Easy reading

Lib­rar­i­an Cath­er­ine Krysto­pow­icz sur­veys the adult au­dio books at the Bush­rod Lib­rary. FAYE MUR­MAN / TIMES PHOTO

You’re a fan of au­dio books? You’ll find plenty of titles at the branch lib­rary.


Lib­rar­i­an Paul Daka used to have a 40-minute work­day com­mute, but he was able to keep up with his read­ing — even though he was driv­ing.

Daka, who now works closer to home at the Free Lib­rary’s Fox Chase branch on Rhawn Street, listened to his books as he traveled.

He’s now a big fan of au­dio books, and the city’s lib­rary branches have quite a few on their shelves.

“I per­son­ally love au­dio books,” Daka said in an in­ter­view last week. “It’s like be­ing read to as a child, but on an adult level.”

Fox Chase pat­rons aren’t as big on au­dio books as the lib­rar­i­an is.

“At this branch, they are more in­ter­ested in print than au­dio,” Daka said.

Listen­ing to a book and read­ing a book are very dif­fer­ent ex­per­i­ences, said Keith Kessler, lib­rar­i­an at the North­east Re­gion­al Lib­rary on Cottman Av­en­ue.

He said some people simply won’t try au­dio books. He was one of them.

“About thirty years ago, a friend told me about books on tape,” he said. “I thought books should be read, not listened, to. I star­ted [listen­ing to books], and now I’m ad­dicted,” he said.

Over the years, re­cor­ded books have moved from cas­sette tapes to CDs, Kessler said. The over­all qual­ity has im­proved, too, and most are un­abridged.

Au­dio books aren’t just re­cord­ings of some­body blandly read­ing. The pro­duc­tion val­ues and many nar­rat­ors are first-rate, lib­rar­i­ans said. Name act­ors are mak­ing the au­dio book ex­per­i­ence in­to per­form­ances, Kessler said. Some of those act­or/nar­rat­ors have pre­vi­ous as­so­ci­ations with the titles.

Jeremy Irons, for ex­ample, who starred in Brideshead Rev­is­ted, reads the book, Kessler said.

Au­dio books aren’t cheap. Some are six or more CDs long and cost between $30 and $50, and some­times more. Lib­rary pat­rons, of course, can bor­row them at no charge and have three weeks to listen to them.

Dif­fer­ent branches have dif­fer­ent col­lec­tions and dif­fer­ent num­bers of books. Kessler said the re­gion­al has about 1,000 titles. Cath­er­ine Krysto­pow­icz, lib­rar­i­an at the Bush­rod branch on Castor Av­en­ue, said she has about 150.

Most branches di­vide their au­dio books between titles for kids and those for adults. The books of­ten are fur­ther sep­ar­ated in­to fic­tion and non-fic­tion, too.

Fre­quently, what’s pop­u­lar in print is pop­u­lar as an au­dio book. At the Frank­ford branch, that’s urb­an fic­tion, said lib­rar­i­an Betsy Bax­ter. Works by thrill­er writer James Pat­ter­son are big draws for adults, Daka said, and books in the Harry Pot­ter series are fa­vor­ites with kids — and adults. Nar­rat­or Jim Dale’s read­ing of the Pot­ter books is a big plus, Daka said.

“The nar­rat­or adds a cer­tain ele­ment of sus­pense and em­phas­is to the story,” he said.

Ann Horn­bach, lib­rar­i­an at the Tor­res­dale Branch on Holme Av­en­ue, re­com­mends au­dio books to par­ents whose kids are hav­ing a hard time read­ing.

Titles avail­able at branches in­clude many books that are on school read­ing lists, Horn­bach said. So not only are au­dio books at their most pop­u­lar as people travel dur­ing the sum­mer, but when kids are go­ing back to school in Septem­ber and haven’t fin­ished all the books on their va­ca­tion read­ing lists.

There are some un­der­ap­pre­ci­ated or rarely bor­rowed au­dio books at dif­fer­ent branches and the re­gion­al lib­rary.

“People usu­ally go for what they know,” Kessler said, adding there seems to be a bi­as against any­thing that is more than 2 years old.

So largely ig­nored are re­cord­ings of books by Joyce Car­ol Oates, Gra­ham Greene and John Stein­beck, Kessler said. Bax­ter said she, too, likes to draw people’s at­ten­tion to clas­sic titles now avail­able as au­dio books. J.D. Sa­linger’s Catch­er in the Rye  is one she sug­gests. How-to and lan­guage in­struc­tion titles de­serve more at­ten­tion, too, she said.

Ta­tiana de Rosnay’s Sarah’s Key is a title many pat­rons over­look, said Daka. The story takes place in Par­is 1942 as French po­lice are round­ing up Jews, and then 60 years later as a journ­al­ist is re­search­ing a story about this dark time in French his­tory.

Lib­rary pat­rons can bor­row up to 10 au­dio books at one time for three weeks. Late fines are 25 cents per day to a max­im­um of $10.

Those who have lib­rary cards and In­ter­net ac­cess can go to www.freel­ib­rary.org and get to down­load­able books by click­ing on the hot pink down­load but­ton and fol­low­ing the in­struc­tions. Users must have lib­rary cards and pin num­bers. ••



Are you signed up?


Are you a card-car­ry­ing Phil­adelphi­an?

No? It’s pretty easy to get a lib­rary card.

If you live, work or go to school in the city, you’re eli­gible. Stop in any branch lib­rary to ap­ply or go to ht­tp://lib­www.freel­ib­rary.org/re­gister/get­card1.cfm




About this series…

This month, the North­east Times is look­ing at loc­al lib­rar­ies as sources of au­dio books, mu­sic, fea­ture films, doc­u­ment­ar­ies, TV shows, mu­sic, chil­dren’s books and pro­gram­ming and great books for adults.

The first in­stall­ment, on DVDs, was pub­lished Feb. 1. On Feb. 8, the sub­ject was the huge vari­ety of mu­sic avail­able. This week’s fo­cus on au­dio books will be fol­lowed next week with an art­icle that fo­cuses on ma­ter­i­als and pro­gram­ming for chil­dren. ••


You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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