Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Cory Doctorow's Little Brother - DRM free

Cory Doctorow is one serious opponent of technology restraints. Read about his commitment to releasing the DRM-free audiobook of his fantastic new YA novel "Little Brother" - definitely one of my top titles of 2008. Order a print copy now from Tor Teen. And I must pass along last weekend's "Unshelved" comic tribute to "Little Brother." Don't trust anyone over 25!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Nonfiction Monday: The Pot that Juan Built

Author Nancy Andrews-Goebel’s The Pot that Juan Built, illustrated by David Diaz, serves as the foundation for a wonderful nonfiction audiobook from Weston Woods. Mexican potter Juan Quezada is the subject of the multi-layered picture book that includes a simple cumulative rhyme along with a more detailed description of the potter’s methods. The audiobook includes the poem with page turns on one track and the detailed story on another, offering a production that may be enjoyed by listeners ranging from pre-readers to older art students. Authentic original music composed by Otmaro Ruiz and narration by the always-excellent Alfred Molina, coupled with the dazzling picture book art, make for a celebration of the artist’s craft. An ALA Notable Book, Pura Belpré Honor Book, and ALA Notable Children’s Recording.
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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Cassette tapes to digital file: how-to tips

Lifehacker has this great post on how to digitize cassette tapes - for those of you who have old books-on-tape that you'd like to put on your MP3 player, or if you haunt the public library Friends discard sales to snap up discarded titles on cassette. My local public library just removed ALL audiobooks on cassette, and I now have a huge batch of oldies-but-goodies on my listening shelf. Now I'll be able to add those titles to my iPod. Very handy. Thanks to author Rick Broida!

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Friday, April 25, 2008

Audies Award nominees children ages 8-11

Today's edition of AudioFile Magazine's Earshot! Podcast features the nominees in the Audio Publishers Association's "Children Ages 8-11" category. As an Audies judge, I can say that there were so many excellent titles this year! This podcast has audio clips of all of the titles: Clementine (Recorded Books), The Great Christmas Kidnapping Caper (Full Cast Audio), Rosa (Weston Woods), Skulduggery Pleasant (HarperAudio), and The Wednesday Wars (Scholastic Audio).

Click here to listen to the podcast - and make your predictions on the winner that will announced on Friday, May 30!
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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Plugged in to audiobooks at age 82

The April 20th New York Times had a positive story about audiobooks and other digital library initiatives. I like the title: What's New at the E-Library. The picture of 82-year-old Mr. Anthony Torregrossa (above) plugged in to his latest audiobook download is great. I'd love to see some cross-generational listening clubs popping up at public libraries!

Image by Kirk Condyles for The New York Times

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Celebrate Earth Day!

Here's a free offer from Amazon's Unbox: download The Living Sea at no charge through Friday. Music by Sting, soothing ocean video, and narration by Meryl Streep - what's not to like??

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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Nonfiction Monday: A Little History of the World

Blackstone Audio’s A Little History of the World by E. H. Gombrich is a great title to keep in the car to play for the whole family, as everyone will learn something new. The author revised and translated his examination of world history for children shortly before his death in 2002, bringing the original text written in 1935 into the 21st century. Ralph Gosham reads the work in a grandfatherly tone, engaging listeners with his enthusiasm and charm. The title’s 40 short chapters allow for easy stop-and-start listening on-the-go. Listen to a clip here
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Nonfiction Monday hosted at

Friday, April 18, 2008

Calling Dick Tracy with one-click visual search technology

Holy Cow! Watch this very cool video on an amazing way to search. Pull out the iPhone and snap a picture of a book cover, DVD jacket, movie poster, ad in a magazine, whatever. Send to the Evolution Robotics' Visual Pattern Recognition technology website with one click. You'll immediatly receive an email with information on the title with a link to click to buy it, along with a link to YouTube video clips about the item.
We are getting closer and closer to the point where we will be using the mobile phone as the primary media player, and this technology has great potential. Just imagine being at your desk looking through a magazine where you see an ad for John Green's new book. Pull out the phone and snap a picture. Receive the reply. Click to buy the ebook and audiobook as a single purchase. Start reading the ebook at your desk. Toggle to listening to the audiobook as you drive home. As you relax on the couch, click the YouTube link to Green's blog post on the new book. Any predictions for how soon we will all take for granted one-click access to instant downloads of multimedia titles that offer audio, text, and integrated illustrations? Change at the speed of sound!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Audiobooks that move beyond the book - a la Hugo Cabret

