How to Listen to Audiobooks: A Beginner’s Guide for 2024

Audiobooks have so many benefits, it’s no wonder that more and more people want to start listening. If you want to know how to listen to audiobooks and how to find the best audiobooks for beginners, check out my beginner’s guide below!

I will help you choose the perfect first audiobook and the right audiobook app so you can dive in and greatly increase your number of “books read” for 2024.

Related article: Who listens to Audiobooks?

**The marked links and book covers on this page are affiliate links. If you use them to purchase something, I earn a fee at no additional cost for you. Disclosure**

The Best Audiobooks for Beginners

I know, you expected a list here with 10 top books or maybe 20 or whatever. But I’m worried that you would either scroll through them and decide that none of them really interest you or that you would pick one more or less at random, then get bored with it and give up on audiobooks. It’s the internet way, right?!

So, instead, we’ll do this differently.

Between the many genre fiction and nonfiction audiobooks out there, the different narration styles, and the many different ways for listeners to get their hands on audiobooks, I don’t think a list of best audiobooks for beginners makes sense or would work.

Instead, I want to try and give you the tools to find a good book for yourself. One that is the perfect first audiobook for YOU!

So, read on to get all the tools you need to start listening to audiobooks and find books you enjoy.

How to listen to audiobooks: Flatlay showing white headphones and a keyboard lying on a grey blanket, and a mug with the words "story teller"

The Best Story for your First Audiobook

… if you are a Print or Ebook Reader

If you already love reading ebooks or print and want to try out this new-to-you book format, this is the perfect time to reread one of your favorite stories and experience it in a new way!

There’s a big advantage to this. If you ever lose focus for a moment, you don’t get confused by the story and can get back into it quickly without having to skip back. That way, you won’t get frustrated as easily by your audiobook.

If rereading is a total no-go for you, then it should at least be a book by one of your favorite authors. When you’re just starting with audiobooks, it’s not the best time to check out new-to-you authors.

I’ve seen so many people say they didn’t like audiobooks only because they didn’t like the author or narrator they listened to first!

That’s like saying I don’t like Italian cuisine because I once tried pizza with pineapple! (I actually love pizza with pineapple, but I hope you get my point.)

By the way, if you are a reader of ebooks, Amazon has this nice feature in the Kindle App called Audio Upgrade**. If you click on there, you will get a list of all the audiobooks that are available for the ebooks you already own.

They are often offered at a reduced price, and you can get some audiobooks for as little as $1.99!

You can then seamlessly switch between the ebook and the audio version. So, you can try out audio during your commute or during a nice, relaxing walk, and continue the story by reading the ebook when cuddled up in the evening.

Related article: How to get Audible books cheaper with Whispersync

… if you want to get into Books

If you want to try out audiobooks because you haven’t or couldn’t read many books so far, you could start by thinking about which movies or comics you like. People don’t necessarily have the same favorite movie and book genre, but this is still a safe place to start.

For some movies, games, and shows, you can even find companion books that have excellent audio versions, e.g., Star Wars, Doctor Who, or Warcraft.

If you like podcasts, check out if one of your favorite podcasters has an audiobook out as well. Many do!

If you like RomCom movies, you will love how many fantastic romantic comedy books are out there in audio format.

And if there’s a celebrity you admire, see if they have a memoir.

The more excited you are about the story or topic of the book, the more likely it is that it will captivate you quickly, and the better it is for starting with audiobooks.

There are so ridiculously many fantastic audiobooks out there, and one could argue that one is, for this or that reason, among the “best audiobooks for beginners”. But people have so many different interests!

It makes more sense that you take 5 minutes now to think about what you enjoy and then look up books that fit this topic and your interests, than to go by the recommendations of others who don’t even know if you prefer fiction or nonfiction.

Once you have figured out the right direction, you can find good audiobooks, e.g., on Audible by typing into the search the name of a famous person or by googling “the best (insert genre here) audiobooks”.

And, of course, I invite you to browse around on my blog to check out which audiobooks I recommend. In the menu above, you can find a wide range of genres.

Related article: Audiobooks vs Reading Ebooks/Print

Starting with audiobooks: Flatlay of reading glasses, a paperback book written by Matt Haig, a phone playing an audiobook and white and rose gold headphones

How do Audiobooks work?

Before we look further into how you can get started with audiobooks, let’s talk about how audiobooks are made!

At their core, audiobooks are simply audio recordings of written texts, such as novels, memoirs, or self-help books. These recordings can be made in a variety of ways, but the most common method is through the use of professional voice actors.

The process typically starts with the selection of a book to be turned into an audiobook. The publisher or author will then select a voice actor to bring the book to life.

This narrator will read the text aloud, usually in a studio setting with high-quality recording equipment.

