Audiobooks

Hoopla Digital introduces ‘Read-Along’ children’s books with audio narration

10 December 2017

From TeleRead:

Starting today, digital library service Hoopla Digital is introducing a new line of “Picture Books with Read-Alongs” for young readers. Unlike Hoopla’s normal ebook titles, which feature traditional reflowable text sized to fit device screens, these Read-Along titles are displayed in specific picture-book layouts, much like PDFs. And they feature an audio player with audio narration, as well as highlighting the word currently being read.

The format is launching with titles from Hoopla’s partners Walt Disney Books, HarperCollins, Lerner, Charlesbridge, and Brittanica. As with Hoopla’s other ebooks, read-along titles can be checked out for up to 21 days.

Link to the rest at TeleRead

Opening the Mind’s Eye

17 October 2017

From No Shelf Required:

Reading by ear allows for a variety of other activities likely to require sight—running, driving, frosting birthday cakes—or no physical access to sight at all—after all, American audiobook publishing was born of the needs of blind readers. However, as with most things in life, there is a middle way: the opportunity for the sighted, or those with memory of the capacity to engage the world with their eyes, to use no organ other than ears and imagination to conjure the visual elements of what is being read. Eyes can be closed so that even the more or less automatic use of physical vision to track print across a page or screen comes out of play.

To read with the ears in this state of unaccompanied eye input is to give an open field to the images and colors the words and phrasings themselves evoke in the mind. This allows the full measure of works rich in such visual recreations to take center stage within, an experience that can be, in seriousness as well as punnery, heady and exhilarating.

. . . .

To hear this collection, [In Sunlight or In Shadow] and to do so without using the listener’s eyes elsewhere, to simply keep them closed, presents such fully formed and richly detailed sights within the mind’s eye that they become unforgettable. Dreamscape (2017) made use of a full cast to record the stories and each reader’s pacing is such that the imagistic constructions created by the authors receive every bit of light or shadow they warrant, every stroke of Hopper’s muted but frequently sunwashed paints. Hopper’s paintings, of course, are rich with narrative and narrative potential. Adding the layer of writers’ word frames and sculpting takes them to new and even more potent possibilities. Then, to come full circle and remove the reader’s own organ of vision to replace it with the tones of voice throws the listening reader onto a reserve of insight some individuals may find startling as well as intoxicating.

Link to the rest at No Shelf Required

PG has never read any of Georgette Heyer’s books, but on long auto trips with Mrs. PG, he very much enjoys listening to Heyer’s detective novels, so his particular mind’s eye is openable on an interstate.

An Auspicious Day to Use Your Words – And Learn More

20 September 2017
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From No Shelf Required:

An essential aspect of early education, formal and informal and in every human culture, is coaching the very young to communicate articulately. Through explicit means, such as the preschool teacher’s
reminder to “Use your words [rather than slap the kid who just hurt your feelings]” to the implicit demand that responding when asked a question is required, we work at sharing, preserving, and refining language to serve our purposes as a social fabric.

With Samuel Johnson’s 308th birthday noted by Google and other less pervasive sources today, it’s a good time to consider how audiobooks and listening to language both maintain and expand each generation’s capacity to understand, speak, and choose the most appropriate words each individual can to keep that social fabric strong and dynamic.

. . . .

Listening to rich language, crafted by authors who make their characters both credible and relatable, and performed by narrators who understand both the rhythms of the writer and the needs of the audience, serves as a direct route to vocabulary building, flexibility in personal expression, and empathy development. Audiobooks ensure language as a lived experience, without regard to whatever verbal poverty or carelessness a child’s home might afford. For many, listening to audiobooks may be one of the few occasions when spoken language is both directed at them and demands no immediate action, simply inviting the warm bath of soaking in words, phrases, meaningful intonations that range across a wide spectrum of emotions and intentions, and opportunities to be held rapt.

