By nature, I’m a moderately social, chatty type of person.
But by occupation, I’m a loner.
Despite some folks’ impression that I work with some kind of team, I don’t. (I answered that point in this article.)
It’s really just me on this side of Needle ‘n Thread, so when stitching, designing, writing, blogging, editing photos – everything I do that’s Needle ‘n Thread-related – I’m alone.
But for many reasons, I never consider myself alone. When it comes to the needlework world, I’m definitely not alone! And when it comes to my work, I never feel like I’m alone.
Sometimes, I choose to work in silence so that I can think about things. During those times, I often end up carrying on splendid conversations with myself!
But usually, I’m a listener, and especially when I stitch, I get in a lot of listening.
Over on my Needle ‘n Thread Facebook page recently, I brought up the subject of listening, and that sparked some conversations with friends about the hows, wheres, and whats-its when it comes to engaging, high-quality listening experiences.
I found out through several conversations that many needleworkers aren’t aware of how to get ahold of audiobooks, so I thought it would be fun to chat with you about the whole subject of listening here. I’ll tell you what I do, what system I use and why, and then, of course, ask for your feedback! So let’s talk about listening…
Types of Listening
In the needlework world, there are many different popular types of listening while stitching.
First, there’s the wonderful world of face-to-face, real person listening, where you get to stitch with a friend and chat, listen, exchange ideas, hopes, dreams.
But that lovely situation aside, let’s talk about listening when you’re a sole stitcher.
The most popular “listening” device out there seems to be the ubiquitous TV. Most stitchers admit they don’t really watch it, but rather listen to it while they stitch.
I can’t do TV or movies while stitching. I often wish I could. Since I’ve lived most of my life without television, I’m not desensitized enough to the screen experience to be able to split my attention. If something is flashing about on a screen in front of me, I’m pretty much mesmerized by it.
So I’m not a watcher-listener when it comes to TV or movies and stitching. Instead, I’m solely a listening-listener, and an avid one at that.
This is the order of my listening pleasures, in amount of Time Spent Listening, from greatest to least:
Lately, podcasts and music might be neck-and-neck. But audiobooks definitely take up the majority of my ear time!
You can find audiobooks either free or at affordable prices in a number of places.
Librivox, for example, is a public domain audiobook resource. Amateur readers read public domain books that you can listen to right on your computer, or that you can download and transfer to a device, like an mp3 player, smartphone, tablet, etc. You can also burn the files to CDs and listen to them on CD players – but these days, that’s a rather archaic approach. It’s easier just to put them on your mobile device and then remove them when you’re finished with them.
The Public Library System
The public library system in the US (and I would also imagine in other countries) offers audiobooks as well, and depending on your local library, you can acquire them in different ways.
You can check out a set of CDs (again, this is becoming archaic in many places) or you can log in to your library account and “borrow” the audio file online for a set time. When you’ve finished the audiobook, you can delete the file, or, if you go beyond your borrow date on it, you can either renew it, or check it out again later to finish it.
Overdrive is one of the main platforms for finding library lending of audio and electronic books, and is worth a browse to see if your local library is accommodated in its structure. I’ve not used it myself as my local library isn’t supported, but I’ve heard from people who use it and like it.
Spotify is a subscription audio (primarily music) service that you can get for free (you have to put up with advertising) or that you can pay for monthly. The paid version gives you loads of freedom in selecting music, constructing playlists, and the like, and it’s free of advertising.
For Spotify fans out there, did you know they have some audiobooks on there? The few excerpts I’ve heard are fairly good – they were mostly children’s books and short stories, though.
Personally, I don’t use the service, because it’s spotty (pun intended), especially lately, and because it’s a constant streaming service. If you have wifi, it’s ok for home, but if you’re out on the road, you’re using data while you listen.
Audible is the foremost vendor out there for audiobooks that you purchase and keep. While a member of their service – at $14.95 / month for their basic service (which gives you one book credit a month) – you have access to all their audiobooks at deeply discounted prices, plus they run specials throughout the year that will give you more bang for your book buck. If you drop your membership, you still keep all the books you’ve acquired.
I’m admittedly an Audible junkie. For me, it’s not only about the words of the book. It’s the whole listening experience. Narration plays a huge part in bringing a book to life, and the professionally produced audiobooks through Audible – read usually by top actors with great voices – helps produce a stellar audio experience.
There are tricks to using Audible, if you want to be financially efficient about the whole thing.
Right now, when you sign up for the free trial (the sign up offer varies), you get two free credits, which translates into two free audiobooks. Essentially, it’s one a month for two months. After that, the cost kicks in at $14.95 / month for one credit, or one book.
However, you can cancel after the free trial if you want – so you’d get two free books out of it.
If you hang on afterwards, you get a book of your choice per month for $14.95, which is a far sight less than you’d pay for the same book outside of membership. And your credits roll over, if you don’t purchase a book in any given month.
Throughout the year, Audible offers sales (like their $4.95 sale or their three-for-two sale) to members, which are a pretty good deal if you can find books you like on their sales lists. There’s always a good variety, so you’re bound to find something you want to listen to!
