This Thursday heralds opening day for the 8th season of AudiobookSYNC Audiobooks for Teens. Here’s an opportunity to acquire 32 audiobooks for free and to keep for personal use (not for library collections). All comers are granted each week’s pair of free audiobooks, while the program selections target middle and high school aged teens. Last year, the program provided more than 170,000 free audiobook downloads of 30 titles.
What it is: AudiobookSYNC aims to highlight listening as a means to reading both high teen-interest titles and titles either assigned for summer reading or likely to require student attention for curriculum support. The audiobook review magazine AudioFile, hosts the annual program, uses the OverDrive app and computer software for distribution, and acquires its titles through donations from more than a dozen audiobook publishers, including the big guys like Penguin Random House and Recorded Books, and smaller houses like L.A. Theatre Works, Ideal Audiobooks, and Naxos AudioBooks.
How it works: Each Thursday of the season, a new pair of titles is available for download and permanent ownership. Titles are paired thematically and each week, anyone can choose either or both titles to download. Participants can go directly to the AudiobookSYNC site for the downloads, respond to a text message (to which they subscribe) to download, respond to an email alert (again by opt-in subscription), or use the QR code on posters at libraries, schools, and youth clubs to access the download. Any technical support that might be wanted is provided either by AudiobookSYNC or OverDrive, depending on the nature of the support needed.
Geographic access: Titles have varying rights attached to them so while all 32 titles are available in the US, some are not available in some countries. To help international listeners figure out what is available where they are, AudiobookSYNC provides a title-by-title availability post (Canadians, for example, have access to 31 of the titles while everyone anywhere has access to 19 of them). All the audiobooks are in English.
The AudiobookSYNC site provides descriptions of the audiobooks, links to reviews that offer performance details, and a toolkit of publicity materials, including printable posters and website-ready .jpg files, for agencies used by teens. The advertising on the site is limited to the publishers of each week’s featured title displaying selected “listen alikes” for collection developers.
The program has a robust social media presence that includes Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and a nascent Instagram account. A blog on the site typically offers a couple of links in each post aimed at librarians, teachers, and other adults seeking information to present the titles in context with its theme, genre, subject matter, author and/or narrator performance. During the course of the season, the site also will provide a couple of title-specific discussion guides for groups whose members have listened to a specific title.
So, why would teens want free audiobooks? Inveterate readers answer the call “more books” with open arms, although some may not have experienced listening to books before this program catches their attention. Teens with print challenges find an opportunity here to catch up with the popular books reading friends have been delighting in promoting. Student actors and debaters discover that expert narration provides them with models for regional accents, character development through pacing and tone, and smoothing the delivery of archaic sentence structures. Bored kids receive companionship while doing summer chores that keep them from other activities. Students with summer reading assignments discover an alternative to tracking down both paper copies and visual reading time.
Regardless of a teen’s reading and listening skills, the opportunity to build a fairly large bookshelf of titles isn’t common. Library borrowed files do go away after a “circulation” period while AudiobookSYNC’s files persist, providing the opportunity to listen more slowly, listen in a month or a year, relisten at whim. In addition to reading by ear then, here’s an opportunity to have the experience of new and familiar books always at the ready.