Tuesday, July 9, 2019

On Starving and Audio Books

This spring I struggled to read. My time to read was limited, but even when I had some quiet moments I was often too distracted to concentrate.

That doesn't mean I didn't read. I'm not sure I could ever completely stop reading. In fact, when I look at the list of books I've read the past months, I was surprised by its length.

But it didn't feel like I was reading nearly enough.

Then I realized my problem. Ed constantly told me about the book he was reading or the audio book or podcast he heard on the way to work, or the sermon he was preparing. Even if I had a season when I didn't have much reading input, Ed was giving me intellectual stimulation. I perused many books through his narrative. Often by the time he finished telling me about a book, I felt like I could check that book off my to-be-read list and choose another.

Input from Ed ended last fall, but it took me months to realize what I was missing. Until I felt malnourished.

I wasn't sure how to compensate for the loss. I knew there would never be a true replacement from constant daily conversations with Ed. But to survive, I was going to have to find others ways to feed my mind less I continue to feel starved.

At about the same time I inherited Ed's phone. I barely knew how to text and only was vaguely aware of the meaning of  "app." But I wanted to catch up on technology and learn to use this tool.

I am a visual learner and never preferred audio books. When I'm reading a printed page I can block out all distractions. Ed could never understand how I could read in a loud house. I said it was long practice in growing up as the oldest of nine children. (Ed was the youngest of his family)

But I don't have the same ability when I'm listening to an audio book or podcast. I find myself grumpy because someone asked me something and I missed an important point of the book. Or I find my mind running down a rabbit trail and distract myself from what I'm listening.

But with the hours I was spending on the road (now that I was doing all the driving) I decided to learn to like audio books.

I began with children's books. I couldn't drive and mother well, but an enthralling story could keep the peace in the back of the van.

We borrowed audio books on cd from the library. We enjoyed books such as Young Frindle and The Tale of Despereaux. But our local library had a limited selection and often the cds were scratched. I wanted to find digital files through an app on the phone.

Ed had signed up for a trial for Audible - Amazon's digital audio book service. I loved the book selection; Amazon has nearly any book available. The quality is good, the site easy to search, and when you choose a book you have it for life, even after you unsubscribe. (Though how often would I listen to a book again?)

But Audible seemed expensive. The subscription costs $15.00 a month and includes only one book a month. You can get discounts and find good deals, but for someone accustomed to the library, the cost was a drawback.

So I decided to try some other book subscriptions.

Several of my friends used Scribd and like it. This online book subscription cost $8.99 a month with  access to a large number of audio books and e-books. But you don't actually own the files so you lose them if you cancel your subscription. (Though, again, I rarely relisten to a book.)

I signed up for a trial of Scribd and showed it to my children. They jumped into reading and listening to their favorites. I soon found that one daughter listening to an Elizabeth Enright book on a laptop, my son listening to The Farmer Boy on the phone, and another son reading Survival Hacks on the other laptop while another daughter waited impatiently for her chance to Homer Price or The Penderwicks or books by Andrew Clements or Edith Nesbit.

Soon I found that the books that I had saved to listen to later such as The Hobbit or The Insanity of Obedience or Decisive or The Next Right Thing were now locked out. Apparently, if you download too many book in one month some books become unavailable. We found this especially true of the audio books but also occasionally with e-books. Apparently it depends upon the popularity of a book and the agreement that Scribd has with the publisher. We learned to pick the ones that we really wanted at the beginning of the month before we used so much they became unavailable. But we found there was always something to read or listen to, just maybe not our first pick. I doubt this would be a problem for most families who don't have so many book addicts in one household.

We were pleased with the quality of the audio books and found numerous e-books that we couldn't find at our local library. I don't care to read on an screen, but like audio books, now that I have a phone always with me, and I spend more time away from home, reading e-books was a way that I could greatly increase my book consumption. Now I can reread my favorite books from authors such as Jamie Langsdon Turner or Elisabeth Elliot right on my phone.

Scribd also contains free books from Librivox. Of course we didn't need Scribd to enjoy these books but their app made it super simple to use. I listened to Leo Tolstoy's Confessions while sewing, and we enjoyed Anne of Green Gables on our trip to North Carolina.

