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How Busy People Can Find More Time for Reading

 By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund

Like most of you, my life is crazy busy. With my five kids pulling me in all different directions with their activities and friends, I'm lucky if I make it through the day without forgetting to do something or be somewhere.

Between a nearly full time writing career, homeschooling my kids, and managing a busy household, I usually end the day with a fried brain and crawl into bed exhausted, only to wake up the next day and repeat the process.

I don't have time for reading. In fact, some days it feels all but impossible to do the things that really matter, like breathe, eat, and drink coffee.

Okay, so maybe I'm exaggerating just slightly. But you understand my point. It's tough to find time for reading. We discussed that fairly thoroughly in this post: Reading for Pleasure? Who has Time for That Anymore?

But lately I've discovered one really BIG way to gain more reading time in an already crowded schedule.

And NO we don't have to cut out TV and movies, although I'm sure we would indeed gain more reading time if we cut out a little bit of our screen time.

And NO we don't have to read before bed, although I have found that to be helpful as long as the book is exciting enough to keep me from falling asleep.

And NO we don't have to take time away from our work, although reading can be a form of work (especially for writers).

So, what's the BIG discovery I've made that allows me to sneak in more reading?

AUDIO BOOKS.

Actually, it's not really a new discovery. I've been listening to audio books with my kids for years out of necessity. There was once time when I tried reading novels aloud to them, but invariably I would get interrupted a dozen times per page (especially when I had babies and toddlers running around the house).

So I settled on books on tape or CD because then I had my hands free to get snacks, change diapers, or do whatever needed to be done. And we could listen to the book in peace—or at least with fewer interruptions.

So, yes, I've been listening to books for years—but mainly children's classics. I didn't really consider listening to adult books via tape or CD because—well, I didn't want to have one of my adult books blaring where my young children might overhear the content.

But now that I've branched into the world of ipod touches, iphones, ipads, and similar devices, I've come to realize that AUDIO BOOKS are the NEW READING EXPERIENCE for BUSY PEOPLE.

On such devices, not only are audio books EASY to download, but they're EASY to carry, EASY to bring anywhere, and EASY to turn on at any time (especially if you carry earbuds with you).

I've found that I can listen to audio books wherever and whenever I have a few moments. For example, I've been listening to Jane Eyre on my ipod touch while I exercise every day. I also manage to squeeze in a little listening-time while I'm walking around the house picking up, doing mindless chores, making dinner, brushing my teeth, or driving.

The only problem is that most audio books are still VERY expensive. If you check out iTunes or Audible.com, many audio books are between $20 and $30. That's a steep price to pay for convenience.

I've found several ways to work around the problem of expensive audio books:

One is to join Audible.com (or another audio book site) for a membership which then allows you to pick out a certain number of books per month for a set fee (similar to a book club situation). They often have specials for members that make the books more affordable.

A second way to work around the cost is to look at the Kindle books you've already purchased (or want to purchase) and see if it has an audible version available. If so, you can sometimes buy the audio book for a much lower fee with the ebook purchase.

For example, I had already purchased the ebook of Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. My kids read the book on the Kindle, but I'd never made the time. Because Amazon had a record that I'd previously bought the book, Audible.com offered the audio version at a cheaper cost for around $5 versus the $28 it would require if I didn't have the ebook. Thus I was finally able to "read" it.

A third way to download audio books is to use Books Should Be Free website which contains free public domain books, mostly classics. (Addendum: Project Gutenberg also has free audio books for many classics.)

I'm sure there are other inexpensive ways to get audio books onto ipod touches, iphones, and other devices (and if you know of them, PLEASE share in the comments!).

The point is that audio books are growing in popularity and making it possible for really busy people to squeeze in "reading" time when it would otherwise be impossible.

Question for you: Do you listen to audio books? If so, do you have any other tips or suggestions? And for those who don't use audio books, with the growing popularity, have you considered the option? Why or why not?


44 comments:

  1. My public library provides audio books now (I think on MP3) where all you need are batteries and a pair of headphones. Very inexpensive. The problem is they don't have a very wide selection but my guess is that this is only going to become more and more popular as people are certainly not going to get less busy.

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    1. GREAT point, Shelly! I frequently get MP3 players from the library for my dyslexic daughter for her to listen to her required reading. Our library calls them "playaways." But they're portable like an ipod. I hadn't thought of checking out the adult playaways. Thanks for the idea!

