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Lend an ear... magic of listening to audiobooks

Talking books have become so cool now that a host of big-name stars are getting in on the act, writes Caroline O’Donoghue

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Changing the narrative: Maggie Gyllenhaal

Changing the narrative: Maggie Gyllenhaal

Changing the narrative: Maggie Gyllenhaal

Perhaps this is common with other youngest children, but I'm most comfortable when I'm being read to. The inherently childlike activity of listening to a story reminds me of being very small and led around an art gallery by my mother while she softly reads the placards aloud. So, it's no surprise, then, that I've been a member of Audible - the internet's foremost audiobook subscription service - for many years now. I have, according to the app, spent a total of 24 days, 16 hours and 23 minutes listening to other people tell me stories.

There is something universally relaxing about listening to a good reading voice, like having your brain slowly massaged by an unseen stranger. It looks like I'm in good company: audiobooks have been on the rise in the last few years with, and have had yet another spike during the coronavirus pandemic. As its first financial quarter closed, Hachette announced that downloadable audiobooks accounted for 14.4% of book sales, up from 10% a year earlier.

A huge number of people are wading into the world of audiobooks for the first time. Some may resist them because of their 1980s associations, perhaps thinking of them as something strictly for little old ladies who borrow steamy romances from the books-on-tape section of the library.