Link to the rest at No Shelf Required

Audible launches Canadian dedicated service

19 September 2017

From ITWorld Canada:

Audible is launching its first Canadian dedicated service, marking the first time the Amazon subsidiary is launching a bilingual website.

Audible.ca is live as of today, Sept. 13, offering 300,000 audiobooks and other audio content, including 100 new titles from Canadian authors in English and French. What differentiates it from its U.S. counterpart, audible.com, is that now Audible is specifically curated for English speaking and French speaking Canadians.

“A tremendous amount of writers and authors come out of Canada, and we want to recognize Canada as a unique destination with multiple cultures,” said Chris Cooper, head of international at Audible, over the phone with IT World Canada. “We want to really service Canadians with an authentic Canadian approach.”

In order to do that, Audible has specifically curated both the English and French versions of the site so that users won’t just see a translated version of the same page. This is the first time curation by language is being offered in a market, and the company has earmarked $12 million CAD over the next three years to invest in Canadian writers and voices.

“You can go back and forth with ease and just recognize the other cultures. We want to be part of the social fabric and be respectful; be a respectful visitor and resident and realize that there are cultural differences,” said Cooper.

. . . .

The launch of a dedicated Canadian service comes at just the right time, as last week Toronto-based Kobo launched its own audiobook service that will feature audiobooks from a range of publishers that Kobo already works with on the e-books front. Similarly, Kobo members can buy audiobooks individually or by subscribing to a monthly service for one download per month.

. . . .

Kobo CEO Michael Tamblyn, in an email to IT World Canada said Audible isn’t really new competition since it’s been around since the 1990s. Besides, Kobo has already grappled with the competition posed by Amazon.

“Kindle was the only game in town for eBooks when we started, and yet we grew to be the dominant player in Canada by focusing on Canadian authors and publisher partnerships, and ultimately, Canadian readers,” he said. “We believe there is a huge playing field here for audiobooks.”

Link to the rest at ITWorld Canada and thanks to Tudor for the tip.

In case Canadian visitors to TPV didn’t catch it in the OP, Audible understands you’re not the part of the United States that is located somewhere north of Montana. Audible understands that some of you like to speak English and others prefer French.

Audible is also sensitive to the hockey and non-hockey elements of Canadian culture and knows Molson is not the Canadian Budweiser.

.

 

Expressions, Impressions

22 August 2017

From No Shelf Required:

Just as authored, edited, and mass produced books comprise only one segment of the to-be-read universe, audiobooks are not alone in what we can read by ear. We’ve long tuned into broadcast events—live sports, journalists’ reports, opinions and performances—and we negotiate our daily public lives as much by attending to ambient aural messages as to signs and written directions.

With digital preservation and dissemination broadening its capacious notice of aural resources, there is a growing wealth of sound archives that carry “reader” content. The Quietus offers a fine point of entry into this world of expressive sounds. Earlier this month, the site launched an interactive archives of contemporary Protest Sound.

. . . .

In addition to political breaking news events, all manner of archived spoken discourse makes for heady listening: recorded poetry, oral histories, endangered indigenous languages, witness accounts, and comedy performances are among the possibilities. Pair, from the American Memory Project at the Library of Congress, Voices from the Dust Bowl with Karen Hesse’s novel in verse Out of the Dust, read by Marika Mashburn for Listening Library (2008).

Link to the rest at No Shelf Required

Getting started with the Libby app to borrow ebooks and audiobooks from your library

14 August 2017

From Overdrive:

Our new Libby app is the easiest way to get started with digital books and audiobooks from your public library. Libby is available for Android, iOS (iPhone/iPad/iPod touch), and Windows 10.

. . . .

Step 1

Install the Libby app from your device’s app store.

Step 2

Open Libby and find your library. You can search by library name, city, or zip code.

Step 3

Browse your library’s collection and borrow a title. When prompted, sign in with a valid library card.

Step 4

Borrowed titles appear on your Shelf and download to the app automatically when you’re connected to Wi-Fi, so you can read them when you’re offline.

