How I Listen to Audiobooks

September 29, 2016 Discussion 26

A few of you may remember that back at the start of the year I was lamenting over the fact that I couldn’t get audiobooks to work for me. I struggled to focus and just generally had a terrible time listening to them.

Fastforward 6 months and I’m flying through audiobooks. I finally figured out how to get them to work for me. Considering that a lot of people seemed to have the same struggles I did, I thought I’d share what works for me. 

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The Device

I listen to audiobooks on my old iphone. The books (plus the podcasts I’ve downloaded) can take up a lot of space which I don’t have on my usual mobile so the old one has become an MP3 of sorts. It’s handy, I have it most places. It doesn’t take up much space, and I’m familiar with it.

Back when I first tried audiobooks I was using Overdrive on my laptop. That wasn’t as good, mostly because I was limited to particular places and times to listen. I didn’t enjoy that.


The Apps

My library has catalogues that offer audiobooks on two apps: Overdrive and BorrowBox. Overall I much prefer Overdrive, with its bookmarking, better layout, and general ease of use. BorrowBox is okay, but not as good. The only time I use it is if it features a book I can’t find on my library’s Overdrive catalogue.


What to listen to first?

I feel like selecting a good book is key to getting into audiobooks. You need something with good narration that is easy to understand (I much prefer British like accents), maybe something fast paced that keeps you interested. I started with Harry Potter and The Queen of the Tearling.

If that doesn’t work, podcasts may be useful. They’re not books per se, but they are audio stories that last a little shorter and can help you adjust.


Speed it Up

The ability to speed up the audio is what kept me listening. When I tried audiobooks in the past I found that the narrators talked too slow compared to my reading speed and I was getting bored/ distracted. It was only this year I realised I could speed the audio up (smart, I am).

When I first start an audiobook, I leave it on 1x speed for a bit and slowly crank up the speed. I take a few minutes/ hours to get used to the new speed before cranking it up. Usually I end up listening to the book between 1.25x and 2x, depending on the speaking speed and accent of the narrator.


 When to Listen?

Figuring out when to listen was probably the hardest part of all. I didn’t think I could focus on two things at once. It really depends on what you’re doing. If I need to focus (like while studying, or writing blog posts, etc) I can’t listen to an audiobook. But I can do mindless/ menial tasks while listening to audiobooks.

At first I listened to audiobooks while falling asleep. Then I trained myself to listen and multitask by playing random puzzle games on my phone while listening to audiobooks. Next was driving (only to places I’ve been before/ know the route) and cleaning/ organising. Recently I’ve also started colouring while listening to audiobooks which is actually great (until I start focusing on colour choices and not the book haha)

How do you listen to audiobooks?

26 Responses to “How I Listen to Audiobooks”

  1. Kate @ Opinionated Book Lover

    I love this post! I listen in two ways. (1) CD Audiobooks in my car for commuting. I have a 6-disc changer, so it’s easy to load a bunch of discs, and then I’m set for a week (or more) of listening while I drive. (2) Audiobooks on my phone using Audible or Overdrive. They’re perfect for listening while cooking, folding laundry, etc. because I always have my phone. I agree that speeding up the books is very helpful, although I’ve never gone past speed 1.5x. I do get frustrated with CD Audiobooks sometimes because I cannot speed them up, but it’s nice to give my brain the ability to focus on driving sometimes by listening at normal speed.
    Kate @ Opinionated Book Lover recently posted…Discussion: Reading without reviewing

    • Bec

      I’m glad you enjoyed it :D I very rarely go past 1.5x, so far it’s only been for Stephen Fry narrating Harry Potter because he speaks slow haha. Normal speed is good for driving definitely.

    • Bec

      It boosts the books so quickly! Contributed to my completion of the GR challenge last month ahaha I was pleasantly surprised by my library!

  2. ShootingStarsMag

    Great tips! I really do want to try listening to audios again. I tried about a year ago, but I do think I need to find a really good book to start and find something I can do while listening, like coloring or something else a bit menial. I might have to try speeding up the speech too though! I hear a lot of people do this. I definitely read faster than people talk to me. haha

    ShootingStarsMag recently posted…Kingdom of Ash and Briars by Hannah West

    • Bec

      Thanks! Sometimes all it takes is the right book and the right narrator at the right time. People talk so slow compared to our reading paces!