We  use three devices for Scribd and found that they sync well, keeping the place we left off however we are reading/listening. I do find that books are sometimes harder to search for on Scribd compared with Audible. Sometimes I can't find a book by the title but can by the author. Or I can't find it on audio but when I click on the e-book I find it available in audio also.

You can try Scribd for two months free by using my link to Scribd (which also gives me a free month.)

But I wasn't done trying audio services. My local library offers Libby. Ed had often gotten digital audio books from the library. He was sometimes frustrated that just when he got to the end of the book, his loan would expire and he would lose the book. Popular books often have a waiting list and you can't renew a book if someone is waiting for it. (Just as in print books, though then you have the option of keeping it longer and paying the fine!)

But I wanted to try Libby for myself. I downloaded the app and requested All the Light that We Cannot See. This was both good and bad since this book is 16 hours long. I had found that I could increase the reading speed to 1.2 times without any loss, but that is still a lot of hours. At the time I was trying to take regular walks as a break from the demands of caring for Ed. My usual walk was 1 hour and having a terrific book like this encouraged me to walk more often. But I still was only half done before the loan expired. I had to wait a few more weeks before I could renew the book and hear the second half. (And now this is the book that I'm telling everyone to read. I want to get a print copy so I can reread it and mark up my favorite lines.)

I think that Libby will work well if I have the patience to wait for a popular book to become available and if I choose shorter book less than ten hours so I have a hope of finishing it before it expires.

In the last two weeks I have been reading books far more. I'm not as tired and feel like I can concentrate better. But by now I have become hooked on audio books as well. I still can't listen when the house is loud but now you'll find me cleaning the bathrooms with my phone stuck in a mug (an easy way to increase the sound volume), walking for the mail with the phone in my pocket, and using errands as a way to enjoy a few more minutes of my book.

Starting a good book makes me walk more often, though sometimes I turn off the audio and just enjoy the silence or listen to my own thoughts.

But I still miss talking about what I'm reading. Conversation continues to be the thing I miss the most about Ed. So if you stop by my house I'll probably ask you want you are reading and hope that you let me learn a bit from you.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on audio books. Do you like them? Do you have an audio book service that you like? What hints do you have to read or listen more? Do you have a favorite audio book that I should try next.

Reminder: You can try Scribd for two months free by using my link to Scribd (which also gives me a free month.)

Edit on 8/22/19: Thanks for all who tried Scribd and gave me credits. I have now changed the links to my sister's account. You'll still get two free months and she'll get credit for a free month. Thanks.

41 comments :

  1. I did not know about scribd having books and audio books! I love reading and listening to books allows me to get a lot of stuff done. I'm signing up so you will get at least one free month.

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  2. What an interesting and informative post, Gina! Thank you. You are light years ahead of me as I still read print books only. I don't have a smartphone so that leaves out a lot of what I can do. Still, audio books interest me greatly as I do a lot of stitching and would enjoy listening to a good book. I so agree with you on All the Light - a most wonderful book!
    Take care, keep walking, and all best wishes.
    Mary A.

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  3. We definitely check out eBooks and audio books from our local library. You might see if you can get a membership at a larger library system as well. In Texas, if you are a resident, you can get a free membership to the Houston library system -- much larger than our local library offerings.

    I just finished reading "All The Light We Cannot See" and found it quite compelling!

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  4. Thanks so much for this information!
    I’ve tried audible also and found it just too expensive.
    I’m trying Scribd though so that’s another month free for you 😊

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  5. I love Libby and borrow lots of books and audio books through it. I'm also in PA and PA residents can get a card online for the Free Library of Philadelphia. Their online selection is huge, way bigger than our local library. I thought that might interest you, you might not have to wait so long for books to become available. And the book you recommended sounds really good, I put it on my list. Thanks for the suggestion! I'm always looking for good books to try.

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    1. Thanks for the idea. I'll check out the Philly library system.
      Gina

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  6. Gina, I prefer hard copy books but if my children were still young I would probably do what you are doing. Our library here in Australia has lots of options if residents want to listen to audio books etc. I have never really looked into it too much as at my age I am pretty well set in my ways and love turning the pages of my books. I did work in a school library for over 20 years and loved being surrounded by books.

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    1. We have literally thousands of books in our home so I love being surrounded by books too.
      Gina

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    2. Oh my, I’d love to peruse your books.

