Listening Books

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Listening Books is a UK charity that provides a subsidised subscription[1] online and postal audiobook library service to anyone unable to read a print text due to an illness, disability, learning difficulty or mental illness.[2] The charity's patron is Stephen Fry.[3]


The charity was founded in 1959 by Norma Skemp, after a serious car accident in 1954 caused her to virtually lose her sight and she recognised a gap in provision for people with disabilities.[4] The charity has grown significantly since then to provide audiobooks to people with the full range of print impairments.


The charity provides audiobooks in three different formats - MP3 CDs, downloads and streaming.

MP3 CD Service[edit]

Members can borrow 4 or more MP3 CD audiobooks at any one time, and exchange them as often as they like throughout their membership. As soon as one disc is returned, the charity will send another out. All postage and packaging is free.[5] The charity uses MP3 CDs as they hold a lot more information than standard CDs. For example, an audiobook that may be ten standard CDs long can fit onto one MP3 CD.[6]

Downloading and Streaming[edit]

The charity uses the Overdrive service for both downloading and streaming. Members can download or stream at least 2 different audiobooks at any one time up to a maximum of 10 per week and choose a lending period between 7 and 21 days. Audiobook titles are automatically returned. All titles can be directly downloaded to or streamed on a PC, Mac, portable Apple or Android device, as well as many other mp3 players.[7]

Mini Libraries[edit]

The charity also provides mini libraries designed specifically for hospices and care homes consisting of 200 audiobooks on MP3 CD spanning all genres. These were created for activity provision and can be tailored to the needs of the specific hospice or care home.[8]

Sound Learning[edit]

Sound Learning is Listening Books' educational initiative. The pilot project involved 25 secondary schools in London and 100 individual members across the country, with the results confirming the importance of children with special educational needs (SEN) and disabilities having the same access to the texts their peers are reading.[9] The charity now supports the National Curriculum from Key Stage 2 to A-Level, providing set texts and study guides on audio.[10]

Audiobook Production[edit]

Listening Books have studios in Southwark. They offer a comprehensive production service to create audiobooks.[11] The charity also records many educational books for use in their Sound Learning catalogue.


  1. ^ You and Yours, BBC Radio 4, 16 May 2005; transcript accessed 20 August 2008
  2. ^ "Listening Books – UK audiobook charity | What we do". Retrieved 2016-12-21. 
  3. ^ "An audio track of Stephen Fry discussing his patronage of the Listening Books charity". 
  4. ^ "Our History", Listening Books website accessed 5 February 2012
  5. ^ "Listening Books â€" UK audiobook charity | Stephen Fry - Patron". Retrieved 2016-12-21. 
  6. ^ "Listening Books â€" UK audiobook charity | Stephen Fry - Patron". Retrieved 2016-12-21. 
  7. ^ "Listening Books | Downloadable". Retrieved 2016-12-21. 
  8. ^ "Listening Books". Retrieved 2016-12-21. 
  9. ^ "Sound Learning – UK audiobook charity | National Curriculum". Retrieved 2016-12-21. 
  10. ^ "Sound Learning". Retrieved 2016-12-21. 
  11. ^ "Listening Books | Audiobook Production". Retrieved 2016-12-21.