This review is for people who already know that the book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, is valuable and who are now trying to choose which audio version would be most useful for themselves or for people they know. I recently bought three different audio CD versions (plus a few copies of the book) as gifts for people with different personalities and learning styles. I am also familiar with some older products.
Sometimes the product descriptions don't give you a clear idea which product you're reading about. Check the running times of audio products to determine if they're similar to the ones described below:
REVIEW #1 - UNABRIDGED AUDIO BOOK (CD or Download)
The product on this page (as I write this review) is an UNABRIDGED AUDIO CD VERSION of the 15th anniversary edition of the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Unabridged Audio Program). It would be ideal for people who are ready for a personal plan to study and apply the principles in the book to their own lives, but who need a little extra "push". I would suggest listening to the CDs before or while studying corresponding segments of the book, either alone or with someone else. The encouraging, calm and authentic voice of the author gives an extra dimension to the text - keeps you focused. Regularly scheduled study or discussion sessions could be short, as each CD is divided into several tracks which basically follow the headings and sub-headings in the book. This CD product demonstrates how well the book was written, as the text flows so nicely when read by the author. It includes some introductory and explanatory comments in addition to the text in the book.
This could be a 5-star product for people who plan to use it along with the book or after having read the book. It is probably not the most efficient "stand-alone" learning tool for most people - the printed book is. It may be good for those who have more time for listening (about 14 hours on 13 disks) than for reading and who are good at learning by hearing. The discs come with a little "study guide" booklet, which I think was created for an earlier audio product. The booklet is good for review, but seeing the diagrams in the original book is more useful if you are reading along with the audio version. I find the occasional introductory music in the audio program a little distracting, but the author's reading is engaging.
REVIEW #2 - THREE DISC PROGRAM (and corresponding download)
Of the audio products I have listened to, the one I would consider to be "5 star" as a stand-alone learning tool (either for individual or small-group listening) is the 3-DISC "AUDIOBOOK ON CD" (circa 2001-2002) which says, "Taught by the Author" on the cover rather than "Unabridged, read by the author". The 3-CD set The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is intermittently available at Amazon. However, it is not really an "Audiobook". It is also very different from the one-CD product described in the "Product Description".
This product presents information partly in a seminar or classroom lecture format, with comments by people on how they have applied some of the principles in their own lives. The importance of integrity and trust in interpersonal and business relationships seem to get extra emphasis in this audio product. Running time is about 3 hours, 20 minutes.
This is probably the most useful audio product for people who don't like to read much, but it also complements the book without following it too closely. It comes with a useful little study guide summarizing the "7 habits", which includes some of the diagrams found in the book. The booklet is handy as an overview, even if you have the book. I believe that this product is more suitable for non-optimal listening situations (in the car, etc.) than is the 13-disc unabridged audio book, which, like the printed book, seems to call for a quiet setting where you can devote your full attention.
Each CD in the 3-disc set is divided into short one or two minute tracks (sometimes with several tracks in a single topic segment) so you can pause easily for reflection or discussion. Divisions between the short tracks are not evident as you are listening. Some reviewers have noted troublesome differences in volume between the text and short musical "bumpers" between topics. This bothered me a little on one of the CD players I listened with. You might try turning down the treble or turning the volume up and moving further from the machine if the relative loudness of the music bothers you.
Update May 2010: A download is now available. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. You might want to also purchase the original book, which contains all the diagrams in the booklet which accompanies the CD set, plus much more.
In case the set is not available at Amazon, Franklin-Covey sells a (more expensive) 3-CD set which is likely similar to the product described above, with different cover art. Conant-Nightingale sells a 6-CD set which I would also expect to be a quality product.
REVIEW #3 - ONE-DISC OVERVIEW
The SIMON & SCHUSTER SINGLE-DISC CD version (copyright 1999) of the old, original Simon and Schuster audiocassette product also should not really be classified as an "audiobook". by Stephen R. Covey (Author)7 Habits Of Highly Effective People [Audio CD, Abridged, Audiobook, CD] In its day, the audiocassette version was a very well-produced, lucid overview of the original book with introductory statements by a female narrator, then explanations and examples by Dr. Covey from his professional seminars. The tape version was useful as motivation to read, teach, apply or to think more deeply about the book than as an independent learning tool. It was a big seller when the book was making a big splash.
Simon & Schuster dropped the ball when they put the CD version onto a single track of about 72 minutes. You may need to be prepared to listen to the whole CD in one sitting. I now cannot find this product on Amazon, but I do see a new, more expensive 1-CD product called a "15th anniversary edition", publishing date 2005. The product information states that the publisher is Simon & Schuster, but the image says FranklinCovey. It may be a new release of the original audiocasette. I would check to see if multiple tracks have been added before buying it. You might consider a DVD if you're looking for a single-sitting refresher or motivator. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Foundational Principles
OTHER RELATED PRODUCTS
I notice that FranklinCovey is now coming out with a new "SIGNATURE SERIES" of CDs in which one CD is devoted to each of the "7 habits". I am not familiar with this product. The CDs are sold as a set or individually.
Some other audio products and "spin-off" products have been introduced over the years. I much prefer the products which present information in an organized manner to those which present seemingly random motivational thoughts (like Daily Reflections for Highly Effective People: Living the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Every Day, cards, calendars, etc.). Many of the "spin-off" products would be far less valuable than the original book to people not familiar with the book. The products which present random (though often excellent) thoughts may be useful for some people who are already familiar with the book and who are interested in applying its principles.
Living the 7 Habits: The Courage to Change coould be inspirational to people who think that corporate over-achievers are the only people who can benefit from the original book. It includes stories of people in some really difficult situations who have changed their lives by applying the "7 Habits".