It is not often that I need a lawyer, but a family matter had me consulting one. During our one and only meeting, I mentioned my wife was a retired librarian, and provided reading suggestions monthly for LOL.  He stated that his mother had been an avid reader, but that her failing eyesight had robbed her of this pastime.  It had been only a few weeks ago that the same topic had arisen with an elderly cousin in Florida.

I could not resist the opportunity to extoll the wonders of the audiobook. He was astonished to learn about the ease of downloading, and the wide genre choices available in the audio format. Most of all he was thrilled with what he could get – free – with a library card.

Now during my wife’s tenure as a librarian, she gave lessons, provided telephone assistance, and one-on-one help to thousands of patrons regarding audiobook downloading. It therefore, still amazes me, when I discover individuals so unaware of this giant literary industry.

The spoken wordbook dates back to 1877. One of Edison’s visions for the phonograph was the creation of phonographic books for the blind. By the 1930s, the government was producing “talking books”, but it was the 1970s, with the evolution of the cassette tape, that “audiobooks” came into their own.

Now my wife was not always a big fan of audiobooks. She was much more of a purist when it came to reading, much as many still are with regard to e-book technology. I embraced the book-on-tape concept with zeal. My job required me to travel to Whiteville, Lumberton, and Elizabethtown quite often, and these books filled in for the spotty radio reception. I once found myself so involved in a mystery while listening, I missed my turn.

Unfortunately, many times the reading was carried over to the home. I would walk around the house carrying this stupid little radio cassette player combo with headphones listening to novels. For my wife it was rather madding when she was trying to have a conversation with me. TV seemed enough of a distraction, and now this.

However, a road trip to the mountains one year got her hooked. Then as the industry transitioned to CDs, and her new car allowed for the loading of five disks at once, she joined me as a full-fledged audiobook enthusiast. Today we both have audiobooks seemly always playing in the background of our lives. While running errands, sewing a quilt, outside soaking up some sunshine, mowing the grass, walking the dogs or taking a trip we are listening to an audiobook.  Both of us use a host of different devices to download and listen on. My wife uses her iPad, iPhone (Bluetooth in her car), and portable CD player. I still have an old iPod Shuffle, and saved my old iPhone 5 which I use as a playback device.

A Case for Books on CD

Now before we move on to the steps for downloading audiobooks, I want to take just a moment to make a pitch for the CD format. As I mentioned by wife still listens to books on CD. The players are still available in most cars, and personal portable CD players can be ordered online from WalMart and Amazon for under $20. While somewhat cumbersome in this new digital age, CDs can be easier to manage for shorter reads. Each disk as a rule is divided into two to three minutes per track. This can help with bookmarking, or finding that point you left off at when you dozed off in the warm glow of the sun. There are also many great reads on CD that never made the evolutionary change to a downloadable format. Do not pass up a great read just because it is not downloadable or for that matter if it is only in book form.

Downloading a Book

Now CDs have to be collected and returned just like old-fashioned books, while we can manage our digital downloads, from the deck of a cruise ship. For most us today the process locally is easy. First and foremost get a library card. After that just take a trip to your library’s website.

Once on their site look for links like eResources, Audiobooks, Downloadable Material. Today many library’s have a full assortment of electronic resources. I encourage you to take the time to browse around; you might find something else to checkout.

Helpful Help

Now I am not going to spend time walking you through all the steps for downloading. Always read your library’s FAQ page. What I will tell is that the type of device you plan to playback on does matter. Sadly, there is no universal format for audiobooks. Therefore, read all help sections before you start downloading Apps or software. Make sure you get the right one for your device, or the frustration level with the process will be high.

A Tale of Two Downloading Sites

Our hometown library offers two sites for downloading audiobooks: The North Carolina Digital Library and One Click Digital. Both sites offer an excellent selection of titles with a surprisingly minimal amount of overlap.

What may surprise you is that while digital, there are not an endless number of copies of each title. Library’s buy a set number of titles of each book, just like the ones on the shelves in the brick and mortar buildings. When all the titles are checked out, you must put yourself on a waiting list. Digital audiobooks are only checked out to patrons on either a 7 or 14-day loan period.  If you go over your loan period the book can be retrieved from your device before you finish it.

To use one of our library’s site  you will need to download a rather common program called OverDrive to all the devices you plan to use for audiobooks. The program is free, and can be acquired as OverDrive Listen or as the OverDrive App. Listen allows you to play right in your web browser (like Chrome and Safari), which is great for laptops or even iPads. While the OverDrive App provides playback of MP3 files, which allows for the transfer of an audiobook to an iPhone, iPod Shuffle or other MP3 player. The App works with Windows 10, Mac, Chromebook and most mobile devices.

The other site, One Click Digital, has its own Media Manager. You’ll need to download either the Mac or Windows versions for the devices you plan to use for playback. The thing I like about One Click is that their Media Manager does it all. You can play the audiobook or transfer to another device from the single platform.

Downloading Tip

Pay attention to what you are about to download. Both of our sites offer e-books and e-audiobooks. If you want an audiobook make sure the icon that appears on the link you’re interested in clearly indicates audio. I confess to getting overexcited more than once when I thought a book was available in audio, and checked it out only to realize that is was an e-book. The two sites also have their own management style. While searching on one site you can clearly see if a book is available to borrow, while on the other you must go directly to the books main page to discover if the title can be checked out.

I fell in love with audiobooks, as a direct result of my love for old time radio. That 1930-40s theatre of the mind inspired my creative side. Audiobooks give me that same thrill. I’ve told my co-worker there are times when listening to a book with a great reader, makes the story so incredibly real. Happy Reading (Listening)!

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