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  7. Who is the author of the book "All the Light We Cannot See"? Thank you! I like recommendations for books/audio books.

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  8. Gina, I have been following your blog for years, but don't always comment. My family and I have been praying for you all. Praying for God's love and peace to surround you and your children.
    In His Love, Jamie

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  9. The Scribd has already come through for me. I found two audiobooks that were not available at my local library, the next county's library or my old library in Maryland which has a much bigger selection of books that I can access by paying for an annual card.

    Like Nanna Chel, I like to hold physical books but going electronic, especially for audio books that allow me to listen while cleaning, walking, gardening, driving, etc., makes it a lot easier to access the books and provides a larger selection than my local library can afford to physically stock.

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    1. I found the same thing. A few of the books that I was ready to break down and buy because they weren't at my library, I was able to get on Scribd.
      Gina

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  10. I love audio books! I used to make a 2 1/2 hour drive nearly twice every week for a few years, and I listened to hundreds of hours of audio books during that time. I miss that actually :). I have found sometimes that the 'voice' the reader gives to the characters is so much better than my internal imagination, that the story becomes much more alive than it would if I were reading it. This is especially true if the characters in the story have an accent I'm not familiar with. Audio books are also a great way for me to listen to books I may not sit down and read! Being forced to listen to every word instead of skim-reading is just so good for this speed-reader ;). Which in turn does make me grumpy when I'm interrupted (that made me chuckle. . .glad to know it's not a problem unique to me!). Jan Karon's Mitford series are some of my favorites for 'easy-listens'; the narrator is simply superb. I'm currently listening to 'Okay for Now' by Gary D. Schmidt, after seeing it recommended on a number of blogs!

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    1. I LOVE Okay for Now. One of my top favorite books. It would be a great audio.
      Gina

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  11. I really enjoy audio books. For my daily devotional time, I get up at 5, grab a cup of coffee and listen to a retired professer from Dallas Theological Seminary and a close personal friend. He is found at the link "Sonic Light." Anyway, he taught Sunday School for years and our church recorded his lessons. He does a verse by verse study. So, I have gone through all that he has of the Old Testament and am now working on listening to the New Testament. I have benefitted from this so very much.
    For recreational reading, my daughter gifted me a Kindle reader. She loads audio books on hers and my Kindle is her 2nd device. I am an empty nester, so it is much easier for me to listen. I enjoy listening to books while doing repetitive, mundane tasks. Can't wait to try the idea of putting my Kindle in a mug in order to boost volume.
    Audio access to Bible teaching or good literature is one part of all this technology I really like.

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  12. Christine in MaineJuly 10, 2019 at 12:18 PM

    I know what you mean about filling up on conversation and losing the need to read as much. Lately I've been listening to a lot of sermons, so I haven't read quite as many books as usual. I want to put in a plug for sermonaudio.com; I love listening to a variety of topics there. The site has more than a million sermons and it is FREE! Ken Ham has many snippets about creation that your children--and you--might find interesting. The site is also easy to search by speaker or subject. One can't endorse everything there, of course, but I have found many good things to listen to. You might want to check it out.

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  13. I LOVE All The Light We Cannot See! I had seen it recommended so many places, but still wasn't expecting it to be as good as it was. :) I took it for my flight-reading on my way to WAC in April, and found it engrossing enough to make me forget my upcoming nervousness. Which is what I was after.

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  14. I love audio books for the car. I just used your link and signed up:)

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  15. Librivox ( https://librivox.org/ ) for my listening while I commute or drive on business travel. You have mentioned Librivox above.

    Here is a book you and the older children might find interesting https://librivox.org/christian-non-resistance-by-adin-ballou/ . And the G.A. Hente, Mark Twain, Geen Stratton Porter, the Pollyanna books, and the writings of Flavius Josephus were also my companions on some of my travels.

    Daniel

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  16. A woman in our local homeschool group got enough people together to get a discounted price for tales2go.com. That's what we use when we want to listen to something; they have heaps of children's books (including the Janet & Geoff Benge books--we chose one of those for each long road trip, since the whole family loves them).

