2018 has been described as the year of the audiobook. With sales increasing rapidly, it’s no wonder more people are talking about them. There’s been a lot of debate around the impact of audiobooks on teen reading so far, so let’s take a look to find out what listening to books has done for teen reading!
It’s no secret that audiobooks are on the rise. In 2017, there was a 12% rise in the volume of audiobook sales, and 15% in terms of value. Within just the last five years, the number of audiobooks, in either physical or downloadable format, has nearly doubled. It’s also been reported that teens take up the largest part of the audiobook market, with younger people tending to use them more than older adults. Clearly, teen readers are loving the format recently, but why?
Teens are multi-taskers!
In a lot of ways, audiobooks are just easier to pick up nowadays. With increasingly busy lives, some teens just don’t have the time to sit down with a physical book to read anymore. In our post on eBooks, we discussed how there is an instant gratification element for teens. They can be scrolling Twitter one minute, and reading the next — and all on their phone! Well, audiobooks are even more useful than that! Now, you don’t even have to focus on the words on the paper — or the screen — to be able to enjoy a book. With audiobooks, you can tidy your room, walk to school, get ready in the morning or cook without having to stop reading.
The Guardian says that ‘reading even a short book involves an investment of time, and precludes other activity’, which means that the option of listening to one makes way more sense for teens with a jam packed day!
not a fan of reading? you can now listen to books!
Audiobooks can inspire reluctant teen readers to listen to stories that they might not have otherwise read. Your Teen Mag says that listening to books allows these teens to be exposed to sophisticated language and themes that exist in books. It can also help improve their vocabulary. Through audiobooks, teens can learn the correct pronunciation of new words and places that they’ve never heard of before.
For teens who aren’t the biggest fan of reading, they can be a great way for them to absorb the language and stories without having to physically read them. And it’s not just them! Audiobooks can even help avid readers increase their book count. Haileyinbookland has said that if it weren’t for audiobooks, she wouldn’t have enjoyed half the stories she did in 2018. I guess we have a lot to thank them for!
Audiobooks provide access
What’s also very important, is that audiobooks can allow a whole range of teens to access books in a way that works best for them. Teens with learning disabilities, physical impairments, dyslexia and ESL students have been said to benefit a lot from the medium. For some young people, reading can be a big challenge and therefore not enjoyable at all. Absorbing stories that would have previously been difficult for them to read means audiobooks offer availability to a wider pool of teens! Which can only be a positive?
but are they an overall Benefit or hindrance?
Reading Rockets has highlighted the benefits of listening to audiobooks on teens. Here’s just a few of them. Audiobooks can:
Introduce students to books above their reading level
Model good interpretive reading
Teach critical listening
Highlight the humour in books
Introduce new genres that students might not otherwise consider
All reading is valid. All genres. All levels. All formats. Romance? YA? Graphic Novel? Audiobook? ALL READING. https://t.co/BdN1nAVic7
— Jen Doherty (@Ilaeria) December 23, 2018
But despite the positives, a criticism of audiobooks is that it can be a ‘passive’ activity. One study has claimed that using them is only similar to reading, and does not provide the same experience of picking up a physical book. However, in emmmabooks’ discussion on the ‘realness’ of audiobooks, she claims that by adolescence, there is no additional effort required in reading than listening. It seems that people just can’t seem to agree!
The future of publishing
As put by The Guardian, ‘for those committed to the written word, there is a temptation to see innovation as a threat’, and worry that physical books will be replaced. Don’t worry though. Apparently audiobooks are actually helping traditional publishing! Forbes says that the traditional publishing industry has been benefiting from a major boost in audiobook sales over the past few years. In this sense, the format could be increasing teen interest in books and inspire them to want to pick up the physical copy, too.
It’s difficult to say whether the rise of audiobooks has helped teen reading or not, but they’ve definitely made an impact. They allow teens with different abilities to read more easily, and can even make stories more engaging and fun!