Author Augusten Burroughs discusses his new audiobook "A Wolf at the Table" in this video from Macmillan Audio. I am glad that audiobooks for grown-ups are experimenting with music & sound effects. But audiobooks for the under-18 crowd have long featured the audio rendition of text with added music & effects. Even the Caldecott-winning, 550 page novel in words and pictures, "The Invention of Hugo Cabret" was re-imagined as an audiobook featuring music & sound effects - albeit with some puzzled comments on Roger Sutton's blog. Including a response post by the author on the topic. Listen to a brief review from Audiofile magazine & an audio clip here.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Win a copy of Laurie Halse Anderson's Twisted audiobook - and help a great cause!

Do your part to help Laurie Halse Anderson's husband reach his goal of raising $5,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team in Training fund. Donate to win a Twisted audiobook, a special surprise, or even an autographed first edition of Speak! Click here for details - and good luck!

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Audiobooks & Alfred Molina: Arrr matey!

Want to know about the technical behind-the-scene thoughts of an amazing voice actor? Listen to these podcasts featuring Q&A with Alfred Molina, narrator of Odyssey honor title "Treasure Island." He talks about that production (and much more!) in Part One and continues discussing how film acting and voice acting are connected in Part Two. Thanks to Tracy Pattin of for doing this fantastic interview!

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Listen Up! Audiobooks and Literacy Development

Listen Up! Audiobooks and Literacy Development
Texas Library Association Pre-conference Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Presentation Notes by Mary Burkey

Voyage to Excellence

The Bubble Book ~ 1917 (Harper-Columbia)
The first children’s book & record, released just four years after Edison releases his first disc record. In fact, Edison envisioned the recorded book in his 1878 article “The Phonograph and Its Future.”

Pre-television Age ~ 1930s-1950s
Major recording labels produce recorded version of children’s books featuring top stars & original musical accompaniment. Standouts include de Brunhoff’s Babar Stories (Decca 1936), Seuss’ The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins (RCA Victor, 1940), McCloskey’s Lentil (Young People’s Records, 1946), and Jimmy Stewart’s narration of storybook-&-album Winnie-the-Pooh (RCA Victor, 1953).

Little Golden Records ~ 1940s-1960s
Popular series included bright yellow, unbreakable 25¢ records in titles such as The Poky Little Puppy (1948) and The Little Engine that Could (1954).

Birth of Producers of Today ~ 1950s
Weston Woods established by Mort Schindel in 1953. Early titles such as Millions of Cats & Make Way for Ducklings are seen on the Captain Kangaroo television show. Listening Library established by Anthony & Helen Ditlow 1955. The first release was Around the World in 80 Days, narrated by David Niven.

Audiobook Lists & Awards:
Grammy Award for Spoken Word (1959) Grammy Spoken Word for Children (1994)

Notable Children’s Recordings (1977)
YALSA’s Amazing Audiobooks (1999)

Audio Publishers Assocociation (formed in 1986) Audie Award (1996)

Odyssey Award (2008)
Joint task force formed in 2005 consisting of representatives from ALA’s ALSC & YALSA divisions, audiobook publishers, and award sponsor Booklist Magazine. First Odyssey committee convened in January 2007 with representatives from two ALA divisions, the first joint committee. The award recognizes audiobooks on the same literary tier as the Newbery, Caldecott, and Printz awards. First award winners announced at the Youth Media Awards press conference in January 2008. First award presentation during ALA Annual in Anaheim at the Booklist Forum, June 27th 2008, 8-10 p.m., location to be announced (free, no ticket needed, please attend!).

