Back in 1998, when the nonprofit Audio Publishers Association declared June as Audiobook month, many readers still considered recorded books slightly déclassé.
But the popularity of reading that requires no eyeball action has skyrocketed in recent years, thanks to the rise of streaming and digital technologies, star-studded casts of narrators, and a population increasingly accustomed to sporting a set of earbuds or headphones.
Ready to jump on the bandwagon? The Mechanics’ Institute Library offers a robust and ever-growing selection of audiobooks and eAudiobooks (audiobooks that you stream online or download onto a mobile device) through its RBdigital platform.
Like the Library’s print and eBook collections, these hands-free titles run the gamut of genres. You’ll find bestselling novels like Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments and Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere. Noteworthy nonfiction like Michelle Obama’s Becoming and Ross Gay’s Book of Delights. Timeless classics like Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man and Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. New self-help like Martin Giballa’s One-Minute Workout and Kaia Roman’s The Joy Plan. And much, much more.
As die-hard print fans will attest, page-flipping is one of life’s supreme pleasures. But there are multiple benefits to books geared for the ears. Audiobooks can, for example, help you:
Get through more books. It’s almost impossible—not to mention unwise—to read while driving, cooking, exercising, showering, or even strolling down the street. But audiobooks—and especially eAudios—allow you to multitask, checking off items on your to-do list and books on your bucket list at the same time.
Survive the drive. Music, it’s said, soothes the savage breast (thanks, William Congreve). But to soothe the squabbling siblings in the back seat, or to sidestep tedium or road rage, there’s nothing like a well-narrated novel. Restore family harmony with perennial favorites like Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island or Arthur Conan Doyle’s Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, or find your happy place with an adult read like Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens or Airport by Arthur Hailey.
(One caveat: Don’t get too caught up in the story. An audiobook-loving friend of the MI was once pulled over for driving 79 miles per hour in a 30-mph zone—a mishap entirely due, she claimed, to a tale narrated in Garrison Keillor’s “rich and rollicking baritone.”)
Give your eyes a break. When Thomas Edison patented the phonograph in 1878, he suggested the device could be used to create “phonographic books” for the visually impaired. But the wax-cylinder technology of the time made it impossible to record anything longer than four minutes (fine for a popular song, not so great for Moby Dick). Today, though, those of us with subpar eyesight—or just garden-variety eyestrain—can listen our way through entire libraries.
Expand your sensory horizons. Aptly, audiobooks have been called “movies for the ears.” Listening to an audiobook is not so much a substitute for reading as a different phenomenon entirely. And while not all accomplished narrators are well-known actors, many have turned their talents to this very 21st-century art, including Claire Danes, Reese Witherspoon, Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Tim Curry, Dennis Quaid, Diane Keaton, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Scarlett Johansson, among others.
And finally, in the midst of all the responsibilities that adult life entails, don’t overlook the pure, passive charm of being read to. Audiobooks, as children’s author Paul Acampora has astutely noted, speak for themselves.
To get started with eAudiobooks on your web browser, click here, click the sign-in button, and choose “register” to create your account with RBdigital. Be sure to input your Mechanics’ Institute Library card number (14 digits, no spaces).
To listen from a mobile device, download the RBdigital app. Create an account using your credentials from the Mechanics’ Institute.
Need help with RBdigital? Or want to suggest eAudiobooks you’d like to see in our collection? Email our librarians at firstname.lastname@example.org