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How to Get in Sync with SYNC

Now entering its 13th season (starting April 28), SYNC attracts new participants annually. Anyone new to SYNC understandably might have some practical questions. What is this free program of audiobook giveaways, and how does it work?

Hosted by AudioFile Magazine, and delivered through OverDrive’s Sora app (which can be used on a computer, smartphone, tablet, or any device connecting to the Internet), SYNC provides free digital downloads to individuals (not to institutions). Each title is available to download for only one week. However, once downloaded, you can keep it on your Sora shelf and access it anytime for 99 years. There is no catch: This is not a subscription or a promotion coupled with a purchase.

Sora is the app that OverDrive developed to deliver e-audiobooks and e-books to students in school settings. However, SYNC participants gain entry to the program’s titles through a “school” called “audiobooksync” that anyone, anywhere in the world, can join. To download SYNC titles, you must register for the “school” called audiobooksync in the Sora app; you cannot access these to keep by pointing Sora to the school you attend in real life, and you can access these without being enrolled in any school other than the Sora app’s AudiobookSYNC “school.”

The purpose of SYNC is to provide opportunities for teens to explore a wide variety of genres, themes, and performance types through audiobooks. Becoming an attentive listener is a literacy skill as well as a social and civic engagement skill. The program’s target group is teens, and so titles selected for the program are of high interest to those within this age range. Some of the titles skew toward the younger end of the range, and some are adult titles with high teen appeal; of course, many fall in the middle or cover the whole range. Anyone 13 and over (so that includes adults, too) can join. Just keep in mind that content is intended to meet the interests, and some academic needs, of teens. While the program is available from every country, the audiobooks are published in English and are the same recordings available commercially from these publishers.

Each week offers a different thematically linked pair of audiobooks. The thematic link may be content, genre, performance style, or another attribute specific to both titles in the pair. This year’s SYNC slate includes biographies, fantasy novels, and mysteries. There are classics and other titles based directly on works of classic literature. Authentic voices that include narrator identification with author and character culture are the rule. There are documentary histories and some historical fiction titles as well. Favorite authors we try to feature annually are here, including Arthur Conan Doyle, Francisco X. Stork, and Bill Konigsberg. Authors hail from Ukraine, South Africa, Kenya, Germany, Argentina, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Narration styles include single narrator readings and single narrators delivering fully-voiced performances in which one person creates and sustains multiple voices for specific characters. There are dual narrations (two actors), and full-cast audiobooks, too. Returning favorite SYNC narrators include Robin Miles, Ron Butler, Dan Bittner, Soneela Nankani, and Frankie Corzo. No one is expected to love all 32 audiobooks; however, there is definitely something—and likely several somethings—for everyone among these.

To receive either or both of a week’s featured pair, participants must choose to download the title or titles to their Sora shelf. There is no passive delivery system, so participants can pick and choose what appeals. However, once the week ends (each Wednesday night at 11 PM Eastern Time), the pair for that week cannot be downloaded. So, when in doubt, download them while you can. The new pair arrives on the site at midnight Eastern Time.

What else does SYNC provide? In the weeks leading up to the April 28 launch of the 2022 program, you can find added promotional materials on the SYNC site. If you are a teacher, librarian, or group leader and want to amplify the information about SYNC to reach local teens, you will find posters and clips in our Toolkit. Connect with us on any of our social media channels, too, including Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest, to find out new SYNC and other audiobook news. And be sure to share your own efforts to expand the reach of the program and highlight how local listeners are responding to specific audiobooks. Use the hashtag #audiobooksync2022.

Each week during the SYNC season we will share information about the current pair of audiobooks beyond their reviews. We will feature ideas for discussions, interviews with the authors and narrators who made the audiobook what it is, and background information about the content when that would help listeners relate more fully to the theme or specific title.

In 2021, SYNC gave away more than 99,000 downloaded audiobooks. Help us go well beyond the 100,000 mark this season!

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