All that said, and as nice as it is, the monthly fee of $14.95 is not the most financially savvy way to enjoy Audible.
Audible’s Best Deal
Audible’s best deal is actually their yearly membership (platinum level) for 24 credits.
This membership level costs more up front, since you pay at the time of signing up for it and receive all 24 credits at once. But it reduces the cost of each credit (or each book) to less than $10 per book, and that’s quite a substantial savings if you go through a lot of audiobooks.
I’ll admit I’m a pro at finagling the yearly membership from my family as a Christmas present. It’s the only thing I bother heavily hinting about!
To get the yearly membership, after you’ve signed up for the regular plan or the free trial, you go into your profile and adjust your membership plan to the platinum, or yearly 24 credit, plan.
Twelve of the 24 credits roll over each year, so if you only use half your credits in a year, you still have the other half the next year, as long as you’re still enrolled in membership. If you find you can’t use that many credits the next year, you can switch to the monthly plan again and still retain the roll-overs.
I usually end up easily using 24 credits in a year, because, like I said, I’m an avid listener!
Audible’s return policy is a Huge Plus about their program. It assures a quality listening experience and a good value for your money.
Essentially, if you don’t like a book you’ve purchased through Audible for any reason and you feel you wasted your money or a credit, you can return it and get a refund or a credit within a year.
Because of this policy, I never feel stuck listening to bad narration or a disappointing book!
I always try to pick books that I’ll enjoy listening to more than once. While I wouldn’t generally listen to the same book twice in a row, I’ve often gone back through my library and listened to favorites. I don’t hesitate to return a book that, once I’ve given it a chance, makes me think “This isn’t doing it for me, and I’d never listen to it again.”
I’ve returned audiobooks through Audible for any number of reasons: bad narration, low or sordid content, inaccurate content (historical works of fiction or non-fiction that are anachronistic or poorly researched rub me the wrong way), poor writing, or content that just strikes me as really lame. If I don’t like it, I don’t keep it.
If you’re a member, it’s worth using this policy to your advantage, to build a library of audiobooks that you’re happy revisiting again and again.
You can use your credits to gift audiobooks to other people. I’ve done it numerous times with books I love, that I think someone else will love! It’s an affordable way to give a really nice gift.
I have a fairly broad range of book preferences, so I’ll just highlight a few favorites that I really enjoy.
Literary Classics: This version of Anna Karenina narrated by David Horovitch is excellent. If you like Elizabeth Gaskell (think BBC’s Cranford and North and South), this narration of North and South read by Charlton Griffin is well done. You’ll also find plenty of Jane Austen, Dickens (including full-cast audio productions, which are thoroughly entertaining, if you like Dickens), and pretty much any classic author you love.
Mysteries: I like mystery and suspense, including cozy mysteries, which tend to be extremely popular. Agatha Christie’s books read by Hugh Frasier are perfect. I also like Ngaio Marsh, Dorothy Sayers, and practically all those writers from the Golden Age of Mystery. A relative newcomer to the cozy mystery scene is Charles Finch. His Charles Lennox books are set in Victorian England, and they are extremely well researched, well-written, and well-narrated.
Travel: Peter Mayle is a favorite – think: A Year in Provence – as well as many other travel journalists and travel story-tellers. Bill Bryson, for example, can be quite engaging.
Non-Fiction: There are so many choices in non-fiction – lately, it’s my favorite category. Lots of excellent biographies, autobiographies, histories, and adventures. In the stories of survival category, Michael Tougias’s maritime books are excellent. The James Herriot books are fun, relaxing, and entertaining. Really, there are too many to list in this category.
There are some self-development books I’ve listened to with benefit, but admittedly, it’s not the most exciting category. And I’ve delved into the world of children’s literature – there are countless wonderful children’s books on Audible that I’ve listened to alone and with my nieces and nephews, too.
Music and Podcasts
I have a pretty extensive personal library of classical music and folk music, so I don’t often use music streaming services. Amazon Music for prime members (without the paid subscription) is ok, but not great. And once a year, I sign up for Spotify from December through February, when three free months.
For podcasts, I use iTunes to subscribe to ones I like, especially in the categories of textiles (needlework, stitchery, etc) and travel, and a few that have to do with the technical side of blogging. Whether you use an Android device or iOS, there are plenty of apps for subscribing to podcasts that fit your interests. You can also listen to most podcasts through a web browser at the podcast’s home page online.
As far as textile and needlework podcasts go, I listen to FiberTalk, Stitchery Stories, and there’s a new-to-me podcast called Thread Cult that I’ve listened to (it’s geared towards sewing, predominantly, and the fashion and couture industry, from what I can tell so far).
Over to You!
So, what do YOU listen to when you stitch? Do you have any favorite series of audiobooks, or any recommendations for finding good listens for stitching sessions? I’d love to hear your recommendations! If you have any input, questions, comments, suggestions, feel free to join the conversation below!
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