Heard any good books lately? Probably. Audiobooks are a continuously growing segment of the $27 billion books industry.
They debuted in the 1980s on tape cassettes, then moved to compact discs and digital downloads. “Readers” listen to them mostly while traveling and commuting, but audiobooks also revolve around lifestyle activities such as exercising, cooking and gardening.
“Digital audiobooks have opened a new world to customers who haven’t approached (listening) through CDs,” said an industry spokeswoman. A recent survey by the Audio Publishers Association trade group found that a younger audience (25 to 34) is increasingly tuning in. “The younger the listener, the more likely they are to go digital,” the report said.
While Macmillan Audio, Simon & Schuster and Hachette are industry leaders in audio CDs, Audible.com is the world’s largest seller and producer of downloadable digital audiobooks. Members can choose to buy from more than 180,000 titles in all genres. Among the many statistics the company promotes is this: “Audible members listen to an average of more than 17 books a year – the equivalent of 1.2 billion listening hours in 2014.”
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Among its recently released and upcoming titles are the classic “Breakfast of Champions” by Kurt Vonnegut Jr., narrated by actor John Malkovich; “The Water Knife” by Paolo Bacigalupi, prescient sci-fi set in the water-starved Southwest; and “Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life” by William Finnegan, a memoir narrated by the author, excerpted in New Yorker magazine and on best-seller lists now.
Closer to home, the Sacramento Public Library maintains a downloadable lending programs for e-audiobooks and e-books. Its Digital Media Catalog is at www.saclibrary.org/ebooks/, a collection that’s larger than those at most other library systems. It contains 32,978 copies of 11,365 audiobook titles, 46,781 copies of 35,508 e-book titles, and 1,952 copies of 1,937 streaming video titles. For patrons who aren’t e-savvy, the library sponsors workshops; call 916-264-2920.
Ready to read
“Wicked Charms” by Janet Evanovich is the third in the “Lizzy and Diesel” series, all about magic and mischief in modern-day Salem, Mass. (Bantam, $28, 320 pages). Pastry chef Lizzy and love interest Diesel go in search of pirate treasure and a magic stone.
In “Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County,” journalist Kristen Green recalls a shameful episode in American history, when a Virginia school district bypassed the1954 Supreme Court order (Brown v. Board of Education) to desegregate schools (Harper, $26, 336 pages). Instead, it closed public schools to African American students.
“Zodiac Station” by Tom Harper is one of the most intricate and tense thrillers on the scene right now, with shades of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein.” The tale begins when a nearly frozen man walks off the Arctic ice and aboard a Coast Guard cutter, with some wild claims.