As we get older, many of us experience very similar side effects of aging. A very commonly share side effect of aging is the noticeable slowdown of our brain capacity. According to ‘The Rise and Fall of Cognitive Skills’ on news.mit.edu1, Scientists have studied a concept called “fluid intelligence”, which is our ability to think very quickly and recall information from pretty much anywhere. This phenomenon peaks at around the age of 20 or so, then begins a slow, steady, and very sad decline. As we get older, we tend to get better as some things, and worse at many others.
The common denominator appears to be repetition. The more you do something, the more exercised you are at that particular task and support around the task greatly improves. If you were to work out regularly, your muscles will retain muscle memory and all supporting muscles will know to kick in when needed. If you're not an avid exerciser, you may notice your stabilizer or supporting muscles quiver and panic when challenged with unfamiliar movements and weights. Similarly, your mind can be lost or severely deteriorated if not consistently challenged.
According to wikihow.life2, one of the top ten techniques to improve your brain capacity, is by challenging your mind. Basically, we just have to keep learning. As we learn, the structure of our neurons, neuron pathways, and the connections between them will modify as we learn and internalize information. Challenging our brain engines can take many forms. This could include traveling, learning to play a musical instrument or singing, speaking a foreign language, community involvement, but most importantly, reading books.
Many of us are victims of the rise of the smart phone era where we get our news and stories from social media and quick news sound bites. Unfortunately, this does not engage the proper parts of the brain. In many instance, it has an adverse effect, resulting in distraction and challenged focus. We have so much information at our finger tips, we lose sight of the importance of libraries and stopping to read a physical magazine every now and then. Reading becomes more challenging as we get older and take on more responsibilities. The time to sit down and absorb books is almost non-existent when you have small children who aren’t nearly as enthusiastic in your smarty pants books as you. This is why the rise of audio books have become so crucial. They’ll give you the stimulation of learning something new on the go, when sometimes that is your only available time. Sure it may not engage the focus a physical book could, but positive brain stimulation is the ultimate goal.
Openculture.com3 is a great free website where you can download hundreds of free audiobooks. These books can be downloaded to your mp3 player, computer or laptop and respective digital readers. Not only are there fiction and non-fiction audiobooks to choose from, but you can also choose from a large selection of online courses. There are over 1,300 free online courses to choose from, 150 free business courses and free education courses for kindergarteners to 12th graders. Open Culture even goes as far as offering free language courses. They boast being one of the few free websites that offer free courses for future credentialing. They’ll even give you a certificate of completion if you were to desire to pursue a certification. The website carries a wide array of educational books, movies, etc. that can be taken with you on the go.
Here are a few pros and cons of using OpenCulture.com to consider when searching for a site that’ll meet all of your audio books desires.
Open culture is completely free, which tends to fit in any budget. It is considerably easy to browse by an author’s name. There is unrivaled access to e-books, textbooks, online courses, and language lessons in addition to audiobooks, so you’ll never get uninterested.
It has been noticed that some of the search functionality on the website can be a bit confusing and a turn-off to the website. Though there is a lot of material on there, all books may not be available in your desired format.
Librivox.com4 is unique in that the website consists of volunteers from all over the world. These same volunteers read and record the audio books and make them available from their website as well as other digital outlets. Once you get to the home page of the website, it give you the option to either volunteer to read and record public domain texts and create a free audiobook, or just listen to stories of choice. It provides a very unique user experience and makes the reader feel like they are a part of an intimate community.
Like Open Culture, Audiobooks are available in many languages from all around the world and the website is complete free. A very convenient feature is that you can actually keep all of your selected downloads. Another very unique feature of this website is some books have been recorded by different people, which allows you to choose how you’d like to hear the story relayed to you.
Unfortunately, because it’s a free site, all volunteer narrators are accepted. This means quality recordings could be hit or miss. You may have a few stores that may not sound as professional as they could or should. It has also been observed that there is limited selection as most public domain books were published more than 100 years ago.
You can once again find Overdrive for a price of completely free. Overdrive offers thousands of titles and you can even download some select items for use offline, which is fantastic for very long plane flights.
Interestingly enough, you’ll need a local library card to use Overdrive, which depending on your perspective, is pretty cool. According to Statista.com5, library card ownership took a slight 1% decline from 2014 to 2015 but has seen a 5% decline from 2008. Requiring library card ownership would make people go to the library, which is in danger of becoming extinct with the rise of Ereaders. The website has also been known to be pretty confusing to get around. It’s not the most user friendly sight you can find.
Lastly, and kind of a big bummer, is users can only access titles that are available from their local library or school. Which begs the question, if I have to get a library card from the library and I can only get the titles that are already there, why not just stay at the library? Once again, these are great resources to have on the go to continue to stimulate your brain and engage your focus.
Here are few more great sites to check out: