My Road Trip Survival Secret: Free Audio Books

Steve Alpert's SIGNS!!!!When I was in high school, my mom and I went to Colorado together, just the two of us. We normally all went as a family and flew from Texas to Colorado, but we decided to hit the road for some mother/daughter bonding. The main way we passed the time was listening to the audio book of Amy Tan’s The Bonesetter’s Daughter. It was fun to listen to it together and discuss it, and I look back on that fondly.

I listened to audio books from time to time throughout college for long car rides, and then bumped it up once I got my first job and had a horrible commute. Traffic felt more tolerable while listening to a suspenseful Michael Crichton novel.

Eventually, I was turned off by the high price and stopped buying them. They easily cost upwards of $20 or $30, and you don’t need them anymore once you’re done. I gave up on audio books except for the few random ones I saw on iTunes or at a book store on major sale. I quickly discovered that they were on sale for a reason.

Then a few months ago, I was lamenting to one of my coworkers how expensive audio books are. She looked at me with shock and said, “Do you not realize they’re free at the library?” Holy cow. It sounds obvious, but I had no clue that the Austin Public Library was loaded with free audio books–for some reason, I only equated the library with paper books.

You can rent them for three weeks at a time. If you need to extend them longer, it’s free–you just have to let them know. Even the late fees are very cheap. If your branch doesn’t have the audio books you want, you can go online and order the ones you want from the other branches. They deliver them to your branch. FOR FREE! How amazing is that? They have every genre, fiction to nonfiction, classic to modern. It’s like a candy shop for book lovers. Go check out your local library–your tax dollars are already paying for it!

In Austin, you can check out 20 at a time. Last time I went, the clerk told me that some people get 20 and bring them back a few days later, leaving them to believe that people just burn them on their computers. I’m not recommending you do this, but if you do, you can load them onto your iPod. I usually just get two at a time, or one if it’s a very long one.

I drive from Houston to Austin somewhat frequently, and now I drive to San Antonio often. Having an endless supply of free audio books from the library makes the hours on the road pass by much more quickly. They keep me entertained (if I choose fiction) and informed (if I choose nonfiction). Whenever I know I’m going on a road trip soon, short or long, I stop by the library. Music is fabulous, and every once in a while I do want a music break, but there’s nothing like a good story.

I’m a bit ADD, so sometimes I have trouble focusing when I’m listening to audio books. The good news? Just hit rewind. It’s actually a good practice in paying attention and staying focused.

Do you ever listen to audio books when traveling?

Creative Commons License photo credit: Otto Yamamoto

A generation 'y'er from Ireland, living his dreams and convincing you to do the same. Traveling through more than 90 countries around the world and showing no signs of slowing down