these devices, there are still audiobook players and audiobook cassettes or cartridges.

Replacing printed books

When I wrote about e-books, I said that to some people, anything that is not a printed book is not reading. There may come a time, sadly, when printed books are no longer an option. It may take some adjustment, but many of the people I interact with tell me that audiobooks can be even better than reading a printed book or e-book...believe it or not.

Finding audiobooks

There are quite a few places to buy audiobooks online such as from Amazon’s Audible store, Apple Books, Playster, and Walmart’s eBooks. Even Cracker Barrel - where long-distance travelers often stop - sell audiobooks on CD and have an exchange system (buy an audiobook at one stop, trade it in at the next). Some of the sources are by subscription where you pay a monthly fee. If you want to use these subscription services, I recommend that you check out the details carefully. I’ve lost money when I’ve taken advantage of a free trial and then forgot to cancel.

Free and inexpensive

You may be surprised to learn that several of the sources of free and inexpensive e-books are also the source of audiobooks.


In the US, Overdrive is a free service where you can download free e-books and audiobooks from your local school or library. You need to have a library card so do that first. There is an Overdrive app for various e-book readers, smartphones, and tablets. You can also use standard browsers on several versions of Windows and Mac computers. There’s an app called Libby that will help you choose what you want to borrow and works with the same library system.

The National Library Service (NLS)

In the US, the National Library Service (NLS) for the Blind and Physically Handicapped has several services. For those who qualify, you can get a free talking book player if you don't have an electronic device. The player is easy to use. It has big easy-to-see buttons. You pick an audiobook from the NLS collection. It will be mailed to you with a postage-paid envelope to return them. You can also get players and cartridges if there is an NLS library near you,


Another free service for those who quality is called BARD. BARD stands for Braille and Audio Reading Download.  You choose your audiobook online and then download it to your computer, tablet or smartphone.


I can vouch for Overdrive because I use it. I know people who use the NLS system. This one I don’t know about personally, but Hoopla sounds very interesting. It also is a free service that works with US libraries. If you have a library card with a participating library, you can access not only audiobooks and e-books but also music, TV shows and movies. Not all libraries participate. My local library doesn’t use it because it costs them to offer it. The librarian told me, “We can’t afford it.”

3D Audiobooks

When I heard about 3D audiobooks, I couldn’t figure out what that meant because we’re used to thinking of 3D with images that have length, width, and depth. I found out that 3D with audio means that when you wear headphones to listen to them, you not only hear the narration. You hear music and sound effects, too, just like you would in a movie theater or with great surround sound speakers at home.  I’ve read articles about them that use the terms ‘immersive’ and ‘audio virtual reality.’ The techniques used basically make the listener think they’re experiencing the story not just listening to it.

Currently, the choices are limited. If you are interested, you might check regularly for new sources. You can find them by searching for ‘3D audiobooks.’

Try it, you may like it!

If you’ve not tried audiobooks, I hope you will. If you've tried them but didn’t like the experience, one thing I have found is that it matters who is doing the narrating. A good narrator doesn’t just read the script, they bring it to life by doing different voices. If you’d like to find recommendations for narrators, you might search for ‘audiobook narrator.’ Some actors do audio narration. For example, the late actor Roy Dotrice did the ‘Game of Thrones’ audiobook narration. He made the Guinness Book of World Records for doing 224 voices!

I’ve used the word bibliophile before to refer to people who love books. I discovered there is also a term audio-bibliophiles for those who love audiobooks. Are you one or will you become one? Let us know!

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