What’s the hottest type of book these days? It’s an audio book. There’s been a double digit jump in sales in the last year. And it’s become a billion dollar industry.
So publishers are racing to cash in on the craze by investing big bucks on splashy audio book productions. For example, the “World War Z” audio book features state-of-the-art music and sound effects as well as narration by Hollywood A-listers like Alan Alda and Martin Scorsese.
And demand is so big, that some authors are now skipping print versions altogether and writing exclusively for audio. For example, hit novelist David Hewson recently released his latest mystery, "The Flood," straight to audio with no print edition.
So why are we hooked on audio? Experts say that it’s never been easier to listen to books. You no longer have to lug around clunky cassettes or a Discman. Instead, all you need is a smartphone or iPad, and you can download an audio book with the tap of a finger anywhere you are. Also experts say we love that audio books give us our reading fix while we multi-task. A survey found that nearly half of audiobook listeners are commuters, 25-percent listen while working around the house, and 23-percent listen while exercising.
So does listening to a book deliver the same benefits as reading? Studies show yes. For most readers, there’s virtually no difference in how we process a story, whether listen to it or read it. However, when it comes to harder books, like those written in prose, like Shakespeare or The Odyssey, we actually have an easier time understanding them when they’re acted out. We get more out of it, and we’re better able to understand it. And one study found that listening to a narrator read a book can be more emotionally engaging than reading to ourselves, particularly for men.