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  2. The older I get the the more violent my motion sickness becomes. Right now I can't read or write while in the car, plane, treadmill, or anything that is moving. So I have converted to audiobooks for those situations a long time ago.


    Libraries often have large selections of audio books. Also there are audiobook clubs (similar to netflix) where for a monthly fee you can get as many audio books as you can listen too. We have used one of those for years for my hubby who listens to books in the car while commuting to work. We also belong to audible and are making our own audiobook library.

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    1. I'm enjoying beginning to collect an audiobook library too. I'm particularly trying to collect books that I think my kids might enjoy as well. That way we can all share in the listening pleasure. The fact is, they're getting busier too. And having audio books makes reading more accessible for them too. :-)

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    2. I've ALWAYS had motion sickness, SP. Had to quit reading in the bus because of that and it's a looong ride home.Although I have made a few exceptions, when I just could NOT put the book down. But I try to stick with not reading in there. (I also feel like my vision is a bit affected when I do + I've heard a while back that its not good for my eyes.) And don't even get me started on reading in the car! I feel dizzy just thinking about it.

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  3. I joined Audible.com several months ago, and I have loved it even more than I thought I would. I listen to the audible versions mostly when I'm exercising or cleaning, still perfering to do the reading myself. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the benefits of membership. Not only to do get a discounted price for your "credits" making most audio books around $14, but they are constantly running promotions and specials. For example, they recently had a two week special will a big selection of books for only $4.95, and over Valentine's Day, they had a special on romance titles that were buy one get one free. And the coolest thing about that was one of MY titles was on the list! Short-Straw Bride's audible version got some extra promo. So cool!

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    1. Hi Karen,

      That's SUPER cool that your book was on sale on Audible.com!! I must have missed the Valentine special. Bummer! But I did notice the $4.95 books usually only require one credit. So if you've purchased anything in the past and accumulated credits, then you can basically get a free audio book from one of the specials. So that's even more incentive. :-)

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  4. My library has tons of audiobooks, both in cd form (which I rip just for me and put on my ipod--hey, I'm not selling it), and e-audiobooks. Right now I'm about halfway through Les Miserables. It's 60 hours!

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    1. 60 hours?!? Eeek! :-P I thought Jane Eyre was long enough! I think in that case I would increase the speed of my player. Thankfully many modern devices (like my ipod touch) allow for speed adjustment for faster listening!

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    2. Really?! I had no idea. I may have to look into that. He does read really slow.

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  5. I echo other library users--my library also loans electronic audio books (as well as CDs). I believe some e-readers also have a text-to-speech capability, that is, your Kindle can read to you (though in a robotic voice).

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    1. Hi Laurel,

      I tried listening to my Kindle with the text to speech and I just couldn't handle the robotic voice. :( But it is a great option for those who can handle it!

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    2. Actually I was quite impressed with the text to speech quality of the Kindle keyboard. Again you can change the speed in the settings. I wasn't impressed by the Kindle Touch text to speech - the volume tends to be low. I was even less impressed to see text to speech had been removed completely from the Kindle Paperwhite, neither is it available on the basic Kindle.
      The Kindle Fire HD has even better speech than the Kindle Keyboard. My wife has one. I use a Google Nexus 7 which doesn't support text to speech using the Kindle Reader but if you download an application such as Moon+ Reader Pro you'll be able to have epub books read to you with a very good voice.

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    3. Thanks for the tips, John! Appreciate it!

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  6. I love audiobooks and gather them from any source I can: library, Audible, ChristianAudio...

    I love the Audible app on my iPhone, but I use MP3 files through iTunes as well. Always keep an eye out for promotional freebies.

    After I started listening to audiobooks, I realized I approached my writing a bit differently, too. I "heard" my words a lot clearer than I had before. But then, I'm weird. :-)

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    1. Hi Nicole, I haven't heard of ChristianAudio. I'll have to check that out! I have the Audible app as well and I love it! In fact, I love the whispersync function which allows you to listen for a little while, and then when you want to read, it automatically adjusts the page on your Kindle so that you can pick up reading where you left off listening.

      And that's interesting that the audio listening has helped you with "hearing" your words clearer. That's very cool!