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  17. Oh my!! Seriously, if you want audiobooks, eBooks, whatever, download the Hoopla app!! It is totally free, all you need is a library card. You can borrow (for FREE!!) 6 titles per month. It is a life saver since I love listening to audio books. Here are some I've enjoyed: Unplanned by Abby Johnson, The Magnolia Story (I haven't listened to this one yet, but my sister said it's really good, so it's on mu list) Marilla of Green Gables, and so many more.

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  18. We enjoy audio books during the ride to school and I listen to more grown-up fare during my morning workouts. The Great Courses have lots of interesting topics, and are not too expensive if purchased through audible because they are so long. Many libraries have them too. We also like podcasts like 99‰ invisible

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  19. Despite the technology I like the idea of audiobooks for the 'primitiveness' of it, storytelling having come before reading and writing :P.

    I often keep my phone in a pocket to listen to podcasts or whatever, though I don't like having to keep relatively quiet-- I've been eyeing those wireless Apple earphones!

    Sometimes I try looking up blogs that have lists of good Librivox books--it's easier to find good readers that way!

    But mostly I read on my Kindle - I love it so much that I think I'll only ever buy print books of titles I plan to re-read. I've even caught myself tapping on the edge of real book pages to turn them! The e-ink really is different - it doesn't keep you awake at all like the light on a tablet or phone does. If I'm going to be somewhere that I might have a long wait, it's nice to be able to just bring it along instead of frantically running around the house trying to find the best suitable book for how I'm feeling that day XD

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  20. Maybe I should stick with your questions, but these are 3 of the books that I am reading now, 2 bought and 1 inter-library loan (but want to buy) and I can hold them all in my hands. I have 2 children who have been listening to books through the library app but I haven't joined yet, pretty much for the same reason you originally didn't listen to audio. Well, here are the 3: (maybe you can find them in audio. I would love to send you a copy of the first one, if you would like it.) "Therefore I Have Hope: 12 Truths That Comfort, Sustain, & Redeem in Tragedy"- Cameron Cole, "Resisting Gossip"- Matthew C. Mitchell, "The Gospel Comes With a House Key"- Rosaria Butterfield. Rarely am I reading three books at the same time that I love as much as I love these.

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    1. I just started Gospel Comes with a House Key on Scribt and think it will be a favorite.
      Gina

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  21. All I can add is yes yes yes. I struggle with audio books too but have really liked Libby. I'm not willing to pay a bunch for audios that I can't fully concentrate on when the kids are being noisy. But the kids also have listened to some very good reads that they wouldn't have picked up otherwise. and now I'm going to find that book you talked about. and yes, I crave a book person to talk to.

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  22. I've enjoyed Isabella Alden (Pansy) books on Librivox. A favorite is The Browns at Mt. Herman.

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  23. Signed up for my 2 free months! Thanks for the tip.

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  24. Bless your heart, Gina! I'm sure conversation with Ed is so keenly missed in your life now, but keep on blogging and staying in touch with us and we'll do our best to help with mind stimulation! So here goes...even though I don't have audio book suggestions to share, I do have a question for you that has been simmering on the back burner for quite some time! You have so many book recommendations for children and adults alike, but tell me where, please, do you learn about them? Many of the titles I never knew existed; is there a resource or online site where you get all your ideas? I do already subscribe to the Read-Aloud Revival and that has been very helpful, but now I'd like an inside tip from you! Blessings on your day and family...

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    1. I'm constantly on the alert for books. When I find someone who has similar tastes to me, I pay attention to the other books they like whether that is online or in person. Blogs and sites such as Read Aloud Revivial and Redeemed Reader have given me many good suggestions though I'm sometimes disappointed by a recommendation. I like books such as Honey for a Child's Heart though they don't have newer books which is why I like websites such as Redeemed Reader. Homeschool catalogs also are a great source of book suggestions. I go through book catalogs such as Rainbow Resource and reserve books from my local library.

