Penguin donating audiobooks to hospital and prison radio stations to offer comfort and escape during coronavirus pandemic

Recording for prison radio

Penguin Random House is partnering with Hospital Radio and National Prison Radio to broadcast free audiobooks to patients in NHS hospitals and people in prison across the UK, offering comfort, escape and entertainment at a time of desperate need.

Audiobook listening has already seen a boom in popularity in recent years, with sales increasing by 43% year-on-year in 2018 and it’s estimated that nearly 10% of the UK population are listening to audiobooks regularly. Now, along with all formats of audio streaming, audiobooks are seeing a spike in listeners during the current coronavirus pandemic, with many pointing to the positive impact listening to audio has in reducing stress and supporting mental wellbeing. 

Hospital Radio partnership

The Hospital Broadcasting Association is a charity supporting a network of 200 volunteer-run hospital radio stations which broadcast direct to patients’ bedsides in every NHS hospital in England.

During the current crisis, there are strict limitations on visiting patients in hospital – including for those not admitted for COVID-19 reasons – meaning many patients are in even more need of comfort and distraction than ever before.

A collection of 30 carefully curated audiobooks have been donated, with each station able to choose which titles they want to broadcast. The donation includes the following titles:

Nigel Dallard, a Trustee of the Hospital Broadcasting Association said: "Whilst some patients might have a smartphone or tablet and the ability to download e-books to read whilst in hospital, many will not. This kind offer from Penguin Random House will enable hospital radio stations to broaden the entertainment they are able to offer to include audio books as well as the music-led programmes that are the mainstay of hospital radio, helping to relieve the anxiety and boredom of a stay in hospital".

National Prison Radio partnership

Made by prisoners, for prisoners, National Prison Radio broadcasts live into the cells of 110 prisons across England and Wales. The award-winning station is run by the Prison Radio Association charity and offers a unique, innovative and effective way to communicate with prisoners and engage them in education, debate and community – aiming to reduce re-offending. 76% of prisoners listen to the radio station.

The prison population is particularly vulnerable during COVID-19 - half of prisons in England and Wales have confirmed cases of coronavirus. As a result, many prisons are on stricter lockdown measures, meaning that many inmates are confined to their cells for large portions of the day and activities are on hold.

A collection of 30 carefully curated audiobooks have been donated for broadcast in a new ‘Penguin Life Stories’ programme each week, and will also be made available for Radio Wanno – HMP Wandsworth’s radio station. The list includes the following titles:

As part of the partnership, author Lee Child – one of the most popular authors read via prison libraries – will be taking part in a Q&A for broadcast on the radio station, with inmates submitting questions in advance.

A prisoner at HMP Channings Wood said: 'Listening to [audio books] helps me with anxiety and stress release. Reading stops me thinking of negative situations.'

A photo of a prisoner broadcasting on the prison radio

Siena Parker, Head of Creative Responsibility for Penguin Random House UK said: 'Listening to an audiobook can help you escape into another world. We hope that these donations will help to offer comfort, lift spirits and provide much-needed entertainment to some of the people most affected by the current crisis.'

This news follows Penguin Random House UK’s partnership with social enterprise Neighbourly to distribute thousands of physical books to frontline community causes supporting those most affected by the coronavirus crisis, including via food banks and homeless shelters. 

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