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  7. Sounds like a great solution, Jody!

    I read in the bathroom. Since I drink tons of coffee and tea, I have plenty of reading time!

    I also recommend my book to "bathroom readers," since the chapters are very short. Whatever works well, right?

    Love you,
    Jen

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  8. I'm a big fan of audible.com too. I signed up after a head injury that left me unable to read. I'd never really used audio books before (except kids books, as you mentioned), and I didn't realize how much I'd love them. A great tip for getting more reading in!

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    1. I didn't realize how much I'd love them too! Now I don't know how I'd get by without them! :-)

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  9. Love listening to books on CD as I tool around town.

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    1. I hear you! With all the driving we do carting our kids around, I'm so glad that I can feel like I'm not wasting the time! :-)

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  10. Like you I listen to audio books when going for a walk or exercising and find myself working out longer because I want to continue the book. I've made a deal with myself to only listen to the book when exercising so it's a win/win having a double motivation to stay fit. Thank you so much for introducing me to Audible.com my audio habit has been getting too expensive. Unfortunately the library option isn't available where I live, but someday.

    I've found the narrators voice is crucial to the enjoyment of the book. I can think of a couple of books that I probably wouldn't have finished had the voice not kept pulling me in.

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    1. Christine, I've done that too! I've found myself exercising more regularly because I don't dread it quite as much knowing I have a book that will take away some of the monotony of the exercising. And I really appreciate the narrator's voice too. It's especially helpful with a book like Jane Eyre, having the English accent, knowing French, etc. Is beautiful to listen to.

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  11. I joined audible a while ago and absolutely love it. It gives me the ability to catch up on my reading, especially when I get busy with life. Reading in the car, especially on long trips, is a good way to listen to audio books, and it also to help pass the time more quickly.

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    1. I'm still fairly new to audible with their monthly plans, but so far, I'm really liking it, especially because once you join, then they send you other specials that I wasn't getting when I was just buying the books as needed.

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  12. I love the way audio books allow me to redeem time that would otherwise be "wasted" on cleaning, driving, or even taking a walk. With Audible's Whispersync between audio and Kindle book, I'm even more hooked. I started re-reading The Hobbit last month but just didn't have time to finish. I checked Audible; it was $28, or I could buy the Kindle version for $7 and the audio for $6. It doesn't take a math genius to figure that out. Going back and forth between reading and listening was so easy!

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    1. EXACTLY! Yes!!! I've found that it's so much cheaper to buy the kindle version AND then purchase the audible. Although I have to say, NOT every Kindle book has the audible for a cheaper price. For example, I bought Twilight as an ebook for my daughters, but they didn't offer the audible book at a discount. They do for the other books in the series, but not the first one. So it's not a guarantee that you can get the audible book cheaper, but it's much more likely. And I LOVE going back and forth between listening and reading too! :-)

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  13. I have an hour round trip in the car for work four days a week so out of necessity I listen to books on my kindle. Yep, you actually do get used to the voice so it doesn't bother me, except on the few occasions that I'm not sure what the word is given the intonation or if there is a typo in the text - LOL! I even swap between the male and female voice depending on the book -hehehe!

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    1. WOW, Rel! Didn't realize you had such a long commute every day! I'd for sure want to maximize that time! I bet in a year or two, the voice on the Kindle will be even less robotic and easier to listen to. Maybe we won't even need to buy audible books anymore because we'll get both with the purchase of the ebook. Wouldn't that be great? :-)I'd love that option because as you know, not all books make it to audible.com. Only two out of the three of mine have so far. So, if you rely solely on audible.com or other audio companies you'll likely miss out on some great books.

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  14. I also have 50-80 minutes in the car to work round trip. I usually listened to podcasts and a couple of them (Writing Excuses and Grammer Girl) kept promoting Audible.com with a free month trial (so essentially a free book) when going to a designated URL, so I tried it and have kept a membership for the last few months. I had tried listening to short fiction years ago but it didn't thrill me. I must say, though, I have enjoyed Audible for the most part and it is a great way to get through the too-read pile! Stephen King's The Stand Unabridged is over 48 hours and that's next on my list.

    There is lots of free short fiction around through podcasts (Tor.com's podcast for example) and Audible promos and I know my library has audio books as well but I haven't tried them yet. Nothing beats the feel of a real book though!

