Why I Love Audible

I just got back from a 4 mile jog up and down the night sidewalks of my city. I’m not much of a jogger, but after a day of sledding, parenting, traveling, cooking, and changing baby diapers, I needed to get out for an hour on my own.

It’s relatively cold in Utah at night. About 34 degrees right now, so I wear a balaclava and gloves. And of course I have on a sweater and exercise pants too. But more important than anything, I have my iPhone attached to my arm and am listening to the second book in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series from Audible.

I’ve been an Audible listener for about a year now. Prior to Audible, I used to listen exclusively to podcasts. As early as 2006, I was seriously into podcasts, both listening to them and creating them. But at least for the past year, I’ve been listening to audio books, mostly fiction, from Audible.

I listen while I drive to and from work (a 25-minute commute), while I walk or jog, and while I shoot baskets at the gym. I can concentrate with almost full attention in any of these modes. I also sometimes listen to audio books when I can’t sleep.

When I first joined Audible, I tried listening to nonfiction. I listened to Jesus, Interrupted, by Bart Erhman. I liked his book so much I listened to another Erhman book: Peter, Paul, and Mary. Then The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell. And The Social Animal, by David Brooks. At this time, I just had an iPod Nano (not an iPhone), and it was a little hard to keep track of my place in the book. Additionally, though these nonfiction books were engaging, they didn’t entirely consume me. I tried Master and Commander, by Patrick O’Brian, and Blood Meridian, by Cormac McCarthy. These were better, but not entirely captivating.

One day I saw a colleague wearing headphones on his way into the office. I asked what he was listening to. He said, The Hunger Games. My wife and 10-year-old daughter had burned through these books eagerly, and since my colleague was a fellow basketball player with similar interests as mine, I decided to give it a try.

I absolutely loved listening to The Hunger Games. For the next few months, I listened to it non-stop. I listened to all three books in the series (and reviewed it here). My time listening to podcasts and non-fiction audio books dried up. I fell entirely for fiction.

After finishing The Hunger Games, I asked my colleague what else he recommended. He said, If you liked The Hunger Games, then you’ll love Mistborn. Mistborn was a fantasy novel by Brandon Sanderson, a local author. And it, too, was a trilogy. I ended up listening to Mistborn for the next couple of months (my daughter did too). In fact, my daughter even did her science fair project from a concept in Mistborn. My colleague was right. Though Mistborn was a novel in the fantasy genre, I liked it considerably. I had always been too snooty of an English major to read fantasy before, but this novel completely sucked me in.

After Mistborn, I downloaded another popular book: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. My wife had read all three novels by Stieg Larsson and said this book was impossible to put down. It is definitely more graphic and has adult themes, but I am completely smitten by this series as well.

There’s something about fiction that draws me further in and keeps my attention, especially if Simon Vance is narrating (he does voices well). I now prefer fiction to nonfiction. It’s an escape, and when I’m running along the sidewalk at night, I’m not in some cold Utah landscape but rather in the middle of a novel.

Listening to fiction from Audible also fits into my diet plan. A few months ago, I decided I wanted to lose weight. No surprise, it turns out that in order to lose weight, the allowed calories per day mostly leaves me hungry. I’m not following any specific strategy other than to burn more calories than I consume each day. And I’m using the MyFitnessPal app to track calories. MyFitnessPal uses the concept of “net calories,” which are simply the total calories after accounting for exercise. For example, if your daily calorie limit is only 1,500, but you go jogging and burn 500 calories, then you can consume 2,000 calories for the day.

Following this strategy, I started exercising more frequently than before — if only to stay within the general calorie limit for the day. And so far it has worked. Within about three months time, I’ve lost 20 lbs. But there’s no way I would find the patience to go jogging or walking without a good audio book to listen to. Audio books are integral to my motivation.

I know many of you are fiction readers. Many others may work out regularly. Or you may have long commutes. Whatever your situation, I highly recommend Audible. It’s the best audio book service online, and it seamlessly integrates with mobile devices such as the iPhone.

I like Audible so much that, after a year of faithful listening and hearing them promoted on podcasts such as This Week in Tech and Grammar Girl, I decided to become an Audible affiliate myself.

