Monday, January 28, 2008

Everybody Loves Scott Brick!

Harlan Coben's THE WOODS read by Scott Brick

Calling all Scott Brick Fans!

Anyone who is an audiobook addict knows Scott Brick's awesome narrative skills. Bookmark his new blog - and learn to swear in Flemish!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

"Freed From the Page, but a Book Nonetheless"

Today's New York Times includes an opinion piece with a title that will resonate with audiobook addicts: Freed From the Page, but a Book Nonetheless. Although author Randall Stross uses the term to describe the Amazon Kindle, he makes some points that apply to the digitization of books in the audio format as well. I thought his argument that the Kindle may be the tool that will champion the eBook with an "irresistible combination of software and hardware for book buyers" connected with my desire for a crystal ball to predict the dominant format for audiobooks in a decade's time.
I am waiting for that combination of software/hardware that frees the audiobook from not only the page, but from the whole digital rights management murky mess. Will the cell phone be the distribution medium that will replace the CD? Audible does have their cell phone download option Audible Air, but the setup doesn't have a point-and-click simplicity that will allow universal ease.
And Stross' quote from Apple's CEO might explain why some of the DRM battles exist for audiobooks. Here's what Steve Jobs thinks about books and the need for a killer app for digital reading: "Yet, when Mr. Jobs was asked two weeks ago at the Macworld Expo what he thought of the Kindle, he heaped scorn on the book industry. “It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is; the fact is that people don’t read anymore,” he said. “Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year.”" Read Stross' article for a rebutal to Job's numbers.
And Stross' conclusion praising Amazon's support of the eBook is equally valid for the audiobook industry: "The object we are accustomed to calling a book is undergoing a profound modification as it is stripped of its physical shell. Kindle’s long-term success is still unknown, but Amazon should be credited with imaginatively redefining its original product line, replacing the book business with the reading business."

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Playway's British competitor Mi-Vox, Nokia's audiobook player, and the Audiofy chip

I've been waiting to see if any competitors arise to challenge the Playaway as the dominant preloaded audiobook player. Here's a peak at a British product called the Mi-Vox. It appears to be very start-up at the present time, with a limited number of titles. Plus, the Mi-Vox website does not tout one of my favorite features of the Playaway - slow & fast speed settings. I wonder if the preloaded audiobook is something that will survive, or whether we will look back at a format that will join the laser disc in the Museum of Archaic Technology.

My personal opinion is that the ubiquitous cell phone will become the mobile audiobook player. Take a look at the Nokia Audiobook software. There is also the Audiofy audiobook chip, a memory card which can be played in a variety of hardware - cell phones, iPod, Windows-based PDAs, and Audiofy's own super-small Iofy player. Who knows what technology will be left standing a decade from now?

Friday, January 25, 2008

Adjusting the Speed of Audiobooks - the Sony MX-20

I must admit that I am sometimes frustrated with the speed of audiobook narrators vs. my reading-with-eyes pace, especially when I am plowing through listening to a 14-hour epic. But I guess I'm not the only one. Audiobook speed control on an iPod was featured in this week's brief "Personal Tech" Tip of the Week in the New York Times. I do long sometimes for the good old days of books-on-cassette-tapes and my workhorse Walkman with the simple adjustable playback speed control. With that baby I was able to increase the tape speed up to 25% faster without the dreaded "chipmunk effect."

Imagine the joy when I read the instuction manual of my new SonyICD-MX20 digital voice recorder. I can use it to load my ripped audiobook CDs just like an MP3 player - and it has a varible speed playback! I can use the Sony MX20 as my audiobook player - and zip through titles way faster! Not something I would do for titles I am evaluating, but definately something I want to do when I am caught up in the breathless action of Douglas Preston's "Blasphemy" The edge-of-your-seat excitment has me cranking the speed as I am racing through the science/thriller. Only 3 more CDs to go!

Monday, January 14, 2008

2008 Odyssey Award for Excellence in Audiobook Production

Hooray! The first Odyssey Award for Excellence in Audiobook Production medalists have been named! As chair of the committee that had the pleasure of choosing the titles, I can say that the decision came after deliberating many wonderful productions. We were amazed that the finest titles also covered a breadth and range of ages and interests. But the truly astonishing fact was discovered only after we had completed the entire process. We all felt the planets aligning when we realized that the author of the first Odyssey winner, Walter Dean Myers, was also the winner of the first Printz Award. It was meant to be.

The winner:

Jazz. By Walter Dean Myers. Narrated by James “D-Train” Williams and Vaneese Thomas. 43min. Live Oak Media. CS, $25.95 (9781430100195); CD, $28.95 (9781430100225).
“Jazz,” a production of Live Oak Media, takes the readalong to new heights as James “D-Train” Williams and Vaneese Thomas perform the work of Walter Dean Myers. Original music accompanies each poem's performance, resulting in a rhythmic representation of mood and tone. Separate tracks for the selections and lively inclusion of a glossary and timeline create a dynamic audiobook; part poetry, part nonfiction, and wholly authentic.

The Honor audiobooks:

Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary “Jacky” Faber, Ship’s Boy By L. A. Meyer. Narrated by Katherine Kellgren. 8hr. Listen & Live Audio. CD $37.95. (9781593160944).
Katherine Kellgren’s vocal athleticism takes listeners from the filthy streets of eighteenth century London to the high seas in Meyer’s fast-paced novel about a girl who stows away as a cabin boy.

