Reading 📖 was the most important thing to me as recreation and for learning from an early age. Apparently I was slow at starting to read but no one needed to worry. I devour books. I also took enormous pleasure in collecting them especially quality second hand books. What bargains, what beautiful treasures I found. My library soon grow to many thousands of books. I would have spent my entire life in the University libraries had I been able. Fortunately we had space for all those books until 2001 when I had to retire. Then they had to go. They were for the main part specialist volumes. I was sad at the time but too ill to really care much. I can’t really recall it as a mixture of medication and the nature of my illness means that my memory has huge holes.
Then came the loss of the ability to hold books and the loss of vision. Rather than cling to what was no longer useable the rest of my library went this time to a charity to raise money for a hospice.
The first Kindle and every one thereafter became my source of books. That’s over now as the text can’t be made large enough.
So we come to audiobooks.
The first port of call after being unable to read books was the RNIB. At that time they were supplying Daisy Players with a subscription, I asked if I could have access and it was granted. The books were ok but you never knew what was coming in the post from your selection and to be honest some of the narration was just awful. They decided to depart from this model and make the service free and supply it via a streaming app called Overdrive. That’s an oversimplification but you don’t need to know all the possible options. Suddenly I had to listen to books through crappy phone speakers and the borrowed books were time limited like a lending library. I found the selection and the app a bit disappointing. I thought of buying a Daisy Player but I found them unreliable and prone to breaking down and were not exactly portable and very very expensive.
This was another service I discovered with various ways of borrowing and listening to books. USB sticks and players seemed the way to go. I persevered but found the choice of books terribly limited and again it was pot luck what was sent from the list. Then they created an APP. I couldn’t get on with it at all.
Since getting out and about was becoming impossible I was reliant on returning borrowed books through other people going to the post box and then having to wait for books to be turned around and new ones sent back. So I had to find another solution.
AUDIBLE had been a partial but very expensive way of feeding my reading needs with two books a month for nearly £15 a month. At least I owned them but again unless wearing headphones I was suffering with poor quality audio from a phone. Then came the breakthrough. The Amazon Echo. With this smart speaker came the ability to just ask Alexa to read my book. Heaven at last. Audible did offer an annual subscription at just over £100 for 24 books a year. I tried many times to ask the question what could I do once I had read 24 books, did I have to wait months before it renewed? Sadly my requests did not elicit a reasonable explanation. However once I had taken the plunge I discovered I could buy extra credits at just £11 for 3. Not only that I could do that as often as I wanted or indeed renew the annual subscription any time I wanted. Suddenly I found I could own books, keep them, return them for a refund if I didn’t like them and build a library again. As someone with a reading habit of between 80 and in excess of 100 books a year in audio formats (it depends on the length of the books I read) I had at last found my solution.
Other sources may be available if you know any please let me know. The moral here is that no matter what situation you find yourself in, reading by hook or by crook remains an option. But nothing can ever replace the sheer joy of the smell of a book, new or old, and the freak of the spine and the feel of the pages.