Beyond the Book

The book is the beginning. Audiobooks are a balancing act between two sides of a seesaw: content and technical production should be equal partners. A truly touchstone audiobook maintains a perfect balance – meaningful content and faultless production values.

Audiobook Lexicon:

Voices in My Head

~The reading should be authentic and appropriate to content, with voices that match the time and place of the text as well as characters’ gender, ages, and moods.

~The reader should use well-placed inflections and tones and convey the meaning of the text through engaging expression, emotion, and energy.

~The reader should maintain and differentiate character voices, accents, or dialects consistently.
~Narrative descriptions ("He murmured," for example) should be read appropriately.

~A single performer may read in a straightforward manner using his or her natural voice with suitable inflection and tone. Or the reader may vary his or her voice to change tone, inflection, accent, and emphasis to represent multiple characters. The reading might also be a combination of the two styles, with major or pivotal characters receiving particular emphasis. Some audios feature multiple narrators taking on specific roles and characters or full cast dramatizations.

Recommended titles: (* notes Odyssey title)
* Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows / JK Rowling / Listening Library
Born to Rock / Gordon Korman / Brilliance Audio
Boy Meets Boy / David Levithan / Full Cast Audio
Clementine / Sara Pennypacker / Recorded Books
The Curious Incidence of the Dog in the Night-time / Mark Haddon / Recorded Books
Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie / Jordan Sonnenblick / Scholastic Audio
The Girls/ Amy Koss/ Full Cast Audio
So Much to Tell You / James Marsden / Bolinda Audio
Wolf Brother / Michelle Paver / HarperChildren’s Audio

Window to Culture / Reflection of Region

~Cultures and ethnicities are presented authentically and without stereotype.

~Geographic terms, foreign terminology, and other challenging phrases and words should be pronounced correctly and with ease.

~Musical features match the culture and region portrayed.

Recommended titles: (* notes Odyssey title)
* Bloody Jack / L.A. Meyer / Listen & Live Audio
Bindi Babes / Narinder Dhami / Listening Library
Does My Head Look Big in This? / Randa Abdel-Fattah / Bolinda Audio
Homeless Bird / Gloria Whelan / Listening Library
The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency / Alexander McCall Smith / Recorded Books
A Pack of Lies / Geraldine McCaughrean / BBC Audiobooks America
The Pot That Juan Built / Weston Woods
The Power of One / Bryce Courtenay / Bolinda Audio
When My Name Was Keoko / Linda Sue Park / Recorded Books
Whale Rider / Witi Ihimaera / Bolinda Audio
Blues Journey / Walter Dean Myers / Live Oak Media
Secret Life of Bees / Sue Monk Kidd / HighBridge Company
Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood / Benjamin Alire Saenz / Recorded Books
To Kill a Mockingbird / Harper Lee / Caedmon
Dairy Queen / Catherine Gilbert Murdock / Listening Library
Bucking the Sarge / Christopher Paul Curtis / Listening Library
Parrot in the Oven / Victor Martinez / Harper Audio

Behind the Booth

~Quality productions maintain a clean, crisp sound that allows for periods of silence and a range of dynamics, without affecting volume levels.

~The recording should be free of sibilant or plosive microphone pick-ups. Distractions result if the reader moves off the microphone, has an overly dry or juicy mouth, or can be heard swallowing.

~Sloppy production may result in titles that are too loud or intense, have missing or repeated text segments, show obvious dubbing or noticeable time differences in recording sessions, or contain abrupt or lengthy chapter or line breaks.

~The packaging should correctly note title, author, and readers’ names as well as accurate running times or notice of abridgement.

~Readalongs (picture book and audio sets) require additional evaluative criteria. Because the intent is for youngsters to follow along with the picture book while listening, there should be no mismatches between the words, pictures, and sound effects. Page turn signals are usually an option and these cues should allow time for young listeners to follow the text and explore the illustrations.

