The one development I could never have anticipated was that printed fiction books would suddenly become dramatically less important to me than they were. Just the other day I worked out that l must have been a member of various libraries for at least 53 years ever since being taken by my mum to the children’s library in the Durban City Hall.
In the intervening years I have probably devoured at least three printed books a week and sometimes more until one day when, having been in Brisbane for some years, I noted that my sister and niece were listening to audio books on their tablets and mobile phones and deriving a lot of enjoyment from them. I had listened to audio books on occasion but had given it up because the process simply wasn’t that convenient and because I have issues with buying audio books at the same price as the printed versions.
I was all ears once it was explained that the family had downloaded an app called BorrowBox (available for Apple iOS and Android) which allowed them to sign on as members of the Brisbane Library Service, browse athrough an extensive list of titles and download the ones they wanted free of charge, if available, or reserve them if they had already been borrowed. Once a book has been borrowed, it can be downloaded onto one or more of your devices and go with you anywhere.
The service is provided by Bolinda Digital to members of participating libraries and my membership entitles me to take out ten titles at a time although there’d be no way I could possibly listen to that many in the two weeks allowed. The process of browsing, downloading and listening is incredibly simple and I took to it like a duck to water. I have not been into a library in several months which is unprecedented.
It has to be said that the selection of available titles is not as big as that of the printed books on the library’s shelves. The titles you want are often out but you can place a reserve on items and I have never failed to find something that I want to listen to. Quite often, though, are titles missing from series but one can usually track down the printed copies.
The Borrow Box app makes it very easy to browse as it can show featured titles, titles new to the library, popular titles and titles by genre or country of origin. I have discovered many interesting books and authors this way and there is a search function as well. One interesting way of finding new material is to look for other books narrated by people you have particularly enjoyed. It must be said that the book narrators are not created equal but, although I have my favourites, I haven’t encountered one that I really couldn’t listen to.
My favourite so far are Frank Muller who reads some of the Elmore Leonard books, Tony Britten who reads many of the Dick Francis books and perhaps best of all, Peter Hosking who reads many of the Peter Corris books and Arthur Upfield’s epic Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte series.
I would have to give BorrowBox, Bolinda Digital and the Brisbane Library Service a Highly Recommended for making audio books very nearly as easy as picking up a print one. I am now even enjoying my 45-minute daily commute.
* BorrowBox can also be used to download and read a wide selection of text-based eBooks as well