Audio bibles!

by K.W. Leslie, 10 November 2016

No doubt you know about audiobooks. Well, the audio bible is simply an audiobook of the bible. A really big audiobook, ’cause the bible’s not a little book.

Just as many book publishers try to produce an audiobook version, many bible publishers do likewise with their bible translations. Sometimes it’s a straight reading. Sometimes they play soft music in the background. Sometimes they dramatize it: They hire actors to play different people in the bible, and add sound effects and music. Sometimes they overdramatize it, and hire really bad actors who put zero thought into the motivations or meaning of the folks in the bible. The first dramatized audio bible I ever heard, it was so over-the-top I gave up on dramatized bibles for a decade. They’ve improved since. Well, some have.

Anyway, I’d recommend you get an audio bible. I’ve provided links to some inexpensive and free ones.

They have their pros and cons. Obviously I think their positives outweigh the negatives. If you’re struggling with the discipline to read through the whole bible, an audio bible will help. If you have a reading disability, they solve that problem. If you have a short attention span, they can help—you won’t get distracted by study bible notes and cross references. However you may still be distracted by birds chirping outside. Some folks can’t focus on any kind of book. But hey, it’s worth a shot.

The main drawback is an audio bible goes at its own pace. Not yours. Unless you’re quick at the stop and rewind buttons, it’s not like a written bible, where you can go back and reread a sentence: It just plows ahead. It sometimes makes it tricky to meditate on what you just listened to.

And of course if you get it on disc or tape, it’s not a small book. That’s a lot of discs to lug around… and scratch, and lose. Me, I switched to the MP3 format as soon as I could.

Free stuff first!

If you wanna stream the bible over the internet, instead of sticking it on your computer, phone, tablet, or media player, that’s fine.

Of course, some of us wanna download the bible, just in case the wifi’s not working. (Or, like me, you have an old-school iPod.)

Poke around your computer’s app store as well. Bear in mind some of those apps may include a free bible or two (like the public-domain KJV), but charge you extra for audio bibles. Don’t pay for anything unless they let you download and keep the audio files. You don’t need to rent access to audio bibles when you can hear ’em free off Bible Gateway.

Inexpensive audio bibles.

Some audio bibles are prohibitively expensive. Not all of us can afford an $80 audio bible. I sure couldn’t, when they first came out. I checked out a bible on tape from the public library, and tried to listen to the whole thing within four weeks. Didn’t succeed. Tried to renew it; not possible. (Huge waiting list.)

Prices have come way down since. The only time it gets annoyingly expensive is if you gotta have a particular translation. For a while I only wanted a non-dramatized NRSV bible, and I simply couldn’t find one. Now it exists, but remember what I said about $80 audio bibles? Anyway, it’s too late: I’m no longer particular about translations.

Some booksellers let you buy individual books. iTunes in particular will let you buy The Bible Experience (TNIV) or The Word of Promise (NKJV) piecemeal. Buy your favorite books, or buy ’em as you have room in the budget.

And don’t forget used books! Plenty of Christians have bibles they never read, and never think to resell them… but audio bibles cost ’em a bundle, so sometimes they do think of selling them. Look around.

Maybe do it yourself?

Lastly, here’s an interesting do-it-yourself project, if you’re up for it: Get out your digital audio recorder and your favorite translation, and record yourself reading the bible.

Seriously. You don’t need to do a “professional” job, or have the best sound quality. You just have to read your bible, out loud, and record it. You can repeat the verses as many times as you want for emphasis, or for memorization. You can read selected passages as part of your daily devotional time. You can read different translations for comparison. You can do all sorts of things when you produce your own audio bible.

Got kids? When your kids discover your recordings decades later, they’ll be heirlooms. Provided you didn’t record them on some obsolete audio format, or on a digital recorder which can’t transfer files. Also provided you raised your kids Christian. Hope so.

In any case, it’s an idea to consider, right?