People and Community

Audiobooks continue to rise in popularity

The University of Miami Libraries offer readers multiple ways to access the books, which are popular with commuters and those who like the convenience.
Listening to an audiobook on mobile

Listening to a story is as old as time, which may be one of the reasons why listening to audiobooks has become quite popular in the U.S.

Audiobook sales are the fastest-growing sector of publishing by far with almost one in five Americans having listened to an audiobook in the past year, according to the Pew Research Center.

Its popularity is largely due to its convenience. For some, listening to a book makes their commuting times bearable. Others enjoy having free hands so they can clean or finish other household chores. Others recall the joy associated of those early childhood years when a relative read to them right before bedtime.

“Most of my adult life has been framed by daily commutes of 10 or more miles, which in Miami can translate to 45 minutes or more stuck in traffic—each way—so I started listening to audiobooks back in the 1990s," said Annette Herrera, executive director for University of Miami Communications. “I’m so absorbed by the stories and narrator performances that I don’t seem to mind the traffic.”

Kate Villa, a Ph.D. student in Philosophy, remembers long family trips between Illinois and Florida where they listened to many books. “I would listen to books so I would not get carsick by trying to read the printed page,” she said. 

Herrera and Villa are some of the many clients who use UM Libraries as one of their sources to access audiobooks.

Terri Robar, UM Learning and Research Services librarian, said UM Libraries has a collection of approximately 700 CDs and cassettes, which have enjoyed popularity since its inception in 2004.

“A professor was retiring and cleaned out his office and donated many of his things to the library,” said Robar. “He was a great fan of the Great Courses audio collection. So we used those CDs and started the audio collection as a commuter collection.” 

The collection continues to be popular, especially CDs on the Great Courses, which are audiotaped lectures by university professors, and a series called Behind the Wheel, which offers language classes as one drives. About 300 volumes of CDs or cassettes are checked out every year, said Robar.

Although studies show that reading the written page allows for better retention of the material, many people prefer the audiobook. One factor may be who narrates the story.

“A big thing with audiobook is who is doing the reading,” said Robar. “There is a big push in audiobooks to get high quality professional actors to do the reading. They can put in the drama, and when you have a good reader then you retain more.”

Such has been the case with the "Harry Potter” series narrated in the U.S. by British actor Jim Dale and biographies such as “Becoming" by Michelle Obama, who narrates her own life and "Why Not Me" by Mindy Kaling. When books receive a lot of publicity UM Libraries sees a spike in requests in general, including audiobooks.

“We also see a spike in the months of November and December and during breaks when people want to have extra books to listen to on vacations [such as now for summer],” said Ava Brillat, Learning and Research Services librarian.

Brillat oversees the digital platforms for accessing audiobooks. About 700 audiobooks and e-books are available to members of the UM community with the use of Overdrive, an app that allows users to download titles for two weeks, said Brilliant. Users can also listen to them through their browser by going to the library website and clicking on the tab Overdrive e-Books and Audiobooks, under the tab Find and Read, she said.

Popular titles include "Where the Crawdads Sing" by Delia OwensEducated" by Tara Westover and "All the Light You Cannot See" by Anthony Doerr.  

Find UM Libraries OverDrive Collection of e-books and audiobooks here:

Download the iPhone app or Android app to listen on your device. Find the iOS app here: and the Android app here: