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Audiobooks in German

German books on tape and CD

Harry Potter 1 Audiobook I have been enjoying my German audiobook edition of Harry Potter und der Stein der Weisen so much that I thought it was time to talk about Hörbücher (audiobooks) in German. What a pleasure they can be for both German-learners and those who simply enjoy listening to German being spoken the way it should be, by a talented narrator.

I purchased my German audiobook of The Philosopher's Stone in Germany, but Hörbücher are also available online and from German bookstores in the US. (Minor mystery: Why did they change the English title to The Sorcerer's Stone in the US?) The Harry Potter six-cassette set (it was not then available on CD) only cost me about 20 euro (about $20 US at that time) at Thalia Bücher (a chain bookstore) at a shopping mall in "downtown" Berlin-Köpenick. (One advantage of audiobooks in Germany is that, unlike books in print, there are no legal price restrictions on sound media, and if one is lucky, a discounted Hörbuch can cost less than the hardcover copy of the same title. But in this case I also bought the book, since I wanted it as well.)

In addition to the Harry Potter series, there are now thousands of audio titles available in German—in every category from Klassiker to Krimi. The audiobook phenomenon seems to be a growing worldwide trend. Whether in Germany, the US or elsewhere, listening to a book while jogging or commuting to work is becoming more and more popular. According to one study, 70% of Americans who listen to audiobooks do so mostly in their cars.

For intermediate or higher students of the German language, having the German and English versions of the same book can be an interesting and very enjoyable learning experience. If you want to see some specific Harry Potter examples, look at some former Wörter der Woche (Words of the Week) in our special Harry Potter archive.

Of course, you have many alternatives if you don't want to read a "children's book" (but I think Harry Potter is more than that). There are now several German publishers specializing in the production and distribution of audiobooks. These include Der Audio Verlag (DAV), Der Hörverlag, Reclam Hörbuch, Heyne Hörbuch and others. Here are just a few of the Hörbuch categories you can choose from:

  • Biografie (famous Germans or other notables)
  • Erotik (no translation needed)
  • Geschichte/Politik (history, politics)
  • Humor/Satire (original German or translated into German)
  • Kinder/Märchen (children's stories, fairy tales)
  • Klassiker (classic literature)
  • Krimi (detective stories)
  • Mystery/Thriller (such as Tom Clancy's Operation Rainbow)
  • Philosophie/Religion (something Germans are known for!)
  • Reisen (travel)
  • Science fiction (Perry Rhodan is a famous German sci-fi series)

Some audiobooks, such as Per Anhalter ins All (Hitchhiker's Guide into Space) by Douglas Adams of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Per Anhalter durch die Galaxis) fame, defy categorizing. Is Per Anhalter ins All humor, satire, sci-fi or all of those? Actually, this is a Hörspiel (an audio play) with music that I found under sci-fi. Adams teamed up with Monty Python's Terry Jones to create this Hörspielabenteuer and another called Raumschiff Titanic (“Spaceship Titanic”). Both are from Der Audio Verlag (DAV, “Mehr Hören. Mehr Erleben.”).

If you're not sure about a particular book, it is possible to hear some sound samples online. In our Audiobooks - Hörbücher category, you'll find a few links to bookstores and publishers that offer eine Hörprobe. Most of these audio samples only last about two minutes, while the entire six-cassette Harry Potter set contains over nine-and-a-half hours of Rufus Beck's enjoyable narration! Unlike a printed book, you can't curl up with an audiobook and finish reading it in a few hours. It's a long-term listening experience. The nine-and-a-half hours of the audio Harry Potter Eins also happen to be about the length of a jet flight between the West Coast of the US and Germany – or the desert drive from Reno to Las Vegas. Just make sure you have enough batteries for your CD or tape player on the plane!

Now you may want to try our audiobook links for German and the sample Harry Potter vocabulary in German and English. Also see the article Deutsche Krimis und andere Bücher. And enjoy your reading... I mean your listening!

MORE on HARRY > "Harry Potter" for German-Learners

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