      Many of my favorite books come from friends. I often ask, what are you reading? If I visit a reader I often skim their bookshelves looking for new-to-me books. My siblings often recommend books to me. And blog readers have been a great source of books.
      Gina

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  25. I must be so odd. I tried hard to like "All the Light We Cannot See" since I had seen it recommended many places and by a few people whose recommendations I trust. But I just DIDN'T! I'd love to know why you liked it! =) I just finished reading "Beneath a Scarlet Sky." I really liked that one. Just not ok for little ears.
    I haven't learned to love audio books. I prefer the printed page. (However, I do listen to quite a few podcasts.) We use Apple Music and there are some books available there. We also use Hoopla from our library. One of the boys has listened to G.A. Henty books through that app.
    Thanks for all the books recommendations. I need to compile a list and watch for some of them for our school library.And yes to Elizabeth Enright books! We love those!

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    1. Starla-
      It be so much fun to discuss books in person with you. I had heard of All the Light that We Cannot See for quite a while but when everyone is excited about a book, I figure there is too much hype about it and it is hard for me to get excited about reading it. So I was surprised how much I liked it. So maybe you and I were expecting different things when reading the book? I was expecting to be disappointed.

      What did I like? I love the way the author depicted the main characters. I loved how the plot jumped from the battle in the town to the back history of the characters involved. I had hesitated to read it because it was a war story but I thought it was very clean, with almost no profanity though I'd still consider it adult content. But most of all I loved the author's use of metaphor. Some of the lines were so beautiful that I want to read a printed copy so I can linger over some of the lines. But beautiful literary style, in this book, doesn't mean boring. I was in awe of the author's talent to pull together plot, characters, and beautiful writing in one book.

      But that is only my opinion and it certainly wouldn't be a book for everyone. Thanks for recommending Beneath the Scarlet Sky. I've never heard of it. What did you enjoy about it?
      Gina

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    2. Christine in MaineJuly 13, 2019 at 2:38 PM

      You are not alone, Starla. I borrowed that book, since I had heard good things about it. But I read only a bit and realized that it was not for me. Perhaps the setting, the war, the literary tone, though I can understand why others enjoyed the book.

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    3. "Beneath a Scarlet Sky" is based on a true story. I have thoroughly been enjoying memoirs so it kinda fell into that category. Why did I like it? Hmmm... not sure if I can explain. (I'm not always good at knowing or understanding why.) It was definitely well written. Subconsciously I was thinking about placing my boys in those difficult scenarios and wondering if today's young men have that kind of courage... Maybe you'll have to read it and let me know what you think. =)

      One of the things I deeply disliked about "All the Light We Cannot See" was the emptiness without God in their lives. I'm not one to read only Christian authors at all. Some of the books I've read have been very raw and deeply sad. But somehow this one left me feeling restless and frigidity and raw. Maybe I just wasn't at a good place to process it. =) Well, there's my view.

      And yes, I'd love to chatter about books with you. And I plan to reference all your posts about young adult books at some point and create a list of possible library books for our school.

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    4. You make me want to get Beneath a Scarlet Sky. And I agree with your view of All the Light We Cannot See. It doesn't give a view of redemption which can be depressing but I'd rather have a war story show the depravity then pretend there is glory and fulfillment found in war. Without Christ there is no joy. But I still enjoyed the book very much.
      Gina

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  26. This is the year I discovered a love of audiobooks too. I love love Libby, though I wouldn't if I didn't have library cards that gave me access to bigger libraries than my local branch. I've pretty much stopped listening to podcasts and squeeze in audiobooks during my routine tasks: ironing, cooking, cleaning, washing dishes.

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  27. Hello, I just came across your blog by happenstance. I'm not sure if you are a social media user or not but there are some great FB groups for readers like Readers Coffeehouse. There is also the Goodreads app where you can add friends and see what they are reading and comment.

    -Sky L.

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  28. This is an older post and I’ve already commented once but just wanted to thank you for the Scribd recommendation. I have been using it for the audiobooks and have even used you idea of putting my phone in a cup while I scrub bathrooms!
    I’ve also really gotten back into reading again by doing this. It does clear up your mind and help you focus so much better.
    I’ve been browsing through all your old book reviews and so far what I can’t find in my library I can find on Scribd. Mostly. I’ve gotten two of my sisters to join as well.
    One of my favorite genres is juvenile fiction. You have some great book lists there!
    Thanks so much for taking the time to do these. You have very good taste in authors with good writing skills.
    I love when I am reading a book and I think, “this writing is so good, I wish I could write like that.”

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  29. Would you be able to make a list of audiobooks your family enjoyed? Thank you so much for your godly example!

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