Audio books to travel with the mind as you travel with the car

We spend a lot of time in cars. Sometimes too much. The INRIX transportation consultancy measured traffic congestion in 1,360 cities in 38 countries to determine just how much time we waste each year in traffic jams. Los Angeles was in first place: its drivers spent an average of 102 hours with their cars stopped. Moscow and New York were also on the podium, each with 91 hours lost. A little farther away were São Paulo, with a total of 86 hours, and then the European countries, far behind that. In Madrid, for example, some 40 hours are lost annually to congestion.

What can you do in 100 hours? Listen to five novels (for the time being) in the George R. R. Martin saga A Song of Ice and Fire. According to a study made with artificial intelligence, 98.33 hours would be necessary to finish Game of Thrones (of the famous HBO series), A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons. Other books that were analyzed in the study were the Bible, whose reading from start to finish requires  43.79 hours, The Lord of the Rings (26.28 hours) and Don Quixote (21.72).


For some years now, it has been possible to use both these formats. Audio books are more and more popular all over the world and can transform a tedious traffic jam into a pleasant experience. You can make your drive to the office into a voyage to other worlds. For example, the audio books in the universe of R.R. Martin have been a huge success.

This is because, among other reasons, the version in English is read by the actor Roy Dotrice, who played pyromancer Wisdom Hallyne in the second season of the Game of Thrones series. The actor, who recently died, has the Guinness record for lending his voice to the greatest number of different characters: no fewer than 224.


Most best sellers are offered in an audio book form, especially those in the category of essays, which provide practical information and don’t require a great deal of concentration from occupants of a car. Also successful are works in the terror category, which can be even more attractive when being read. In this genre, Stephen King is especially prolific: he himself narrates his autobiographical On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. And the most popular narrated romantic novels have a special queen: author Megan Maxwell.


Before choosing a book we should select a platform, because most of them must be paid for. They include Audible (the property of Amazon), which is present almost everywhere in the world. Kobo, owned by the Japanese giant Rakuten, is also a good option because it uses many languages and offers many titles. The Swedish Storytel firm also has a good selection of titles and languages, in addition to offering many titles in both written and spoken form, so that the reader/listener can use both formats depending on where he is. Another offering from Sweden is Spotify: in addition to its songs and podcasts, there is a limited selection of classic books. Finally, iVoox is a more open alternative. It is free, and most of its audio books are not authorized; rather, altruistic fans provide readings of their favorite books.

Books are not the only things that are listened to. In recent years, newspapers from all over the world have offered their subscribers an audio version of their most popular stories. The pioneer in this field was the New York Times: at the start of many of its long feature articles, an audio version is offered. The New Yorker, famous for its very long pieces, adapts many of them for the audio format, although in view of the diversity of voices and sound effects, they might almost be considered podcasts. Finally, in Spanish, the El País daily newspaper presents three audio articles each week, narrated by the same journalists who wrote them. 


Losing one’s time is sometimes advisable, but doing so while shut up in a car can be a frustrating experience. That’s why there are alternatives beyond playing your old songs or shouting at the driver in front of you. Audio books can be an alternative. A communion between the physical trip and a metaphoric one.