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(ARA) - It is an image as old as the collective memory of humanity: a family or an entire village sitting quietly, listening with rapt attention as the voice of a storyteller enthralls through the sheer power of the spoken word.

It's also an image that seems completely incompatible with the hectic, on-the-go lifestyle of contemporary business or vacation travelers.

Yet as more and more cars and minivans are sold and rented with cassette and CD players, parents, children, and all types of business professionals are increasingly turning to a very old antidote to the stresses of travel: the spoken word. In particular, travellers are rediscovering the joys of the spoken word as it is recorded on audiobooks. As long-time audiobook listener Phil Landes of Baltimore says, "A Tale of Two Cities can make a 16-hour car trip pass very quickly."

Audiobooks have become increasingly popular in the past two decades, with companies like Maryland's Recorded Books, LLC -- one of the largest publishers of audiobooks in the world -- helping to change public perception and acceptance of the format through sales to libraries, schools and direct consumer markets. The Audio Publishers Association (APA), a non-profit industry group, estimates that annual audiobook sales now exceed $2.5 billion. In the past decade, audiobook sales have grown five times faster than print book sales.

According to studies by the APA, about half of all audiobook listening is done in cars or on airplanes, buses and trains. Increasingly, this listening is done as a family activity on vacations. Dominique Diambois of Miami, Fla. pops in audiobooks on trips with her children. "I have complete silence in the car because everyone is busy listening to the stories." The most important consideration for families is choosing something both parents and children can enjoy, according to spokesperson Sharon Conway of Recorded Books. "Classics like The Wizard of Oz and series titles like The Lord of the Rings and Walter R. Brooks' Freddy the Pig books are popular because kids are hearing them for the first time and parents remember when they first read the books as children," says Conway.

Other considerations come into play when people choose recordings they want to travel with. "I like to read a novel, travel book, history or mystery set in my destination," says F.V. Proscia, a frequent business traveller from New Jersey. In fact, requests for books about specific travel locations have become so common that Recorded Books now maintains lists of books set in popular destinations like the Northeast, the West and the South to suggest for customers.

While most listeners enthusiastically recommend audiobooks to friends and family members preparing for trips, some travellers have pointed to a potential hazard: a good recording can overshadow the trip itself. Keasha Palmer from Rockford, Mich., found her entire vacation to Nova Scotia revolving around the audiobook she took along: "I raved so much about the whole experience when I returned home that my cousin said to me, 'Why didn't you just sit in your driveway and listen to Angela's Ashes-it would have been cheaper!'"

For more information, or for a Recorded Books catalog, contact Recorded Books at 1-800-638-1304, or visit the Recorded Books Web site at www.recordedbooks.com.

Courtesy of ARA Content, www.ARAcontent.com, e-mail: info@aracontent.com


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