From your Shelf, you can:

  • Tap Open book or Open audiobook to start reading or listening to a title.
  • Tap the cover image, then Send to Device to send a book to Kindle.

Link to the rest at Overdrive

PG says this looks a lot simpler than working your way through most library websites.

How Do Podcast Nuts Find the Time? They Listen at Chipmunk Speed

14 July 2017

From The Wall Street Journal:

Jarod Reyes wanted to reduce his anxiety. His doctor suggested meditation, so he subscribed to a podcast to guide him toward a Zen state.

“Close your eyes,” the podcaster’s voice would intone languidly over instrumental music. “Take a slow, deep breath.” But something about it made him anxious. The episodes were too long; it was hard to focus.

He knew what he had to do. Now the 35-year-old web developer sets the podcast to run faster, forcing its hypnotherapist to make it snappy with her soothing thoughts. “On the exhale, allow yourself to settle in,” she hurries along at double speed. “Maybe roll your shoulders back. Or wiggle your hips a bit.”

He found inner peace. “It’s much easier for me to sit focused for 10 minutes,” Mr. Reyes says, “than 20 minutes.”

How do people have so much time for so many podcasts? Some don’t. They speed-listen and knock out two, three, four podcasts in the time one usually takes.

Geoff Newman, 31, thought a colleague who told him about speed-listening was nuts. Then the London web developer and filmmaker tried 1.2 times normal speed, then 2x, then 2.5x. Now he’s comfortable at 3x.

It’s painful to consume his favorite tech and videogame podcasts at actual speed. “It sounds so strange,” he says. “Like they’re smoking lots of weed.”

. . . .

When ESPN anchor Rachel Nichols moved to Los Angeles last year, she discovered she could squeeze two full podcasts into her drive to and from work if she pushed their speed to as fast as 2.3x. Ms. Nichols proselytizes the joys of speed-listening on Twitter . “I like pushing the cause,” she says.

Ms. Nichols was a guest recently on “The Lowe Post,” a show hosted by ESPN colleague Zach Lowe, and she made a plea to the audience as soon as she was introduced: “I’m going to ask everyone to now go to their app and speed up the rest of this podcast.”

. . . .

A fourfold speedup sounds entirely sane to Max Deutsch, 24, who says he has speed-listened to 69 audiobooks this year. The faster the speed, he found, the more engaged he was. “That’s when I asked myself: I wonder how fast I could actually listen?”

The San Francisco tech-product manager, unable to find apps with speeds over 3x, created Rightspeed, a $2.99 app that accelerates podcasts in nearly unnoticeable 0.1x increments every two minutes. A one-hour podcast that begins at 2x, ends at 5x and takes 17 minutes.

“It’s sort of like the Roger Bannister, four-minute-mile effect,” Mr. Deutsch says. “Until you’re told it’s possible for a human to listen at this speed, you just decide you can’t.”

When Andy Mullan, a government employee in San Francisco, checks out a library book, he downloads the audio version. He listens at 3x and follows in print. Mr. Mullan, 32, says his reading consumption has increased and his comprehension has improved.

Hundreds of thousands of Audible listeners use higher speeds, according to the audiobook company’s data. Audible says speed-listeners prefer nonfiction but do binge on mysteries and thrillers.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)

PG has listened to accelerated audio for years. He didn’t know it was a thing until he read the OP.

The Unglamorous Ordeal of Recording Your Own Audiobook

29 March 2017
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From Literary Hub:

It was around noon of my third grueling day recording the audiobook of my first novel, The Gargoyle Hunters, when my innermost self cried out to be heard. I mean this literally. The disembodied voice of my director burst into my headset to inform me that my disgruntled, empty stomach was grumbling loudly enough to be picked up by the hypersensitive microphone; my solo performance had inadvertently become a duet. To muffle these protests from within, I finished the chapter with a pillow pressed against my belly.

Truth be told, my cantankerous abdomen spoke for the rest of me, too. For the marathon task of recording my own audiobook over four long days proved far more demanding than I had expected.

