Wired for Sound

Each week The Sunday Times publishes list of  the top ten selling books in the non-fiction and fiction categories (…hard and softback).  This week the total week’s sales for the top 10 fiction titles (hard and softback) is 187,000 while for non-fiction it is  about of third of that… 65,000.  Yet each week there are many more pages devoted to reviews  of non-fiction books than for fiction – this week non-fiction reviews cover 8 pages while fiction reviews only get 3 pages.

I’ve no idea why this is…  it doesn’t make sense.

Yet now we have audio books also – and it turns out that many books are selling more in audio format that in the combined hard and software back sales.  We are seeing renowned authors writing to go “straight to audio” – and audio rights  are often sold separately to the print rights… and for much larger sums.  Now this does make sense.  Generations Y and Z are  busy and on the move – and have never developed the habit of reading from the page.  They carry their phones… and so the audio library is always available to them. In a piece within the Sunday Times Review, Francesca Angelini writes that US audio book sales have risen by over 250% over the last three years.  The figures show the main group of consumers contributing  to this rise are men aged 25-44 who are tech savvy but not traditionally big print readers.

At Carina Sciences we are launching our self-help app to develop resilience thought mindfulness based cognitive therapy: REZL.  It delivers tutorials and guided meditations from your smartphone to your ears… when and where you wish.

When setting out on this journey I was wondering about the effectiveness of such self-help courses in comparison with attending  face to face sessions.

I was encouraged by  the following paper from 2014: “The effectiveness of self-help mindfulness-based cognitive therapy in a student sample: a randomised controlled trial.”  (by Lever Taylor, Billie Lever, Strauss, Clara, Cavanagh, Kate and Jones, Fergal) published in “Behaviour Research and Therapy”( 63. pp. 63-69. ISSN 0005-796).  This study measured  the impact of “self-help” mindfulness based cognitive therapy intervention – up on measures of anxiety, depression, stress, life satisfaction, self-compassion and mindfulness in comparison with a control group.

The study showed: “significant decreases relative to controls in anxiety, depression and stress symptom severity and significant improvements in life satisfaction, mindfulness and self-compassion.”

In fact the study showed improvement effects in every measure that were greater than those which would be expected from therapist-led interventions.   And the effects were persistent – the improved levels were maintained at the subsequent follow-up measurements.

Now, all other thing being equal,  having a human tutor  probably isn’t a bad thing – although there will be some variance in the quality of your tutor and I suppose you have to like them – but I suspect this finding is  about participants being more able to find the right time and right place to properly engage with the training material… and to practice.  Who wants to reduce their stress by having to rush across London for a 18:00 meeting with a therapy group? Further… some people may find face-to-face sessions to be awkward and inhibiting … especially when in the presence of work colleagues (either familiar or not).

So, if you don’t have a good therapist… or if you’re on the move … or more likely, if you find committing to the lessons (or the time to come to town and travel to the sessions) a  problem ….then maybe an app REZL is better for you.

So the convenience of self-help  trumps the therapist,  Yet there are self-help programmes that provide a book and CD… but how many under 40’s will read a book or are able to listen to a CD?  I guess that just like the audio book phenomenon, it seems that self-help is more accessible if it is provided by audio… and on demand – so that busy people can engage within it when they are free from distractions and without introducing more hassle into their lives.

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