JANET MARTIN: Audio Books: Many New Listeners Out There
Who's listening? In 2005, the latest year for which data is available, nearly one in four people played at least one audiobook, according to the Audio Publishers Association (www.audiopub.org). Most of those folks also read one or more printed books that year, so listeners are readers, too.
It's not just aging boomers buying or borrowing audio. The average listener (44.6 years old) is more than two years younger than the average non-listener (46.9 years old). That same average listener spends about five hours a week listening, about same time as a typical weekly commute. Folks still do most of their listening in the car.
Publishers are paying attention. Sales of audio reached $871 million in 2005, about 5 percent more than in 2004. According to an article in the Sept. 28 issue of The Wall Street Journal, publishers want books that will work well in both print and audio. Mostly, that means shorter. Books of 1,000 pages or longer are simply too expensive to record with any expectation of recovering production costs.
More than half of the books heard in 2005 were borrowed from libraries. Unabridged material is preferred by more than 80 percent of consumers, although many abridged titles are still released. Check out some recent good listens:
n "The Shape Shifter," by Tony Hillerman. Joe Leaphorn, retired from the Navaho Trial Police, is lured into investigating a cold case by the reappearance of an ancient cursed weaving thought to have been destroyed decades earlier. Leaphorn, with the aid of a collection of retired cronies, puzzles through to a solution, unmasking a murderer of many identities. George Guidall's relaxed delivery is perfect.
n "Thirteen Moons," by Charles Frazier. This is a slow listen, the fictional memoir of a man who lived through most of the 19th century in the mountains of North Carolina. It tells of his love for the mountains, for the Cherokee, and for Claire, the girl he met when both were 12, he a "bound boy" on his way to run a distant trading post. The cadences of narrator Will Patton evoke a world long gone. Not much action except in the first third of the book, but it is rich in detail and atmosphere.
n "When Darkness Falls," by James Grippando. Miami attorney Jack Swyteck is a likable hero who seems to spend more time in action than in the courtroom. His homeless client, Falcon, engineers a hostage crisis that has roots in the Argentine "dirty war" of the 1970s. Good characters and compelling action make this one you can't turn off.
Janet Martin, a freelance writer from Pinehurst, may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More like this story