My relationship with audio books

Or why Scribd has become an indispensable reading tool

Quick disclaimer: in this article, I am not trying to compare the two platforms mentioned below, mainly because I never managed to use the first one. I am only stating facts on both platforms and sharing my experience with the one that I know most. 

I did not always love audio books. In fact, I used to despise them. I discovered audiobooks when I first heard about Audible, the audiobook platform owned by Amazon. In brief, Audible was at first a company which launched its first product in 1998: The Audible Player, which was a portable media player. After its CEO’s death, Audible knew many changes such as an agreement the company made with Apple in 2003, agreeing they would be the exclusive provider for iTunes Music Store. It was only in 2008 that Amazon.com claimed they would buy Audible, and that is when the platform really started to expand. It began producing exclusive science fiction and fantasy content and since 2012, we can listen to a series showcasing numerous Hollywood celebrities such as Colin Firth, Anne Hathaway, Samuel L. Jackson and much more. In November 2017, the company announced that its customers listened to more than one billion hours of audiobooks a year. 

However, in spite of the astonishing expansion of the company, I have never been attracted to it. I might have subscribed to it for a free trial, but since I have never actually listened to any book, I put an end to my subscription. Even though I could see advertising for Audiobooks at every street corner, every subway station, even though a lot of my fellow bookstagrammers promoted the extraordinary platform which allowed them to « Listen to enjoy, listen to learn, listen to yourself. »

I hated it. It was not just about Audible in itself, but audiobooks in general, and to be honest, I could not picture myself paying monthly for a platform which « only » allowed me to listen to books. If I were to pay for something, I expected at least more formats, maybe the possibility to read books as well as listening to them.

That is when I discovered Scribd. Founded in 2007, Scribd is a site to host and share documents created by Trip Adler. The platform was known to be the « YouTube for documents » since it allowed anyone to self-publish as well as use the document reader. It was only in 2009 that the platform launched a Store, which enabled writers to sell digital copies of their work online.  In 2013, Scribd launched an unlimited subscription service for e-books, enabling users to have unlimited access to Scribd’s library of digital books. Audiobooks only came to the platform in 2014, adding then this service to a platform which was at the basis dedicated to books and documents. 

I discovered Scribd during quarantine. Time ran so slow; I had the impression that my days were thirty-six hours long. I had the opportunity to read a lot of books, and I slowly realized that the act of reading bore me. Yes, you read this well. I, a book reviewer, got bored of reading. My eyes were more and more tired, and I could not focus on a text for more than five minutes before putting the book down and scrolling on Twitter or Instagram. That is when one of my friends advised me to try the platform, and so I did. It was revolutionary. During these months stuck at home, I realized that my cell phone was almost grafted to my hands, and that it was very hard to kill boredom with something else than holding my phone and looking at things that were not so interesting, but that took time. And time was all I had to spare at that moment. 

At first, when I started using Scribd, I could not manage to listen to audio books. It was very hard listening to a story told by another voice than mine — because yes, I hear my voice in my head while reading. I used the app mostly to read on my cell phone. Since I could not spend more than thirty seconds without it, I thought, why not use it to do interesting things? I read two books entirely on my smartphone before I could realize that my eyes hurt, and so I switched to my iPad. I managed to spend time with another object that my cell phone, and I was really content with that. What I like above all with Scribd is that whenever I am, I have a whole library on me and if I want to read while in the subway, and that I did not think of taking my e-reader or any book with me, I could just get my phone. We often blame young generations for reading less and spending too much time on their phones, and I think it is really practical that Scribd allows everyone to read whenever they want, on a support that makes them comfortable. 

Anyway, when quarantine came to an end, I started picking up physical books and my e-reader again. Since I like reading when outside — at a café, in the subway, or just sitting on a bench in a public garden — I was more content to hold objects purposed for reading in my hands. However, quarantine still had some after-effects on my body. Today still, I have difficulties to focus on a book for more than twenty minutes, I am constantly tired, I tend to forget things easier. And so, an idea came to my mind. What if I started listening to books while reading them? At the beginning, the experience made me feel like a child. I had the impression that I was not able to read by myself, without support and I felt quite stupid. But I persevered, because, in the end, if my eyes could not bear reading for the moment, I just had to close them and listen. 

At first, I only listened to audio books while reading. I thought it was hard to focus only on words, but slowly, I started listening to books outside, while walking. Now, I can listen to some books while cooking, cleaning, or doing tasks that do not require me to concentrate too much. And I am really happy with it. 

So, if like me, you find it hard to listen to audiobooks, I highly recommend that you try Scribd. First of all, because it is a platform on which you can find documents, journal articles, e-books, as well as audiobooks but also because their catalogue is really complete and interesting. As of today’s date, it never occurred to me that I searched for a specific book on Scribd and that I did not find it. I always find what I am looking for, and I promise the platform is worth it. Also, I strongly suggest that you start listening while reading. Especially if, like me, you are fond of fantasy and that you feel discouraged by the difficulty of worldbuilding. Audiobooks have now become an indispensable tool since I use it every day. 

THREE BOOKS I RECOMMEND YOU LISTEN ON SCRIBD

  • Uprooted written by Naomi Novik and read by Katy Sobey : The storyteller has a soft and sweet voice that will help you dive in the novel and offer you a unique experience. Uprooted is a fantasy tale including a lot of magic, love stories, and complete worldbuilding. As I am currently reading it, I can assess that the experience is better when I listen to the audio book while reading than when I only read it.
  • A Song of Wraiths and Ruins written by Roseanne A. Brown and read by Jordan Cobb : ASOWAR is also a fantasy novel, and it revolves around a mythology which was completely unknown to me. The storyteller was really fun and managed to give a lot of depth to the story. 
  • In Five Years written by Rebecca Serle and read by Megan Hilty : In Five Years is the first e-book/audio book that I read and listened on the platform. Since It was a contemporary, I think it is a great starter for beginners. You can switch between reading and listening easily on the application. It was a book which made me laugh and cry, while I was just sitting in bed, drinking coffee, and petting my cats. I loved listening to it, since it almost felt like those stories that you friend would tell to you at a coffee downtown.

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