Dooby Dooby Moo. By Doreen Cronin. Narrated by Randy Travis. 13.36min. Weston Woods/Scholastic. CS $24.95 (9780545042833). CD $29.95 (9780545042819).
Music and barnyard chatter enhance Randy Travis’ performance of Cronin’s comic tale of talented farm animals gone wild.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. By J. K. Rowling. Narrated by Jim Dale. 21hr. Listening Library. CS, $90 (9780739360408; CD, $90(9780739360415).
Jim Dale masters and maintains voices for all genders, ages, species, and emotions created by author J.K. Rowling in this final Harry Potter adventure.

Skulduggery Pleasant. By Derek Landy. Narrated by Rupert Degas. 7.5hr. HarperChildren’s Audio. CD, $27.95 (9780061341045).
Rupert Degas fleshes out a cast of characters including a “tweenage” girl, nefarious villains, and a skeleton detective. Music and sound effects mirror the mood of this bone-rattling mystery.

Treasure Island. By Robert Louis Stevenson. Narrated by Alfred Molina. 7hr. Listening Library. CD, $55 (9780739350836).
Stevenson’s pirate classic elegantly unfolds as Alfred Molina’s panoply of accents and the soundscape of the sea place listeners aboard the Hispaniola.

Listen and discover the best in audiobook literature.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

American Library Association's Youth Media Awards - Featuring the First-ever Odyssey Award!

Tomorrow is the day I take off for Philadelphia & the ALA conference where the Best Committee Ever will meet to decide the winner of the first Odyssey Award for Excellence in Audiobook Production. Here's how you can share in the excitement:

The 2008 award winners will be announced Monday, January 14, starting at 7:45 a.m. EST. A live Webcast of the award announcements will be available on a first-come, fist-served basis; visit for details.

Youth Media Awards results available in real time on your cell phone! Unable to attend the 2008 ALA Youth Media Awards or sit in on the live Webcast Monday, Jan. 14th? Get award winners sent directly to your cell phone by text message - as it happens - for free, beginning at 7:45 a.m. EST.

Text the word "ALA 5" to 32075 in the U.S. and Canada to receive notification of the winners of the following five awards, one text message per award. You will receive 5 text messages for this subscription, winners only :
Newbery Medal
Caldecott Medal
Coretta Scott King Awards
Michael L. Printz Award
Pura Belpré Award

For complete results, text the word "ALA 13" to 32075 in the U.S. and Canada to receive notification of the winners of all 13 Youth Media Awards (winners only), including the five previously mentioned and the following, one text message per award:
Alex Awards
Margaret A. Edwards Award
Odyssey Award
Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award
Andrew Carnegie Medal
Mildred L. Batchelder Award
Schneider Family Book Award
Theodor Seuss Geisel Award

Results will be limited to the winners. To review the full list of honorable and notable mentions, visit awards press release will be posted online by 10 a.m. EST at

Look for me in the press conference crowd!

Monday, January 7, 2008

2008 Resolution: The Audiobook Diet

Now here's a great idea. Cancel the gym membership & listen to literature while burning calories by walking. That's what Belinda Webb suggests in her January 1st column in the UK's Guardian. Take a moment to read her advice and suggest your favorites for her daily walk!

Now that my term on the Odyssey Award committee is nearing the end, those fabulous boxes full of the latest titles from publishers will stop magically appearing on my porch, and I will have to start finding other ways to satisfy my addiction. Audiobooks are a pretty expensive habit, if you want the newest release that isn't yet available from the public library. When the publishers were feeding my addiction, I had the luxury of listening to my no-cost audiobooks at the gym. But if it comes down to working out at the gym or listening to the newest title, I know which one I'd pick.

However, both options have one drawback - the public display of listener engagement. Every audiobook addict knows the loony-lady stigma of laughing out loud in a crowded room of serious treadmill-focused gym rats, or the concerned expression of the sidewalk passer-by who sees the denouement-induced tears. But better to consume audiobooks while becoming physically fit - as my other favorite way to listen is while cooking elaborate treats in the kitchen!

Friday, January 4, 2008

Odyssey Award Logo!

For the past year, I've had the honor of being the chair of the first-ever Odyssey Award for Excellence in Audiobook Production. The award is the American Library Association's newest literary award - on the same level as the Newbery, Caldecott & Printz Awards. Yes, that's right: LITERARY award. Audiobooks are taking their place beside plays, poetry, and novels as a genre of literature - one that reaches back to the earliest form, the oral tradition. The maiden voyage of the Odyssey has been guided by a crackerjack group of experts of all types of children's and young adult literature - you can recognize us by the now-permanent impression of noise-cancelling headphones 'round our ears. After nearly 400 submissions totaling 2000 hours of listening, we are near our destination: the announcement of the first winner & honor Odyssey titles at the Youth Media Awards press conference on Monday, January 14th. This effort began in 2005 with a task group of librarians, audiobook producers, and representatives from award-sponsor Booklist Magazine. But now the award seems really real - with the unveiling of the official Odyssey Award Seal! Take a look...