Audiobooks, stories that speak to you. For the past six weeks I have been listening to audiobooks from Audible… read on and I’ll explain why.

When last did you buy a physical book?

My wife would say yesterday or last week or last month. She is always buying books (a real bookworm). I am exactly the opposite and haven’t bought a physical book from a shop in over four years. In fact I can’t remember when I walked through a bookstore or library and bought/rented a book. The last physical book I purchased was ‘Oil 101 by Morgan Downey’ and that was purchased online at Amazon.co.uk. (Where is that book now? – on a bookshelf collecting dust). These days I purchase all my books online via the Google Play Books app or the Amazon Kindle app.

Note to self: Visit a library for a blast from the past. 

No audiobooks here

Audiobooks, Kindle, paperbacks, phones, planes, trains and automobiles.

I have never owned a Kindle, instead have always read books on whatever mobile device I’ve owned at the time. For me it is about convenience and having less to carry around. There are some obvious pros and cons to this practice.

  • I am not sure if it is a psychological thing, but reading a book on a phone seems to take a lot longer. Perhaps because a full page on a physical book is multiple pages on a mobile phone.
  • Thumb, neck, back strain needs no explanation. 😉
  • Eye strain is a major downside given that I am staring at my phone for longer periods at a time, which at my ripe old age is having a knock on effect on my eyes. (“Glasses can sort that problem out Mr Bowen“, I hear you say, and one would be right). I recently purchased a pair of glasses to combat this very problem, but let’s face it, paper pages have some advantages over a screen, no matter how much one turns up or down the screen brightness/resolution/colour.
  • One major positive is that I can carry all my books with me wherever I go, since they are digital and weigh nothing. It means I can chop and change and read multiple books on the go, without the need to carry said books along with me.

Come on Google Play Book, offer audiobooks

Listening is good for the soul.

For as long as I can remember I have loved listening to audio, whether it was music, talk radio or live sports commentary. The latter is great if the commentator(s) are good at their job and are able to describe the event in detail, while still keeping the listener (me) enthralled. Sports are surprisingly great to listen too especially cricket, boxing, MotoGP, motor racing, rugby etc.

These days with 3G/4G/LTE/broadband coverage accessible in most areas, it is possible to stream anything to a phone, PC or TV and have audio 24/7.

The wife and I spend on average 10 hours a week in the car driving to and from work and as such have plenty of time to listen to talk radio, music or (err’ to each other 😉) and recently we discovered some interesting TED Talks audio covering various topics that we stream through the Bluetooth radio in the car.

I have always got my headphones on when walking to and from the garage.  Sometimes in the office if the surrounding desks are being loud or I am busy and want peace and quiet, I’ll put my noise cancelling headphones on and listen to a music playlist or a podcast.

Hello audible browser and mobile app.

I bought my first audiobook on Google Play Books, and thoroughly enjoyed listening to someone read the book to me. Afterwards I signed up to Audible (an amazon company). Google Play Books would have been my first choice, but they didn’t offer any free books at the time, which was a little disappointing. I’ve since read they have just started audiobooks on Google Home, so hopefully this will be coming to the UK. However audible have a vast library of audiobooks (over 200 000 book titles and growing) and their audiobooks are broken into multiple categories, making it very easy to find what one is looking for.

Audiobooks categories on audible

Being an audible noob (a first timer), I was able to trial their service for a month free and the first book or credit was on them. Given I am already paying for a family subscription for my music streaming, I wasn’t keen on spending more than £10/mth for a book membership. Audible offers a number of membership plans with varying degrees of cost and value, however I decided to go for the first option because I figured I wouldn’t be listening to 2 books a month, what with everything else I was listening to in between.

Audiobooks Audible Membership Plan

For your free credit pick a long, unabridged audiobook that costs a fortune.

The Pillars of the Earth hardcover bookI spent the first free credit wisely on a very long, expensive, unabridged audiobook, (not on an abridged audiobook, which is a shortened version of the story), that way my credit was not wasted. I browsed through the vast library specifically in search of unabridged audiobooks of over 40 hours long.  I’ve always wanted to read Ken Follett’s three Kingsbridge novels, ‘The Pillars of the earth, World without ends, A column of fire‘, so was extremely happy to see the three unabridged audiobooks available. They were each very expensive and long (45, 40 and 30 hours) respectively. 🙂

I picked the first audiobook ‘The Pillars of the Earth’ which is a historical novel by the Welsh-born author. Wikipedia describes the novel;

It is about the building of a cathedral in the fictional town of Kingsbridge, England. It is set in the middle of the 12th century, primarily during the Anarchy, between the time of the sinking of the White Ship and the murder of Thomas Becket. The book traces the development of Gothic architecture out of the preceding Romanesque architecture, and the fortunes of the Kingsbridge priory and village against the backdrop of historical events of the time.

