Family road trips are a time-honored American tradition. Yet while you cram the family vehicle full of snacks, toys, books, and electronics, don't forget to bring along audiobooks.
Of course, it's easy to play movies on DVDs in the car. But with audiobooks, kids aren't glued to yet-another screen. They can listen along as they watch the landscape and use their mind's eye to envision the story. Kids can listen individually with headphones or the whole family can listen to the story on the car stereo.
Borrow Audiobooks from Your Library
Most public libraries have healthy sections for both movies on DVD and books on tape. Make a habit of stopping into your library before road trips and you'll have free entertainment in the car.
If your local library has a digital lending service, ask if they support lending through one of these two apps designed to allow users to borrow titles from the road.
- OverDrive (Android and iOS) lets you borrow ebooks and audiobooks from your library's collection 24/7. You can also create holds and wishlists and even return titles. To get started, you need an internet connection and a library card or student ID.
- Hoopla (Android and iOS) is another service that lets you borrow ebooks and audiobooks through an app that delivers hassle-free navigation, viewing, playback, and returns. To sign up, you need a library card/PIN number from your local library that offers Hoopla. Not all libraries require a PIN number, so check first with your local library.
Resources for Free or Cheap Audiobooks
StoryNory. This British web site offers free audio stories that can be downloaded. The collection includes nursery rhymes and fairytales, classic authors, and mythology.
Loyal Books. This publisher offers free audiobook and ebook downloads on classic titles in the public domain. Titles include The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Little Women, Black Beauty, The Jungle Book, and many more.
LibriVox. This service offers an extensive library of public domain audiobooks read by volunteers. You can listen for free to titles on your computer or mobile device, or you can even burn onto a CD. There are over 500 children's titles alone.
Lit2Go. This site offers several hundred books for free, including classics for children and young adults.
iTunes. Several cheap apps are available that give you access to thousands of works of classic literature, many of which are aimed at kids and young adults.
- Audiobooks (free) is your gateway to over 2,900 classics.
- Free Audiobooks doesn't exactly live up to its name ($1.99) but it is certainly dirt cheap and gives access to over 4,700 literary classics.
Downpour. Available for iOS and Android, Downpour is an independent audiobook store that lets you rent audiobooks for 30 or 60 days. A nice feature is offline playback.
Audiobook Subscription Services
Tales2Go. For $9.99 a month, you get unlimited streaming access to a library of nearly 2,000 children's books with titles aimed at toddlers and preschoolers all the way up to teens.
Scribd. For $8.99 a month, this on-demand service offers access to a library of more than 30,000 audiobook titles, including thousands of titles for children. Teens will love the young adult category, where there are both classic and contemporary titles.
Audible.com. This service from Amazon.com offers one month free followed by an audiobook download plan for $14.95 a month for a single book download per month and a 30 percent discount for additional books within that month. The books are yours to keep and can be returned or traded if you’re not pleased with your selection.
Audiobooks.com. This service lets you enjoy one audiobook per month for $14.95. You listen in streaming audio rather than downloading the audiobooks. Got a road trip coming up? Use the free seven-day trial as a test during your trip. During this time you can listen to anything from the catalog; after your trip, keep your subscription if you like the service or cancel if you're unsatisfied.
- Edited by Suzanne Rowan Kelleher