As an Audible affiliate, I’ll review books from time to time on my site, as well as encourage you to check out good audio books that I’m listening to. You can get started with a free audio book right now. Here are my three favorites:

If you decide to check out Audible later, please visit their site by clicking one of the Audible links on my site, such as the Audible sidebar graphics or links in this post. This will track the reference back through me.

If you have any good audio books you recommend, please let me know in the comments below. I’ll be finished with the Stieg Larsson series soon, and I’ll be looking for another book.

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By Tom Johnson

I'm a technical writer working for a gamification company called Badgeville in the Silicon Valley area in California. I'm primarily interested in topics related to technical writing, such as visual communication (video tutorials, illustrations), findability (organization, information architecture), content development (DITA, testing), API documentation (code examples, programming), web publishing (web platforms, Web design) -- pretty much everything related to technical writing. If you're trying to keep up to date about the field of technical communication, subscribe to my blog either by RSS or by email. To learn more about me, see my About page. You can also contact me if you have questions.

22 thoughts on “Why I Love Audible

  1. John Hewitt

    I am a big fan of audio books, although I have sort of moved in the opposite direction as you. I started listening to books on tape in the nineties during my long daily commute. When I graduated to an iPod in 2007, I started listening to audio books almost immediately. In the past two years though, I have moved to listening more to podcasts than books. I am beginning to tire of most of my podcasts however, so the pendulum may soon swing again.

    1. Tom Johnson

      John, it’s interesting to hear your experience. I know you have a strong interest in fiction, so it doesn’t surprise me that you started out listening to books on tape prior to podcasts. What are you favorite podcasts, by the way? Radiolab, This American Life, This Week in Tech?

      1. John Hewitt

        I listen to a lot of creativity stuff: Making It, WTF, The Nerdist. I also listen to Filmspotting, Pop Culture Happy Hour, Marketplace, Freakanomocs and the just plain silly Mike and Tom Eat Snacks. The only “industry” podcasts I listen to are Marketing over Coffee and sometimes This Week in Tech.

  2. Melanie Blank

    Interesting; thanks for the book suggestions, too. I liked ‘Hunger Games’ too, although the whole premise was so creepy.

    I’m fine listening to talk shows on the radio; I’m a big fan of various NPR shows; but for some reason, audio books are difficult for me. I guess I’m pretty much a ‘visual reader.’ I need to see those words as I read.

    Mel

    1. Tom Johnson

      I think I developed more audial learning capabilities by listening to so many podcasts. I’m not sure why, but when I hear things, it sticks. I read too, and watch video if relevant. Certainly, as another commenter pointed out, listening to a book makes me pay attention to details that, if I were reading instead, I would normally skip over.

  3. Shannon Lerner

    Davina Porter is another fantastic audio book narrator, and prolific too. She has a real knack for developing distinctive voices for dozens of characters.
    I listen to audio books while walking to work. When I’m really absorbed in a narrative I read so fast that I miss a lot of details. When I have a book ‘read to me’ I absorb more of the story and I notice beautifully crafted sentences because I’m forced to hear it slowly.
    Cheers,
    Shannon

    1. Tom Johnson

      When I have a book ‘read to me’ I absorb more of the story and I notice beautifully crafted sentences because I’m forced to hear it slowly.

      I hadn’t considered this point before, but you’re absolutely right. If I were reading these texts, I would probably glide over the content much more quickly and lose out on the details and beautifully crafted sentences.

      I’ll check out Davina Porter’s narrations. Thanks for the comment and tip.

  4. Donna

    Have you checked out downloadable books from your public library? Most libraries offer a collection of downloadable books in audio and eBook format, as well as downloadable videos and music. It’s your local tax money working – you should take advantage of the service!

    Regards, Donna

    1. Tom Johnson

      Yes, good point. I haven’t explored my library’s offerings. I know they offer subscriptions, so I’ll check this out. I only have bandwidth for about one audio book a month. But it’s a gamble purchasing them on Audible. Sometimes I get a few hours in to the book and wish I had downloaded something else. That was the case with The Tipping Point (Gladwell should have hired a voiceover actor to read it).