  3. Olivia

    This is a very interesting post, thank you. I personally can’t get audio books to work for me. Several problems. Speed: Things get tense, I want to read faster, the narrator stays the same. I tried listening at 1.5x but I would still read faster so it bothered me. Distraction: my thoughts drift off and I catch myself having made a shopping list in my mind etc. and not actually having listened to anything the narrator said. When I listen to an audiobook in bed I fall asleep. I tried to listen to a book while walking the dog and it didn’t work either. I have the same problem with podcasts. I might just have to accept audio isn’t for me.
    BUT. There’s one thing I can use audio books for. English isn’t my native language and with particularly complex books I sometimes listen to the audio at the same time as I read the book on my Kindle. It makes it easier for me to be able to follow authors who use complex language or particularly long sentences. Currently I’m reading Infinite Jest like that.
    Olivia recently posted…Two Books for October (and why it’s important to read a series as it comes out)

    • Bec


      It can frustrate me when some audiobook apps only go up to a certain speed. Overdrive seems to go up to 2x or even higher so normally I can find a setting that works.

      The drifting thoughts is a big issue for me too! I zone out and have to rewind a bit because I missed stuff.

      Oh that’s true, audiobooks would be so helpful for learning pronunciation and tings of english words. I never thought of that!

    • Bec

      Sometimes they don’t work for everyone haha. And I’ve had audiobooks that I just couldn’t get into so I ended up switching to the physical version and got through it a lot easier.

      Thanks! I’m hopefully going to try and include more of my photos in my posts (time permitting)

  4. ruthsic

    Great post!
    Even I started with podcasts first (Welcome to Night Vale is an excellent podcast), and I had tried to read one book (Hellhole by Gina Damico) but I really couldn’t get into it. Then I came across the audiobook for The Raven Boys for a re-read and I loved the narrator. Currently, I often re-listen to the entire series while doing routine mindless work in lab – things that don’t require my full attention. Also, I slowly I developed the ability to be able to concentrate when reading/listening to the book for the first time.
    I think if anyone finds it difficult to get into first, they should probably start with some comfortable like rereads. It worked for me! :)
    ruthsic recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday: Books On My Fall TBR list

    • Bec

      I need to get back into Welcome to Nightvale! I really enjoyed the episodes I listened to but stopped for a mysterious reason.

      Narrator plays a big part as to whether or not I can get into an audiobook. The Raven Cycle is a series I love and want to reread as an audiobook someday!

      It does take some adjusting! I had a break from audiobooks for a while because of exams and have to re-teach myself how to listen all over again.

  5. Emily Mead

    This is so helpful! I don’t listen to audiobooks because I feel like I would get easily bored (as you say). I didn’t even realise you could speed it up. I definitely want to get the Harry Potters :)

    • Bec

      Being able to speed it up was a fabulous surprise! Sometimes you just have to stick with it (and combine it with an activity like colouring. I even listen to books while I’m setting up and editing book photos sometimes). The Harry Potter books were so charming! Stephen Fry did a marvellous job.

  6. A Canadian Girl

    I’m a pretty visual person so I need to either read the words on a page or watch something in order to stay focused on a story, which is why audiobooks just don’t really work for me. I’ve realized, however, that I can listen to them when I go for a run because then I’m not thinking so much about how tired I am or how much longer I have to run for.
    A Canadian Girl recently posted…Review: Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter

    • Bec

      As a visual person I understand the struggle! It’s why I can’t just sit there and listen. I need to be doing something menial (and still picture the events of the story in my mind) or have my eyes closed while falling asleep.

      I haven’t tried listening to them while exercising yet. They would make a fabulous distraction! I’m glad they help your running

  7. Terri M.

    Back in February I bought a new car and just a couple of months ago, I figured out I could hook my old iPod Touch up to it so I loaded ALL my audiobooks from SYNC on it that I haven’t listened to. Best idea ever! :) I keep my old iPhone 4 hooked up to my sound system for music when I’m blogging or working my 9-to-5 job from home.

    I haven’t tried installing Overdrive on my iPod touch…hrm.
    Terri M. recently posted…Terri’s Ultimate Christmas Wishlist for 2016

  8. Micheline @ Lunar Rainbows Reviews

    YAY for audiobooks! I never speed up mine though, I read fast but then I tend to miss important details so the slower paced narration helps me to really appreciate the details and slow myself down. I tend to listen to audiobooks on the commute to and from work which adds up to an hour a day BUT when a book is really good, I find the time to listen at home too, instead of reading a physical book. I have to say that I’m digging the idea of listening while colouring :D Thanks for the tip, I can totally see that working!
    Micheline @ Lunar Rainbows Reviews recently posted…Review: The Amulet of Samarkand

    • Bec

      Hahaha yeah I’m terrible at missing details because of the speed, but I’m also impatient XD

      It is so relaxing to listen to an audiobook while colouring. Highly recommend it!

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