A Listening Love Story

Audiobooks continue to leave an impact on listeners for life.

A writer, librarian, and voice actor share what audiobooks mean to them.

As we celebrate National Audiobook Month, let’s take a moment to reflect back on what it is that makes the audio realm so compelling to so many. Is it the stories coming to life? The ease of accessibility for so many people in their busy lives? Or the fact that in a society dominated by screens, it is one of the few things we can sit back and enjoy with our eyes closed? (When we aren’t driving, of course!)

The first audiobook that made a lasting impression on me was on cassette tape in 2003 during a long car ride from my hometown of Hazleton, PA, back to my college alma mater, SUNY Binghamton. It was The Midwife’s Apprentice by Karen Cushman and narrated eloquently by Jenny Sterlin. At a run time just shy of three hours, it was the perfect accompaniment through the hills of Appalachia up 81 North, as the trees just began to be tipped with autumn’s crimson and gold magic.

Becoming a professional in the audiobook industry was an opportunity that I quite literally stumbled upon about eight years later. During the economic recession of 2010, I was laid off from my full-time staff writer position at a nationwide boating magazine based in Connecticut. At twenty-seven, I was devastated, as being a staff writer/journalist had been my ultimate career dream. (I would be vindicated when one of my stories for the publication was nationally recognized for a third-place award a few months later).


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While working part-time at a local tea shop, a former coworker of mine told me about a job she had gotten at a local audiobook company as a proofer and strongly encouraged me to apply.

“But I don’t know anything about proofing audiobooks,” I said at the time.

“It’s okay, they’ll teach you everything you need to know,” she replied.

Little did I know when I was hired at the company in December 2010, it would change the whole course of my professional existence for good. I made great personal and professional connections during my time there, learned many important life lessons about what to do (and what NOT to do) in a professional work environment, and made lifelong friends like Deborah Fleet, a retired Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) Librarian and current freelance audiobook proofreader.

“Falling in love with audiobooks was an accidental love story,” shares Fleet, whom I helped train as a proofer when we worked together. “I needed a fast way to keep up with my [then] pre-teenage son’s reading. The first audiobook series I ever borrowed from a library and listened to was Jim Dale reading the entire Harry Potter series while I was both a home educator and working in public libraries.”


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Fleet found herself “instantly hooked” on this classic audiobook series, which paved the way for her personal and professional journey within the audio medium. Fleet found herself squeezing in literary listens during her commutes so she could offer up-to-date recommendations for her library patrons, and she still maintains an active Goodreads account.

“Libraries offer the public library card holder access to free audiobooks online as well as classic audiobooks, keeping up with the latest formats,” says Fleet, who has assisted dyslexic as well as blind patrons with audiobook selections and access. “Audiobooks open doors . . . they are perfect for traveling with your family, and I always stock up on library audiobooks, hard copy books, and resources before long trips and vacations.”

Fleet stays active in her retirement as a freelance audiobook proofreader and feels very lucky to continue to enjoy free reading, listening, and learning professionally on her schedule.


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During my time as an audiobook proofer, I was also recommended by one of my supervisors in 2013 to consider reviewing titles for AudioFile Magazine, a gig that, ten-plus years on, I am still involved with. I was introduced to Los Angeles-based actor and audiobook narrator Vikas Adam when I was assigned to review his narration of Nice Dragons Finish Last for AudioFile in 2016, which won the publication’s coveted Earphones Award as well as taking the Audie in the fantasy category that year. Although we have yet to meet in person, we remain supportive industry colleagues to one another to this day.

Adam says his love affair with the audio medium stems from the thrill of being able to “put on a one-person show and play all the characters” when the book is a solo narration title.

“It is the privilege of bringing the stories I read to life,” shares Adam. “I get to honor the text and play in worlds I don’t think I’d be able to if I was still pursuing a traditional path as an actor.”

Adam, who was born in British Columbia and has lived in the US as well as India, made a name for himself in audiobooks thanks to auditioning for a title that required someone who could authentically ignite the work of South Asian authors. Word got out about his talent, and Adam was soon working with various production houses and casting directors.

“Work begat work,” says Adam. “The variety of books I received expanded exponentially to include numerous genres and recording books I never thought I would get to do.”

Adam admits that if he weren’t having success with his current line of work, he would probably be a small-town librarian, having been a student librarian in his younger days.

“I was always an avid reader, and as a child, we moved around a lot, so libraries in all of my schools became my sanctuaries,” says Adam. “I recall spending hours at the Richardson Public Library in Texas when I was in high school . . . the smell of books is a sensory and magical experience.”





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