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Books on CD

No time to read? Consider books on CD.

Books on CD are a great way for people on-the-go to keep up with the latest bestsellers. [©Shutterstock, 2010]
©Shutterstock, 2010
Books on CD are a great way for people on-the-go to keep up with the latest bestsellers.

Books on CD, more commonly referred to as audiobooks, have become an increasingly popular alternative to traditional hardback and paperback books. According to the Audio Publishers Association, 28 percent of adult Americans surveyed listened to an audiobook in 2008, which was a 3 percent increase from 2006. Sales from audiobooks in 2007 totaled more than $1 billion, which was a 12 percent increase from sales in 2006.

The original audiobooks were recorded oral histories compiled by anthropologists. Spoken word recordings took on a new literary value in 1952 when poet Dylan Thomas recorded his poems during a session at Steinway Hall in New York. Today, the audiobook has found its place in busy lifestyles. The format allows reading enthusiasts to enjoy books while commuting, exercising, gardening, cooking and performing other tasks.

Types of Audiobooks

The majority of audiobooks are narrations of published books, including fiction, biographies, the Bible and self-help books. Recordings of stand-up comedy acts, seminars, interviews and dramatic readings are categorized as spoken word audiobooks even though they are not derived from a published book. Audiobooks are available in both abridged and unabridged editions. An unabridged edition contains the entire content of the book, read word for word by a narrator. Abridged audiobooks have been altered to make the content better suited for the recording. Although passages or chapters may be excluded in an abridged edition, the plotline, characterizations and the author's style remain intact.

The narrator of an audiobook is either the author a trend that is more common with nonfiction audiobooks or a professional narrator or actor with dramatic voice training. The narrator adapts to each character's voice, employing the use of accents and dialects. The reading may be enhanced through the use of music and sound effects.

Audiobooks are available in a variety of formats. Consumers can purchase books on tapes or CDs from book retailers. Audiobooks are also available as digital downloads, which can then be played directly from a computer, burned to a CD or downloaded to a personal listening device. While downloading audiobooks is convenient and typically less expensive than purchasing audiobooks on tape and CD, the consumer does not receive the promotional packaging that is included when the audiobook is purchased from a retailer. An audiobook in MP3 CD format comes on a disc and must then be transferred to an MP3 player or device capable of reading MP3 files. This type of format is advantageous over traditional CDs, because an MP3 CD holds significantly more content than a CD, requiring fewer disc changes.

Purchasing, Downloading and Borrowing Library Audiobooks

Purchasing an audiobook from a retailer is similar to purchasing a traditional book. The consumer can listen to the audiobook as many times as desired and lend it out to friends. However, downloading an audiobook comes with more limitations. Publishers have the ability to encrypt audiobooks with anti-piracy software that prevents the consumer from copying the file. These limitations could, for example, prevent a couple from loading a purchased title onto each person's personal listening device or accessing the file from two separate computers. To download audiobooks, consumers must set up an account with an audiobook download retailer. Many retailers offer membership plans that include a specific number of audiobook downloads for a monthly or annual price, or consumers can purchase individual titles. Depending on the Internet connection speed, most audiobooks can be downloaded in a matter of minutes, according to Random House Audio.

Libraries offer a combination of audiobooks on tape or CD and as downloadable files. Library members can access their library's audiobook catalog from their homes and download their selections without a trip to the library. Similar to a due date for a library book, a borrowed audiobook contains a license for a specific number of days. After it expires, the file will not play; however, an audiobook's license can be renewed without a second download.

Anti-Piracy Software

Digital Rights Management (DRM) software is anti-piracy software that many publishers use to restrict the consumer's ability to copy audio files that have been legally purchased. In 2008, Random House Audio removed DRM software from the majority of its titles, giving consumers more freedom in how they listen to their audiobooks. According to Publishers Weekly, other publishers are following suit. The decision to remove DRM software allows consumers to burn downloaded audiobooks onto CDs for car trips or download the same files to personal listening devices. Authors have the final say on whether their titles continue to use DRM software.

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