Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Seniors Affinity for Audiobooks, Family Listening, and Leisure Series: Seniors Prefer Rentals over Purchases. Jane Ross, Right, of Bookteller in Wellesley Hills, Mass., Helps Maxine Hegsted Check out a Tape. BY MELANIE STETSON FREEMAN - STAFF

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Seniors Affinity for Audiobooks, Family Listening, and Leisure Series: Seniors Prefer Rentals over Purchases. Jane Ross, Right, of Bookteller in Wellesley Hills, Mass., Helps Maxine Hegsted Check out a Tape. BY MELANIE STETSON FREEMAN - STAFF

Article excerpt

Joan and Fred Howes never leave home without them.

Before heading off on one of their frequent car trips, the couple visits an audiobook store near their home in Georgetown, Texas. "We pick up enough tapes to last for the entire trip," says Mrs. Howes, who, like her husband, is retired.

As the miles roll by, so do mysteries, biographies, novels, and adventure tales - an eclectic mix she cheerfully calls "the whole waterfront" of literature. "We tend to like suspense when we're traveling," she adds. "It keeps us more alert." Although retirees still account for a relatively small part of the audiobook market, older enthusiasts are quick to point out the advantages: portability, high-quality recordings, and the chance to share books and ideas by listening with family members or friends. Jan Nathan, executive director of the Audio Publishers Association in Manhattan Beach, Calif., explains that the primary users of audiobooks are those in their mid-40s with average incomes in the $50,000-plus range. "That's probably going to preclude older people from buying them," Ms. Nathan says. "But they may be great users, because they rent them from the library." Hank Barfeld, collection specialist at the Arlington Heights (Ill.) Memorial Library, agrees. "Seniors make up a sizable percentage of our patrons," he says. Many older listeners also rent audiobooks from stores. Noting that many library budgets have been cut back, Tony Zavaleta, manager of Earful of Books in Austin, Texas, says, "We have the selections that libraries do not." He and other audiobook store managers note that older listeners' preferences are as wide-ranging as any other group's. "They're just like the rest of my customers," says Betty Henley, co-owner of Audio Book Central in Belmont, Calif. "One customer wants the classics, another wants salacious bestsellers. One sweet little lady said, 'I want something romantic.' Somebody else said, 'Not too many of those kinds of words.' I knew what she meant." Mr. Zavaleta adds, "If anything is a little more popular with older folks, it's biographies and history titles. Probably they have more insight into history. …

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