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    1. 'Nothing beats the feel of a real book though!' Yes! *Smiling*

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  15. Oh my word, honestly, my first reaction when I read your suggestion was 'I'd rather read paperback (or hardcover) instead'... BUT! The truth is I've never tried it before. I'd be interested in getting your opinion about it. Is it as a good as actually reading a novel? Better? You've really piqued my curiosity now- and I'm including the comments!

    Thank you, everyone. :-)

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    1. From my experience, listening works best when you have a chunk of time dedicated to a task that doesn't require listening, talking, or writing--basically, the speech centers of your brain. If you're trying to process two different language tasks, you'll miss part of the book and have to go back.

      But when I do have that time, I get just as into the story as I do when I read. Narrators talk more slowly than I read, so I get more time to process what's going on in the book. Additionally, I learn best by hearing, so as long as there aren't any distractions, I retain more of the story.

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    2. Thanks for sharing, Nancy! So curious now, I have a mind to order one at the library and see - or hear, rather. :-)

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  16. I don't have a Kindle; I have a Nook, so I'm wondering if the audio books are available on it. They probably are, so I'll have to check them out. Thanks for the links! I do a lot of commuting by train and bus, so I do a lot of reading on the train. It makes the commute less stressful, because the books allow me to "escape", at least for a while.

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  17. We make frequent family trips from Pennsylvania to Illinois (2 or 3 times a year). When the kids were littler and would sleep for most of that drive, we would check out some audio books from the library. My husband loves doing that. I find it hard to pay attention because I'm not an audio learner. So, I feel like I don't catch as much as I would if I was reading the words. Still, we "read" a couple of books I wouldn't have picked up otherwise. I may have to try it again. Thanks for the suggestion!

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    1. Great post, Jodi! This has been my main literary survival method for years now. I love that I can get my reading in when I'm driving to work or doing dishes or cleaning the house. It's my main multitasking tool.

      I use my local library for my audiobooks, but thanks for the links for other options. I'm looking forward to checking them out!

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  18. I LOVE audiobooks.

    A lot of my writer friends find them too awkward and prefer print/ebooks.

    But a few years ago, audiobooks were the ONLY way I could enjoy books with envy/inferiority complexes getting in the way. I still struggle "analyzing" books without taking all the joy out of it.

    Even now I have to nurture the reader in me without treating every novel like a self-study class. I can read print books with joy now, though, thankfully that particular issue wasn't permanent. I still have to battle envy reading books in my genre, but it's not as emotionally debilitating as it once was.

    I love Audible, it's a great way to acquire audiobooks without paying for pricey CD sets, but sites like half.com are great ways to get audiobooks on CD for less, and you can rip and convert them into any format, otherwise you'd need to have a Audible-friendly device, otherwise it's a great option. I personally had to put my account on hold recently, I've used it for three years and would recommend it to anyone so long as they have a compatible device if portable listening is a big part of consider the service.

    Aside from cost, the only other caveat to consider is the narrator, most sites allow a free preview of an audiobook so you can see if you can enjoy/tolerate the narrator for the whole book. Thankfully, there are many great narrated books, classic or contemporary.

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  19. Great post, great ideas! And I love audiobooks. I also read on my Kindle while on cardio equipment (bike, treadmill, elliptical)... here in snowy, icy Maine, I often have no choice but to stay inside and reading while exercising is a great break from sitting at the computer!

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  20. Don't forget that if you or your child is vision impaired or has a learning disability you might qualify for the "Library for the Blind". Because of her dyslexia my oldest daughter qualifies in Oklahoma and has free access to tens of thousands of books on tape. The equipment is ungainly but they mail the tapes to you free of charge and they are slowly transitioning their collection to downloadable files. We are big fans of this program!

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    1. Thanks for the tip, Regina! I'll have to check whether my library has something similar!

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  21. So funny you should mention audio books! I've actually been checking them out of the library more often than regular books. Also, to keep my daughter from overhearing adult content, I've been getting into Lois Lowry. I love her writing, yet it is still pretty clean. Thanks for another great post, Jody!

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  22. Great tips. I haven't tried Books Should be Free yet. Audiobooks have really increased my reading, especially since I spend about 2 hours in the car each day.
    Librivox.org is another great source for public domain audiobooks, by the way!

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