I can’t criticize my son for walking around with earphones (or in his case, earbuds) because I’m just as bad. He listens to music; I listen to books.
Listening to books is a great way to make chores not such an effort. Muck stalls, pasture pickup? Not a problem when I have a good book to listen to. I’m often “plugged in” when I’m working at the barn. In fact, I probably listen to at least a book a week (each book is usually between 10-15 hours). I do draw the line at listening while I ride. I like to hear what’s around me and that’s difficult to do when listening to a book. Plus, it kind of defeats the purpose of enjoying the time with my horse.
I started listening to audio books when my kids were younger. When we went to the beach audio books gave me the chance to get in my “beach read” and keep an eye on my kids while they played in the water. We also listened to books in the car — nothing like a good story to entertain the whole family.
Back then — probably about 8 years ago now — the options for listening to books was fairly limited. You could get books on CD from the library, but often times those were scratched at the most important part of the story. So when digital downloads came onto the scene, I was delighted. The easiest solution, and the one with the best selection was, and still is, Audible.com. Basically, you plug your Ipod into your computer and it magically syncs through ITunes. The downside is that it’s expensive. Purchasing an audio book is generally $20-plus unless you pre-pay for credits. Then you can get most books for $10 (except for the most popular ones which are still 2 credits).
A few years ago our library started offering digital downloads Netlibrary. This is very cool because the books are free. Even better, you don’t have to return them and they are impossible to lose. The frustrating part was that 1) the selection of titles was limited and 2) they weren’t compatible with an Ipod, so you need to invest in an MP3 player that supported WMA files. For those listeners looking for a good MP3 player, I’ve had great success with buying Creative players on eBay (I like the Zen V, but the new Stone looks good, too). I find that if I pay less than $25 for a player I feel much less horror when they fall into the water tank. Last week my Ipod Touch had a very close escape: I leaned over and it fell out of my pocket right in the path of my horse. I saw his hoof coming down and body checked him before he landed on it leaving him looking at me in stark confusion.
This year I got frustrated with the fact that many of the books I wanted were “not in the collection” of my local netlibrary. Geez, you’d think that the digital collection would be almost unlimited! But thanks to our librarian I discovered that I could get an e-account with the Boston Public Library, which has a much better collection. That got me thinking. Since my mother lives in New York, I also finagled access to the New York Public Library’s audio book collection. The real bonus was that both of the big city libraries offer MP3 books (Ipod compatible) as well as WMA compatible files. I am in heaven. Now I have access to more books than even I can imagine.
So, dial into your local library (or the nearest large city) and start downloading!