Given its length (45 hours) it took me a little over two weeks to complete, as I listened to it for two or three hours a day. It was narrated by John Lee, who did a fantastic job telling the story. His voice was fantastic and he was really easy to follow. The story was gripping and so well detailed from the second I started the book to his last word. Some days I literally struggled to stop listening and one night on holiday I listened throughout the night. (It is a really good story).

While you wait for your next credit check out the FREE audio shows.

With a week and a bit spare of the month and no credits left, I discovered a section called Audio Shows. Here one can find free audio shows for members only.

Audio shows on audible

These are great time fillers and I have already downloaded and listened to a couple of audio shows. Take The Dark Web audiobooks, it was made up of 10 episodes, twenty minutes each, a perfect listen during lunchtime or a walk to and from the car.

The dark web audio show

We have also listened to a few of Dom Joly’s Big American Vacation in the car and for anyone who can’t remember Dom Joly, he was the guy who walked around London carrying a huge, plastic, blow-up mobile phone and when it rang would scream, “HELLO! YEAH I AM IN FRANCE, IT’S HORRIBLE”? or “HELLO! I AM IN A BOOKSTORE, LOOKING FOR A BOOK, I CAN’T STAND READING”. 😀 Back to the audiobook, it was okay, not as funny as his Trigger Happy TV Series.

And the next credit goes to Ken Follett – World Without End audiobook.

Ken Follett World without endApril 2018 brought my first paid credit into my account, so I got the second book in the Kingsbridge Series, ‘World Without End‘. So far I am thoroughly enjoying it. Ken Follett is a great entertainer and has a wonderful way of writing. Every chapter leaves one feeling “what is going to happen next?” and John Lee gets this across perfectly. Wikipedia describes the novel;

World Without End takes place in the same fictional town as Pillars of the Earth — Kingsbridge — and features the descendants of some Pillars characters 157 years later. The plot incorporates two major historical events, the start of the Hundred Years’ War and the Black Death. The author was inspired by real historical events relating to the Cathedral of Santa María in Vitoria-Gasteiz.

Audible has some cool syncing features.

I’ve been listening to the books mostly through my mobile app, but at home I have been able to output the book to my Google Home speaker through casting or Bluetooth. At work I am able to open a web browser to audible.co.uk and use the cloud option to play the book through my headphones. The story automatically syncs across multiple devices without any problems. The switch back to the mobile app was easy and it picked up automatically where I left off on the other devices.

Audible App Sync Message

Don’t forget to set the sleep timer.

The app has a great sleep timer option that can be set to off, 15, 30, 60 minutes, end of chapter or end of book part. These are useful options if one has a knack of falling asleep when the head hits the pillow. (Says a lot about the story telling if one can’t keep awake).

Audible Sleep Timer Options

Show me your audiobook features audible.

Audible has all the usual features one would expect from a book app, such as showing similar titles, reviews and star ratings. The app also has a button free page, which is useful for car listeners, where one can simply swipe the screen for titles.

Audible Similar Titles

The speed of the readers voice can be decreased by half for those wanting to listen like a snail and increased up to 3 times the normal speed if one is a fast listener. (Personally setting it higher makes the reader sound like a chipmunk).

Reader speed

One can save a clip (a sample) and a bookmark anytime by tapping the icon below.
Bookmark or save a clip

This can then be played, linked or shared.
Clips and bookmarks

There are also badges one can collect for completing various listening goals, which is not really my thing (unless it is a beer badge), but if one is that way inclined you could brag to your friends on social media that you are an audio book freak 🙂 There are also daily, weekly and monthly stats showing how many hours have been listened to. I really like audible and can wholeheartedly recommend the excellent listening experience.

I would say though, get yourself a decent pair of headphones, one that will be comfortable on your head for long periods at a time. If headphones were on your wishlist, check out my post on the new Wireless Bluetooth Sony WH1000MX2 Headphones. I think they are the best Bluetooth headphones money can buy.