Getting the gig was deceptively simple. Following the audiobook producer’s instructions, I sat at my desk at home and read the five-page prologue into my iPhone’s voice recorder. Written in the first person from the perspective of a middle-aged man recalling his childhood, the scene is a dreamlike account of a four-year-old boy being carried at daybreak by his father across the majestic ruins of New York’s old Penn Station, the felled granite columns strewn like giant pick-up sticks across the marshy junkyard of New Jersey’s Meadowlands.

Those 13 minutes were all the producer had asked for. But to be sure she was in a position to evaluate my ability to read dialogue, I also recorded a comic sequence in which a 13-year-old smart-aleck meets a self-importantly pious boy at a party, lures him into a Socratic verbal trap, and then obliterates him with a torrent of absurdist, Pythonesque ridicule.

It was my concern about having a stranger narrate these humor-infused episodes—the high-spirited buffoonery of precocious teenage innocents pinballing into each and the world—that led me to audition in the first place. I have a good deal of respect for professional audiobook narrators, and I had little doubt that any number of them would have done a fine job reading my descriptive prose. But I had, in my mind’s ear, a very specific way I wanted the boys’ dialogue to sound, and I wasn’t entirely comfortable handing that task over to an unknown voice actor who might not share my sense of humor.

A few days after I sent in my audition clips, the producer emailed to say the gig was mine if I wanted it: “You have a great recording voice,” she allowed. “Your performance would add a personal touch to the recording that only you as the author can provide with your voice.”

That was the last moment things were easy.

. . . .

My director, a put-together woman with short, lemony hair and an air of brisk competence, greeted me in a gloomily darkened recording room. Her sound engineer, a nearly silent young woman with a Sphinx-like affect, gave me a nod. Then, after a brief orientation from the director, the engineer shut me in a little sound booth for the long haul.

The cell-like booth, the small square window in its door the only visual connection with the outside world, was about the size of a European train commode. It contained a utilitarian chair and a Formica table with a slanted reading surface. A little frayed-edged carpet remnant rested on this surface, and an iPad loaded with the final text of The Gargoyle Hunters sat atop the carpet remnant.

I sailed into the task of recording my tale. I enjoyed it. Friends had predicted it would be strange hearing my written words spoken aloud, but it was anything but; I always read my prose aloud as I write.

. . . .

I started out strong, charging through the prologue and the rollicking first couple of chapters at a good clip. But before the promise of lunch was even a glimmer on the horizon, a certain weariness set in, and it dawned on me: You’ve barely made it out of the starting blocks here. This is going to be an exhausting, long-distance slog during which, paradoxically, it is essential that you sound alert and energetic the entire time. The book was 334 pages, and if we were to complete the reading in four days—the time normally allotted for an actual professional audiobook narrator—a fairly cracking pace would be required. Author or no, there was no glamour here. I was to read and keep reading, and then read some more.

I’ve always admired actors and radio broadcasters, but not until the middle of the first afternoon did I begin to appreciate what an almost athletic performance was required to keep one’s mouth and vocal chords in shape for the duration. No wonder real actors spend years doing voice training and all those weird tongue exercises.

Before long, my throat grew ragged, a condition that worsened over time. And at the end of the third day, a Thursday, the director told me to take Friday and the weekend off so my voice could recover. “I don’t want to hurt you,” she said.

Link to the rest at Literary Hub

How this Texas woman changed the lives of the blind and impaired with creation of audiobook studio

28 March 2017
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From The Houston Chronicle:

Carolyn Randall is enthralled by words. She’s been so as long as her 90-year-old memory can recall.

Decades before she’d create the Texas State Library’s audiobook recording studio, a project that has helped thousands of blind and impaired people, Randall was a bookworm growing up in Champaign, Illinois. She read historical fiction and scripts by Fyodor Dostoevsky.

“I was a slow reader,” said Randall, now a Houston resident. “I paid attention to each word.”

. . . .

Shortly after, Randall heard that the University of Houston needed help to record audiobooks. She began volunteering weekly.

