Audiobooks are great, as I’m sure you know. But for some people, they are a difficult book format to get used to. If you have problems to focus on audiobooks, I have some tricks for you that might make it easier to stay engaged in the story or topic!
You are likely aware of most of the benefits of audiobooks. But listening to audiobooks is a skill that doesn’t come naturally to everyone, and it’s one that you can practice! So, if you found that your mind keeps wandering, there are quite a few things you can try to train your brain to listen to audiobooks more easily.
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How to Focus on Audiobooks
First off, let me tell you that you’re not the only one who struggles with focusing on audiobooks! People regularly tell me that they have trouble getting into this book format because their mind keeps wandering. And even though I listen to over 200 audiobooks a year, I can relate to the issue of losing focus while listening. I also have moments when my mind drifts away from an audiobook.
Let’s start with the basics that make it easier to focus on audiobooks:
A really good audiobook is one that YOU truly enjoy. And it will be much easier to focus on that than e.g. on random award-winning, popular audiobook XYZ that might be great but simply doesn’t interest you! If you’re looking for audiobooks you can more easily focus on, it’s not the best idea to ask others for their recommendations. Instead, try out the tips below to find something that fits perfectly with your individual taste and mood.
Focusing on audiobooks is something your brain gets used to. After a little while, your mind won’t wander as much anymore (unless you’re really bored by the story or have something important to think about). And you’ll be able to follow the storyline even while doing other things at the same time.
But not every person can listen to every audiobook. Some people can only focus on nonfiction, others can’t deal with more than one narrator. I wholeheartedly believe though that everyone who wants to listen to audiobooks can find titles they enjoy!
Useful Audiobook Terms
If an audiobook is unabridged, it is word for word the same as the print or ebook versions of that title. Most audiobooks you will find on e.g. Audible are unabridged.
Abridged audiobooks are shortened versions of a book that are specifically adapted for the audio format. This is most often done for radio plays. While people mostly prefer unabridged versions, since they are the original, abridged audio plays can be a fun way to revisit a favorite story like The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, or Good Omens.
A full-cast or multicast audiobook is performed by a group of narrators. Every main character is narrated by a different voice actor so it’s very easy to distinguish between them. Full-cast productions are often abridged.
Consider this “full cast light”. In duet narrations, a narrator with a manly voice reads all male-sounding characters and a narrator with a feminine voice reads all the female-sounding characters.
Related article: How to find Duet Narration Audiobooks
This is a very common form of narration for audiobooks with dual point-of-view chapters. The voice actors each have a main character and read all chapters from this point of view. Since many narrators work from their own home studio, dual narration is easier to produce than duet or multicast, which require narrators to record together in one studio. However, this is also the form that I found the most difficult to get used to since the characters sound different in each chapter. I recommend passing on dual narration audiobooks until you feel more comfortable with the format as a whole.
This is closest to having someone read a story to you. Depending on the narrator, they might do more voice acting or more reading.
Tip 1: Listen to Samples
Don’t ever buy an audiobook without listening to a sample! Especially when read by one or two narrators, you need to make sure you like their voices and reading style since they can differ immensely and depend on personal taste. Both Audible and Amazon show a button under the audiobook cover. Click on it to listen to a few minutes of the book for free to see if it works for you!
Tip 2: Listen to an Audiobook you “know”
A great way to get more used to audiobooks is to start with ones that come more easily to you.
Do you listen to podcasts? Then the step to nonfiction audiobooks is very small. From true crime to self-help, there are many audiobooks that might be a good fit with your interests and have a similar narration style to what you know from your favorite podcasts. Your favorite podcaster might even have an audiobook out already!
Do you like to have movies or shows running on the TV while you are crafting, painting, or ironing? Then you are already used to listening and filling in the visuals to what you are hearing. Some fiction books have elaborate audiobook productions with several voice actors and background sounds (called full cast or audio play) that are exactly like listening to a movie. This might be a great place for you to get into audiobooks!
Are you an avid reader of print or ebooks? Listen to some of your favorite books in audio format to experience them in a new format! If you ever lose focus for a moment, it will be easy for you to get back into it because you already know the story.
Tip 3: Read along
In school or during work training, are you someone who has a difficult time focusing on the lecturer, and are you prone to doodling and daydreaming? If you struggle with just listening, then try reading along while playing an audiobook! You can adjust the narration speed in the usual audiobook apps, so you can find a comfortable balance between your listening and reading speed. You can read along in a print book or use Amazon Whispersync to read an ebook while syncing it with the audio version.
Tip 4: Find Activites that go well with Audiobooks
If you feel more comfortable when you keep your hands busy, audiobooks might work much better for you than ebooks or print books. But you have to find the right activities to do while listening to audiobooks. What you do shouldn’t be too distracting or mentally engaging.
One thing people love about audiobooks is how they make chores more fun. Chores generally don’t require a lot of active thinking, and you are very used to the movements required. If you rather want to do something fun and relaxing, coloring books or puzzles are great options. Personally, I like to do puzzle games on the phone. I turn the game sounds off and pick games that don’t have a storyline I would need to follow.
Tip 5: Find affordable Audiobooks
Many people consider an Audible subscription and audiobooks in general quite expensive. If you feel that you spend a lot of money on an audiobook and then don’t fully enjoy it, you will likely force yourself to finish it anyway because you spend so much money on it. Or you push off continuing with it, and instead don’t listen to audiobooks at all.
Either way, if listening to audiobooks doesn’t yet come easily to you, you will be much better off in a situation where you can try out different audiobooks without having to worry too much about the bottom line and without a bad conscience if you don’t finish one and instead pick up another.
There are many audiobook subscriptions that work like Netflix. You pay a monthly fee and in turn, you can listen to as many books as you want. The best option, if it’s available to you, is a library card that works with Hoopla for digital audiobooks. Alternatives are Audible Plus, Kindle Unlimited, Audiobooks.com Clubs, or Scribd.
Tip 6: Explore a Variety of Audiobooks
Not all audiobooks are created equal! And when I see someone on Twitter post, “I want to try out an audiobook, what should I get?” I shudder. Shudder, I tell you! Because there aren’t only all the different genres we have in print books, from Romance to Sci-Fi, from memoir to science books. There are also many differences in audiobook productions. And if you are someone who has found it difficult to focus on audiobooks, but it’s something you would like to do, then you can give different audio formats a try to see what works best for you!
Try out different narrators, narration forms, short audiobooks, nonfiction, fiction, and see what is most easy for you to focus on. Then take it from there!
If you’re the adventurous kind, you can take a look at my Audiobook Challenge! It covers a range of genres and narration forms so you can explore all kinds of different audiobooks and find the ones that work best for you. And don’t worry, you can grab trial months for unlimited audiobook subscriptions, so it is affordable to do this./