We opened SYNC: Audiobooks for Teens’s 10th season this week! The lineup of teen titles this year seems like the best ever, including everything from Shakespeare’s OTHELLO to BECOMING KAREEM by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The diversity of titles clearly reflects the interests of teen listeners. This is confirmed by our many colleagues in the school media and library fields who help promote the program and get the word out to their teens.
What were we thinking in 2009 when I sat down with library colleagues Sharon Grover, Francisca Goldsmith, Mary Burkey, Lizette Hannigan, and Kirsten Cappy? We were all dedicated to getting teens to be avid listeners. Summer seemed like an optimum time—making use of the summer reading programs and school reading lists. “Free” always has a good ring to it, but would authors and publishers want to partner with us? Thanks to great title choices—THE HUNGER GAMES, BLOODY JACK—and support from audio publishers, the authors, and Overdrive, we put together the first season. In week one, 900 copies of the audiobooks were downloaded. The biggest week—featuring THE HUNGER GAMES—served 2,400 copies. Each week, we paired a classic from well-worn summer reading lists, such as OLIVER TWIST and FRANKENSTEIN, with a contemporary young adult title like DOES MY HEAD LOOK BIG IN THIS? and HANDBOOK FOR BOYS.
The first season was a success, serving nearly 20,000 listeners, and libraries across the country started to bring the project into their summer programs. Of course, everyone wanted more. Our all-important user survey at the end of the season brought many comments and ideas for our planning. As we have gone from season to season, the program has grown exponentially. In 2018, more than 168,000 audiobooks were distributed from the SYNC program. We reach teen listeners and adult advocates with text alerts and email. When we initiated the weekly text alerts, we knew that we were reaching the teen audience when complaints rolled in about sending the texts too early in the morning. We now let the teens sleep in and send the texts at noon on the first day new audiobook titles are available each week.
We’ve gotten important feedback from our SYNC survey—40% of listeners said that SYNC audiobooks led them to other listening or reading.
“I love audiobooks, because they let me hear how to pronounce the names, help me understand the tone of the book, and let me do other things simultaneously.” —Teen Listener
81% of educators and librarians surveyed said they see a use for SYNC audiobooks in their curriculum.
“This has been a great service for my students. Often, they are unable to get to the library and don’t have funds to buy books. THANK YOU!” —Librarian
Most satisfying, perhaps, is knowing that we have so many young listeners using audiobooks and making them part of their lives. From the newest 2019 research on audiobook usage nationwide, 16% of all audiobook listeners are ages 18-24—we hope that some of them got their start with a SYNC audiobook! We’re off and running with the 10th season now—do take a minute to look at the great lineup of audiobooks. And please share the AudiobookSYNC program with a teen or parent, librarian, or teacher who might use it or who might help to spread the word.