In the late 1960s, Robert Levy founded what was then Taping for the Blind, a Houston audiobook and radio program now called Sight into Sound. The news made its way to Randall, who, upon hearing it, remembered an uncle who had once said he needed audiobooks while recovering from cataract surgery. She had an idea.

“I thought, ‘I can do this in an even better way than at the University of Houston,'” Randall said. “That’s how I really got started.”

She stayed with the program for about 10 years before moving with Howard to Austin.

Living in the capitol meant an opportunity to volunteer at the state library.

Randall couldn’t pass it up. She began with small tasks, “filing whatever they needed,” she said. But she quickly cultivated relationships. She also noticed there was no state-sponsored studio to record audiobooks. The library’s Talking Book Program had for decades used an audiobooks archive provided by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. But no state resource existed for audiobooks and authors specific to Texas.

Randall lobbied for funding to outfit a room with recording booths. Volunteers were recruited, and the studio was born in 1978, with Randall as its director.

. . . .

Almost 40 years later, more than 5,000 titles (books, magazines, etc.) have been recorded at the studio, which in total has a collection of more than 10,000 titles in multiple languages. The studio has about 100 volunteers, and it services roughly 18,000 blind and impaired people statewide. It also offers some books in braille.

Link to the rest at The Houston Chronicle

Of course, PG was reminded of 17 U.S. Code § 121, which provides, in part:

Notwithstanding the provisions of section 106, it is not an infringement of copyright for an authorized entity to reproduce or to distribute copies or phonorecords of a previously published, nondramatic literary work if such copies or phonorecords are reproduced or distributed in specialized formats exclusively for use by blind or other persons with disabilities.

. . . .

“authorized entity” means a nonprofit organization or a governmental agency that has a primary mission to provide specialized services relating to training, education, or adaptive reading or information access needs of blind or other persons with disabilities;

With Audiobooks Hot, Publishers Should Look to Bundle Them With E-Books

21 March 2017

From Publishers Weekly:

I grew up in a rural area with not much to offer an imaginative kid who’d much rather live in London—and, though my parents were very educated, the town I lived in couldn’t support a bookstore. Fortunately, our house was close to the public library, where I basically lived until I was 15, at which point they hired me as a page after school and on weekends.

Holding a new and different book in my room or at the base of the willow tree where I liked to read in summer was a nearly sacred feeling for me. Books were views into worlds I wanted to partake in—worlds where people spoke other languages, had other ways of living, and didn’t have to put up with boys stealing their calculators before chem class and dismantling them. Decades later, I moved from physical books to e-books, which I adopted enthusiastically to cut down on the sheer mass of books in my apartment and avoid lugging around the heavy sagas I love to lose myself in while traveling.

Recently, though, I’ve been part of the return-to-print trend demonstrated by the 3.3% rise of print unit sales in 2016, reported earlier this year by NPD BookScan. The feeling of holding the book, which mattered so much to me as a kid, was just too powerful to let go. I also need to curl up before bed with a long, immersive story—and screen glare tends to affect my sleep thereafter. The soft yellowish invitation of a page, as opposed to the harsh blue glare of a screen, seems more welcoming and soothing.

But I’ve just started a new consulting gig that has me commuting from Staten Island to Manhattan. And I’m not as young as I was—I don’t want to throw my back out carrying Bleak House around, and I’d alike to be able to adjust print size.

. . . .

 Since the inception of the Kindle, publishers have agonized over e-book pricing. When e-book prices from the major publishers reverted back to the agency model, Amazon retaliated by heavily discounting the paperback versions. Thanks to the first-sale doctrine, which applies to physical products, Amazon has the right to set any price it likes on titles it’s purchased from publishers. By positioning print books as a sort of loss leader—the very way they positioned e-books to gain adoption in 2007—Amazon made it more likely that consumers choose physical over digital books.

. . . .

 What the consumer seems to want, in terms of bundling, is an e-book–audio package.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

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