Before, during and after the Covid crisis, audio books present many advantages. They have a wide-ranging audience of all ages who may listen to them alone, with someone else or with their family. Everyone can create his or her own book bubble that they are free to share as they wish. Audio books adapt to our personalities, activities and environment. They also adapt to various disabilities we may have. The blind can listen to them thanks to the Digital Accessible Information System (DAISY) and the hard of hearing can listen to them thanks to hearing loops attached to their hearing aids.

Now everyone can access audio books, no matter their age, status, social, cultural or educational background, location, health situation, needs or desires.

Audio content allows us to escape, learn, relax, have fun, expand our knowledge and, above all, give ourselves a treat any time of day or night, wherever we may be, even when space is limited. Audio books are well on their way to becoming a valuable, perhaps even essential, companion during these times of intense isolation and uncertainty. They allow us to read several times throughout the day while still maintaining a digital diet (once you’ve downloaded the application, a compressed MP3 (usually) opens a high-quality audio file that won’t use up your data. You can keep the screen turned off as only the voice matters, whether you are on public transport, out shopping or on a walk, for instance). Who would have thought it?

Under lockdown, different players in the French book industry came up with excellent initiatives to save their businesses and our sanity: ranging from click and collect services at neighbourhood bookstores to home deliveries via the French network Les Libraires, free access to certain publishers’ audio titles and loans from digital libraries, not to mention efforts by platforms, which did their part by offering even more free audio titles.

The flip side of audio books. With production handled by a mix of professional studios, semi-professionals and amateurs, the quality of audio files ranges from excellent to truly mediocre. Check out the article, “Voice-overs: the key to audio books,” to find out how to identify high-quality narration before diving into a book.

Test out the audio book before you buy it or take it out on loan. Certain publishers and authors have taken the initiative of creating audio and video book trailers and book excerpts, which strike a different tone than standard audio excerpts. They give you a different sense of the book and help you to determine whether or not you’ve fallen under its spell.

Are audio books headed for the limelight? With their modern style and many advantages, they have already begun capturing every audience.