Each December in ALCS News, we highlight a Christmas good cause with a special resonance for writers. This year, with the current boom in the popularity of audiobooks, may we suggest supporting the work of Listening Books?

Listening Books is a national UK charity, originally established in 1959 to provide an audiobook library service to children and adults who find it difficult or impossible to read or hold a physical book due to an illness, disability, learning or mental health issue. In more recent years, the work of Listening Books has expanded to provide access to books for adults and children in voluntary run hospices across the UK, including memberships for children in care in partnership with BookTrust through its Letterbox scheme. Most recently, Listening Books has been providing access to its digital library for children in hospital, in partnership with Read for Good.

The Listening Books library has over 8,000 titles including bestselling authors such as JK Rowling, Matt Haig, George RR Martin, Philip Pullman, Lee Child and many more. Audiobooks are available to download through an app on a tablet or smartphone, to stream online, or sent direct through the letterbox on MP3 or CD with no postage costs or late fees. Membership, which is heavily subsidised, starts from as little as £20 per year, and this allows people to access up to 10 audiobooks a week, totalling 520 audiobooks a year. Listening Books can also provide free memberships for anyone who might find it difficult to cover the annual membership fee.

Audiobooks fulfil a vital function for Listening Books members, not just in helping them to relax and in relieving stress, but also in providing a connection to the outside world, a refuge from loneliness and a distraction from pain.  Here’s a moving statement of appreciation from the parent of one member:

“A couple of months ago, Martin was diagnosed as having autism (Asperger’s). Being a member of Listening Books has allowed our son to enjoy books at his age level. But I realise now it goes well beyond that. He has difficulty in social situations and making conversation with his friends. Having access (through audiobooks) to the books his friends are interested in too has allowed him to join in conversations and build up the social skills he needs. That is priceless. He can also get a bit anxious.  When this happens, he always turns on an audiobook and it helps him calm down. He also listens before bed as a way of winding down – something he has difficulty with. I cannot express how grateful I am to the authors who allow their books to be a part of Listening Books and to all those who make this charity work. The impact this charity has, perhaps cannot be measured quantitatively, but I just know it has had a major impact on my son’s life.”

To raise extra funds for the charity, Listening Books has also created Listening Books Productions, to help authors and publishers to create their own work in the audiobook format. You can find out more at

Listening Books could not survive without the donations it receives from charitable trusts and individuals. It needs to raise enough money each year to provide an essential service to approximately 50,000 members who range in age from 6-100 and live throughout the UK. Donations go towards helping the widest range of people with varying disabilities including dyslexia, arthritis, cerebral palsy, ME, MS, glaucoma and autism to name just a few.

  • £20 pays the average daily expenses of one volunteer to come in and help at the charity.
  • £65 pays the average cost of one additional title for the library.
  • £110 pays the average cost of one computer tablet for a hospice or hospital.
  • £150 pays the true cost of one year’s membership for an individual.
  • £600 pays for one average month’s postage bill. More than three quarters of members do not qualify for the ‘Articles for the Blind’ scheme, so Listening Books pays the postage for them.

A member at a hospice using the service on a tablet.

To donate to Listening Books, visit:

To find out more about how to become a member, please visit the Listening Books website. You can also email or call 020 7407 9417.