During the recording process, the narrator may work closely with a director or producer to ensure that the recording is flawless. This may involve multiple takes of each chapter or section, as well as editing and post-production work to remove any mistakes or inconsistencies.

Or they have their own home studio and provide both the narration, editing, and post-production. Indie authors often work with voice actors who offer this service.

Once the recording is complete, the audio file is mastered to ensure that it sounds as clear and professional as possible. This may involve adjusting the volume, equalizing the sound, or removing any unwanted background noise.

In an effort to save cost, some publishers are trying out AI voices, but so far, listeners do not appreciate it because the voice is a very central part of the audiobook experience.

Voice actors usually become popular and beloved by listeners because they can fill a story with emotional depth. They make listening to an audiobook a touching and immersive thing.

Synthesized voices can only copy this to a small degree.

Related article: Why are Audiobooks so Expensive?

Once the audiobook is complete, it can be distributed in a variety of ways. Many audiobooks are sold through online retailers such as Amazon Audible, where users can purchase and download the files directly to their devices.

Some libraries also offer audiobooks, either through physical copies or digital downloads.

Most audiobook apps and players offer readers functions to control playback speed, pause and resume the recording, and skip ahead or rewind to specific sections. This sets audiobook players apart from normal MP3 players.

There are many different ways to purchase audiobooks, including monthly subscriptions or digital libraries with a variety of plans, most bringing along their own proprietary app. You can check out my recommendations for audiobook services based on how many audiobooks you want to listen to per month in this blog post: Which Audiobook Service is worth it?

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How to Listen to Audiobooks - A Beginner's Guide. Background image showing an open book and white earbuds as audiobook concept.

Narration Forms

When picking your perfect first audiobook, the way it’s narrated is just as important as the story. So, let’s talk about narration forms!

Full Cast

Full-cast audiobooks are like listening to a movie. Every main character is narrated by a different voice actor.

Full-cast productions are often abridged (shortened versions) to make it more doable to get so many voice actors into a studio.

Radio plays are typically recorded with a full cast and a popular form of audiobook narration.

Duet Narration

Consider this “full cast light”. In duet narrations for a book with a male and a female characters’ point of view, a narrator with a manly voice reads all male-sounding characters, and a narrator with a feminine voice reads all the female-sounding characters.

You can read more in my article about duet narration.

Dual Narration

This is the most common narration form for many fiction audiobooks, especially Romance. The books often have two points of view, and since each narrator just does their part in their own studio, this is easier to produce than the previous forms, which often require narrators to record together in one studio.

However, this is also the form that I personally found the most difficult to get used to when I was new to audiobooks since the characters sound so different in each chapter. I recommend passing on dual narration audiobooks until you feel more comfortable with the format as a whole!

Single Narration

This is closest to having someone read a story to you. Depending on the narrator, they might do more voice acting or more reading.

Related article: How to Focus on Audiobooks

How to find the best Narration Form for your First Audiobook?

For people who are new to audiobooks, I always recommend either a full-cast or a single-narration audiobook.

Some find it easier to focus on just one voice. If you listen to podcasts, your brain is likely already used to listening attentively to one voice.

But if you often follow TV shows without actually looking at the screen, e.g., while doing crafts or chores, full-cast books might work best for you since you are used to hearing several different voices.

Related article: What to do while Listening to Audiobooks

Of course, if you are already an avid reader and want to do a re-read for your first audiobook, your favorite book might not be available in your preferred narration form.

Full-cast stories, for example, are somewhat rare in comparison to dual or single narrators. In this case, just look up a bunch of your favorite books on Audible and see how they are narrated, or search for the term “full cast” or “radio play” if this narration form caught your eye!

Whether you are new to books or specifically new to audiobooks, it’s very important that you make use of the Sample function on Audible or Amazon before you actually buy and download an audiobook.

The sample gives you a good idea of how interesting the book is to you and how much you like the narrator’s voice. If it doesn’t manage to catch your attention, you probably want to skip that book.

What Equipment do I need to Listen to Audiobooks?

If you are wondering what device is best for listening to audiobooks, I can assure you that nothing special is required!

To listen to audiobooks, you don’t need any equipment beyond the device you’re already using to access media, such as a smartphone, tablet, computer, or smart speaker like Alexa.

Most audiobooks are available in digital format, so you can easily download them onto your device and start listening.

However, I personally find listening with headphones or earbuds more comfortable than a speaker. Having the voice directly in your ear makes it easier to keep focus and catch every word.

It’s clearer, and normal background noises don’t make you miss words.

Most digital audiobooks have DRM, which means you can only listen to them in the app of the store where you bought or borrowed the audiobook.

While DRM has a few drawbacks, this also makes it easier for new listeners, as it means you don’t have to spend any time trying to find an audiobook player app.

