Written by Caitlin Smith
Audible, everyone’s favorite audiobook service, is celebrating its 20th birthday this month. Beginning their operation in 1997, Audible has grown considerably since the initial launch. According to their Twitter, the very first download they offered in the 90s was the bestselling Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, by John Gray. Thankfully, the audiobook emporium now boasts upwards of 200,000 selections, so listeners aren’t confined to vaguely misogynistic self-help books—though they do have 35,679 other selections in that same genre, if you’re feeling the need for some self-improvement before the holidays.
To help entice new listeners, Audible put out a list of its 18 most popular books, with titles like The Martian by Andy Weir (narrated by R.C. Bray), Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling (narrated by Jim Dale), and Stephen King’s It (narrated by Steven Weber) making appearances. Categories include Best-Selling Fiction, Best-Selling YA, Most Wish-Listed, and Most Repeated Listen (are we even surprised that Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone took that prize?). With an audiobook for any occasion, it’s no wonder Audible has been around long enough to be a college junior.
What really sets audiobooks apart from their physical counterparts is their narration. To highlight the special skill it takes to transform the written word into an enjoyable listening experience, Audible has also released a 2017 Narrator Hall of Fame with—you guessed it—20 inductees. As Audible writes in their introduction, these narrators don’t just read, they “develop a special relationship with the listener.” Among these distinguished voices are Cassandra Campbell, Alan Cumming, and the late Edward Herrmann, all chosen for their talent, body of work, and “dedication to spreading awareness of audio performance.”
As a self-proclaimed book snob, I tend not to stray from good ol’ hardbacks and paperbacks. Though I own a Kindle, it maintains a stationary life on my bookshelf at home. I’ve always been resistant to change when it comes to books, but it’s apparent from #Audible20 on Twitter that these audiobooks aren’t going anywhere. The recurring theme throughout these testimonials is that Audible makes people’s lives better, whether that be improving a morning commute, letting them feel more productive during down-time, or simply offering a more accessible way to read. Maybe I should listen—literally, in this case—and give audiobooks the chance they deserve.
I love listening to music on my way to and from class, or during my four hour drives to and from home for holidays and breaks, and I often lament not being able to read for fun the way I used to. Clearly, Audible is here to combine those two facets of my life as a busy college student. Instead of looking forlornly at my shelf of unread novels, I need to grab my headphones and let someone else do the work for me.
Frustrated readers of the world, let us lend Audible our ears; after all, it’s rude to ignore someone on their birthday.