New Delhi: Sandeep Koul, a senior marketing manager at Zylotech in Noida, likes to listen to audiobooks from Audible when he is driving to office or when on a long road trip. “I am not much into music but I crave for stories. Audiobooks on long drives to office and back present a perfect opportunity for it. I drive about 60 km three days a week for work. When I am on road trips I listen to an audiobook that will last the distance," says Koul. At home, he prefers to read on his Kindle Paperwhite.

Convenience factor

According to the Association of American Publishers’ StatShot’s July annual report, audiobooks are the fastest-growing format in 2018. While people have been listening to ebooks before on PCs and MP3 players, the availability of options such as Audible, Scribd and Google Play Books—that allow users to download and read audio books directly in to a smartphone and tablet—has revived interest in them again. One can download them for offline access and listen to them anytime and from anywhere they want. Also listening to an audiobook is lot more convenient than reading especially when one is travelling or driving a car. It blocks out ambient noise so one won’t get distracted while reading.

Moreover, the arrival of voice-controlled smart assistants such as Google assistant, Alexa and smart speakers such as Google Home and Amazon Echo have made it a lot easier to listen to your favourite books while relaxing, eating or cooking at home.

More engaging

A June 2018 study by University College London found that audiobooks are more emotionally engaging than adaptations for films and television. The fact that publishers are getting popular actors and commentators, who have amassed a big fan following with the charisma of their voice, to narrate the story, also helps.

Leading Publishers Simon & Schuster have roped in acclaimed Canadian actor Donald Sutherland to narrate classics such as Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. The audio version of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone has been narrated by writer and actor Stephen Fry. Koul enjoys the voice modulation done by story presenter in audiobooks he has been listening to from Audible. It is one of the reasons why he doesn’t mind paying every month for subscription.

Also read: Google adds audio books on Play Store; here’s how to get them

Flexible pricing

Standalone Audiobooks often cost more than the ebook or even the paperback version. For instance, the audio version of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brother’s Karamazov costs 1,299, while the ebook versions costs just 119 on Play Store. Even Children books such as Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Double Down cost 449, while the ebook version is priced at just 266.

Through subscription-based services such as Audible (₹1,047 per month) and Scribd (₹638 per month) users get to access multiple audiobooks under a single plan.

In sum, while audiobooks may not replace ebooks and paperbacks anytime soon, they are definitely emerging as a credible alternative.