  5. Syd

    If you like Sanderson check out the Wheel of Time series, which Sanderson has taken over from Robert Jordan. 13 books in the series!! You’ll practically never run out :)

    1. Tom Johnson

      I am not sure I have the stamina for 13 books, but one day I will probably listen to this. Have you read or listened to all of them? And do you recommend them?

  6. Jenny

    I loved the Mistborn and Hunger Games trilogies too – although I read those, rather than listened to them.

    One audio book I’d recommend is Adrian McKinty’s book Fifty Grand. It’s about a Cuban woman investigating her father’s death. I’ve also listened to several Janet Evanovich audio books. Yeah, yeah, I can see you rolling your eyes, but the reader does an excellent job with the character voices, and they’re very funny to listen to.

    Cheers, Jenny.

    1. Tom Johnson

      Jenny, thanks for the tip. Since you liked Mistborn and Hunger Games, I trust we have similar interests, so I’ll check out Evanovich and McKinty. My wife reads a lot of Evanovich and likes her.

  7. Susan

    I’ve been an Audible subscriber for nearly 10 years. I started listening for much the same reason as you — I needed a distraction while I was getting used to the pain of running. :-) There are many books out there that are actually _better_ in audio book form than in paperback.

    If you like nonfiction, check out Sarah Vowell’s books. They’re usually voiced by multiple narrators and her radio production experience really shines. “Unfamiliar Fishes” was her most recent book.

    If you like light mysteries or historical novels, check out Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody series, read by Barbara Rosenblat. Hands-down the best voice performances I’ve ever heard in an audiobook — she has a consistent “voice” for all the characters, creating a world in which you can really immerse yourself.

    1. Tom Johnson

      Thanks Susan. I appreciate the recommendations. I also completely agree with your observation that ” There are many books out there that are actually _better_ in audio book form than in paperback. There are many books out there that are actually _better_ in audio book form than in paperback.” I hadn’t realized this before, but the voice performances can be quite entertaining.

  8. Richard Rabil, Jr.

    Well Tom, you’ve persuaded me. For years I’ve been avoiding Audible, mainly because I don’t want to spend the money. And for a few years that worked. My commute was short, and when I go running, I listen to music. Not much need for audiobooks. But with my new job, the commute is longer, and I find that podcasts just don’t cut it. Something about a fiction audiobook is more immersive and makes the drive seem a lot shorter. Too short, in fact. I’m engrossed in the audiobook I’m listening to now (‘A Dance with Dragons’ by George RR Martin), and I often drive slower so I can hear what happens. The problem is, I got the book from the library, and when it’s finished, the library just doesn’t have a lot of other options that truly interest me. So when I’m done with my current book, I think I’ll give Audible a try and see how it goes.

    1. Tom Johnson

      Richard, it’s always good to hear from you. Just curious, but what company did you decide to work for?

      “Something about a fiction audiobook is more immersive and makes the drive seem a lot shorter” — definitely agree. Podcasts don’t engross me like fiction.

      “I often drive slower so I can hear what happens.” Me too. I am much more inclined to drive the speed limit. Ironically, though perhaps listening to an audio book while driving might be somewhat distracting and make me more prone to accidents, driving more slowly counteracts the danger.

  9. Anthony

    I’ve been an Audible member for a few years and also listen while running. Definitely helps the miles go by.

    The Hunger Games was excellent, so I’m be sure to check out Mistborn. Thanks for the recommendation.

    Here are my suggestions:
    Altered Carbon – Richard K. Morgan
    Julian Comstock – Robert Charles Wilson
    Jennifer Government – Max Barry
    Ready Player One – Ernest Cline

  10. Jen

    Audible got me through many years of long commutes. My favourite narrators are Barbara Rosenblat (I still get chills thinking of her narration of We Need to Talk About Kevin) and George Guidall. Guidall narrated Robert Littell’s The Company – if you like spy novels it’s unparalleled.

    Other Audible highlights for me include Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series, Campbell Scott narrating The Shining and Neil Gaiman narrating The Graveyard Book. Thanks for the Mistborn tip. Once I’ done the Game of Thrones series I’ll check it out.

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