So, to listen to audiobooks, you need a device that can play digital audio files like your phone, and you need headphones, an internet connection (for streaming or downloading), an audiobook player app, and a subscription or purchase of audiobooks.

With these essentials, you can enjoy audiobooks anytime, anywhere, and enhance your reading experience in a new and engaging way!

Related article: Why People hate Audiobooks (and what I reply)

How do I play Audiobooks?

The best way, hands down, to try out your first audiobook is your local library. A librarian can help you set up Hoopla or Libby on your phone, and you can borrow audiobooks for free with your library card so you can find out what you like without having to worry about the cost.

Related article: The Best Audiobooks on Hoopla

Don’t feel bad about stopping one audiobook and starting another if one doesn’t captivate you!

Listening to audiobooks is a skill, and your brain will need some time to get used to it so your mind will not wander so easily. Keep at it and try out several different books, different genres and narration styles, if your first audiobook didn’t work for you.

However, if you don’t have a local library that offers free audiobooks, or if you are like me and rather do everything from home, here are some good alternatives on where to listen to audiobooks.

You might have heard that a standard audiobook subscription works like this: You pay a monthly fee for which you get one credit that you can exchange for an audiobook of your choice.

But there are also a lot of audiobook subscriptions that work like Netflix or your library! And for beginners, these are great because you can try out a lot of different genres, authors, narrators, and production styles to find out what you like.

Audible is the most well-known audiobook service. And in the US, UK, Canada, and Australia, they offer Audible Plus, which is a catalog of several thousand audiobooks from which you can borrow as many as you like. They also have many audio plays with a full cast of narrators. You can try this out in a 30-day free trial**

Everand (formerly known as Scribd) is a service similar to Kindle Unlimited. They have ebooks and audiobooks that you can borrow. There are some limitations, but unlike Audible Plus, you can find new bestsellers and book club favorites in audio format here! You can try this out, too, in a free test month**

Either one of those is a good choice to get started with audiobooks. They are easy to subscribe to and have good phone apps with which you can listen.

In the apps, you can set bookmarks which I highly recommend, especially if you’re listening in bed. The bookmark will help you get back to the right part quickly if you fall asleep or get distracted.

The Scribd and Audible app also let you set the narration speed. Some people have a difficult time following audiobooks because they feel the narration is too slow. With the narration speed function, you can set the audiobook to play exactly as quickly as is comfortable for you.

The apps also have a sleep timer which is really convenient.

Most audiobook listeners, like me, prefer listening with headphones or AirPods. They make it easier to stay focused and not miss anything. If you have headphones lying around somewhere, use those!

In the long run, you will likely find that the best way to listen to audiobooks is to buy a nice pair of Bluetooth earbuds. When I listen while doing chores or cooking, I like using just one earbud so I can still hear what’s going on around me. And, of course, it’s important that they are comfortable to wear and don’t hurt your ear.

More Info on How to Listen to Audiobooks

I hope the pointers above helped you to find out how to listen to audiobooks and where to get started with finding your first audiobook.

If you have any questions or are looking for specific audiobook recommendations from me that might fit your taste, leave a comment or send me a message!

If you want to know more about audiobooks, check out these 5 fun facts about audiobooks, and if you want to find out about all the different audiobook services, check out my comparison of the best audiobook apps. I compare several popular audiobook subscriptions there so you can choose one that matches your budget.

If you are looking for some more specific pointers for good audiobooks, check out my favorite audiobooks in Everand and the best Romance Audiobooks of all time!

You might also want to take a look at my blog post with websites for Free Audiobooks, and, if you are a fellow blogger or book reviewer, check out how to get free Audiobook Review Copies.

Happy listening!

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All about Audiobooks / 6 Comments

6 thoughts on “How to Listen to Audiobooks: A Beginner’s Guide for 2024”

  1. I love to use Libby as i’m super pecular about my audiobooks.. Need me a good voice that I can listen for times on end; as I got quite alot of voices that I just- I can’t 😬 depend on their way of speaking/accent/tone and etc.
    Re-reading is actually quite a nice tip!

    My problem is what to do 🤣 even if I listen while laying there, im still scared id pass out or get distracted and end up not actually listening and « blocking out » the noise.. same as if I do anything else- so far it seems to be working.

    1. Have you tried simple relaxing things like a coloring book, puzzle, or puzzle game on the phone? That’s what I do when I just want to relax while listening to an audiobook 🙂

  2. Thank you for your instructions you made it easy to understand I’m thinking about using audiobooks you gave great honest options to choose from. I appreciate you

    1. All Kindle models give access to Audible books. But you don’t need a Kindle to listen to audiobooks. You can install the Audible app on any Android or Apple phone or tablet. Hope that helps 🙂

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