A Beginner’s Guide to Audiobooks


Listen up, readers: We know the world of audiobooks can be intimidating. You may not know where to find them, what to look for in a narrator, or if they’ll fit into your daily life. That’s why we’re here with an easy guide to getting started. Here, we break down why we love audiobooks, how to start listening, and a few of our tips and tricks for picking the right audiobook for you.

Why audiobooks?

If you’ve spent years reading physical and ebooks, you may wonder what the fuss is about audiobooks. You may even be reluctant to part from the sensation of holding a book in your hands as you lose yourself in the story. But don’t let your habits stop you from testing the waters of a new way to enjoy your favorite activities. Here are just a few of the reasons why audiobooks are great.

Multitask like a pro
Torn between reading and doing the dishes? Not with audiobooks. Everything from chores to running errands to hitting the gym becomes more exciting once you press play on an audiobook. The format allows you to be productive in more ways than one!

Time flies
Whether you’re listening as you commute to and from the office each day or on an international flight, audiobooks have the power to keep you entertained.

Achieve your reading goals
Many readers find that their reading speed increases once they start listening to audiobooks. Part of this is because they can multitask and read, but it’s also because readers can adjust the narration speed to go faster than reading with their eyes alone.

Exclusive content
Audiobook narrators can take your reading experience to the next level. By giving voice to the characters and the prose, a great narrator can transport you into a story and make you feel as though you truly know the characters. Plus with full cast recording, music, and sound effects, audiobooks make the listening experience as immersive as possible.

Get star struck
Do you want more Lin-Manuel Miranda in your life? What about Meryl Streep? With audiobooks, you can listen to your favorite actors anytime you want to.

Exclusive goodies
Some audiobooks come packed with extras like author interviews, podcasts, behind-the-scenes insight, and more to round out your reading experience.

The free NetGalley Shelf app is the exclusive way to listen to audiobooks made available on NetGalley.

Did you hear the news? Audiobooks have come to NetGalley! We know how important the audio format is to the NetGalley community, and no matter how you read or listen to a book, we want to be here for you! Your early feedback about new books (whether in print, digital, or audio format) is good for all books. Make sure your NetGalley reviews are as well-rounded as possible by following our tips for writing about the specific elements that only audiobooks have. 

Tips and tricks

Sample first
A great narrator can take you into the world of a book with the power of their voice. We recommend listening to a sample of any audiobook you’re considering (offered for free on NetGalley!) to get a taste of the narrator’s voice and style to see if it works for you.

Speed up, slow down
If you’re using an app for audiobooks, you’ll have the option to speed up or slow down the narration. Some readers may prefer to listen at a faster pace, and you should experiment with different speeds to see which sounds best to your ears.

Listen together
Audiobooks turn reading into a shared experience. Enjoy audiobooks with your family or friends during a long car ride, or introduce a regular listening night for your household! Let your family vote on which book you’ll listen to next, and leave time to discuss what’s happening after each chapter. This is a wonderful way to encourage a love of reading in kids! 

Read along
Pairing your reading and listening can help to give you a more complete experience. Try following along with a physical book or ebook as you listen to your audiobook. You can also encourage your kids to read along as you listen together!

Choosing an audiobook

Now that you know more about some of the available services, it’s time to start listening. Here’s some advice for getting started.

Play favorites
Audiobook newbies often select an old favorite as their first listen. Revisiting a book you love in a new format can offer you a new understanding of the story, characters, setting, and more! Plus, you already know you’ll enjoy it!

Test the waters
Not ready to fully commit to 10+ hours of an audiobook? Give yourself an audio trial run by listening to poetry or short stories first!

Ask for recommendations
Chances are you’re friends with a bookworm who loves audiobooks. Tell them that you’re getting ready for your first listen and don’t know where to start. We guarantee they’ll have some ideas.

Sample a variety

NetGalley offers short samples of each book so that you can get a feel for the narrator. Listen in and make choices based on whose voice you’re excited to hear more of. Be sure to keep track of your favorite audio narrators so you can listen to more of their work in the future.


Check out our suggestions on How to Write an Audiobook Review!

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