Recommended titles: (* notes Odyssey title)
*Jazz / Walter Dean Myers / Live Oak Media
(Fifteen people worked for five months to produce a 43 minute audiobook!)
Journey of the One & Only Declaration of Independence/Judith St. George/
Weston Woods
Peter and the Starcatchers / Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson / Brilliance Audio
Seven Blind Mice / Ed Young / Weston Woods
The One and Only Shrek / William Steig / Macmillan Young Listeners
The Golden Compass / Philip Pullman / Listening Library

Gifts & Goodies

~Music may be used as an introduction or to delineate mood, setting, or time changes. The background music must be unobtrusive and not interrupt the narrative flow.

~If sound effects are used, they serve to subtly enhance the production, rather than distract.

~Bonus features may include author interviews, critical essays, or other supplemental audio materials.

~Added content may be informational booklets, links to web-based material, games or computer files on disk, or graphic materials such as illustrations or photographs.

Recommended titles: (* notes Odyssey title)
*Dooby Dooby Moo / Doreen Cronin / Weston Woods
*Treasure Island / Robert Louis Stevenson / Listening Library
Eagle of the Ninth / Rosemary Sutcliff / Naxos Audio
Hitler Youth / Susan Campbell Bartoletti / Listening Library
I Am Not Joey Pigza / Jack Gantos / Listening Library
King for Kids / Clayborne Carson, ed. / Hachette Audio
Poets' Corner: The One-and-only Poetry Book for the Whole Family / John Lithgow, ed. / Grand Central Publishing
Revenge of the Whale / Nathaniel Philbrick / Audio Bookshelf
Series of Unfortunate Events / Lemony Snicket / HarperChildren’s Audio
The Wall and the Wing / Laura Ruby/ Brilliance Audio

Breaking the Wall

~The audiobook must stand alone as a fully-realized expression of the author’s intent and meaning.

~The mark of an excellent audiobook is one in which the wall of performance is removed so that listeners fall completely into the audiobook experience.

Recommended titles: (* notes Odyssey title)
*Skulduggery Pleasant / Derek Landy / HarperChildren’s Audio
Before I Die / Jenny Downham /Listening Library
The Book Thief / Markus Zusak / Listening Library
Buddha Boy / Kathe Koja / Full Cast Audio
Dead Fathers Club / Matt Haig / HighBridge Audio
Elijah of Buxton / Christopher Paul Curtis / Listening Library
Keturah and Lord Death / Martine Leavitt / Recorded Books
Lon Po Po / Ed Young / Weston Woods
Private Peaceful / Michael Morpurgo / Recorded Books
The Wee Free Men / Terry Pratchett / HarperChildren’s Audio

Lasso Listeners

Audiobooks allow us to experience the author’s voice mediated through skilled narrators and enhanced by expert production. Listening to books is not reading; it is a different and equally captivating experience.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Watch Jim Dale on video recording The Bikeman

Wow! For all you fans of Jim Dale, winner of the Audio Publisher's Association Hall of Fame award, narrator extraordinaire of Harry Potter and so many more wonderful productions. Watch this terrific video of Dale reading first-time-author Tom Flynn's The Bikeman. NPR did the story on March 31st - I can't wait until the audiobook is released by Brilliance!

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Harry Potter Fans - Win The Tales of Beedle the Bard!

Well, you'd win a weekend with J. K. Rowling's The Tales of Beedle the Bard - the title that cost Amazon £1,950,000. Do you suppose there will be a few people that fill out this entry form for the writing contest? Oh, and you get a posh trip to London as part of the deal.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Simultaneous - or preceeding - publication

An interesting post yesterday on TeleRead examined the simultaneous publication of books in multiple formats, both print and digital, ranging from ebook to hardcover and audiobook to print-on-demand. The article looked at the ten-day turnaround from George Soros' submitted manuscript to finished ebook by publisher PublicAffairs as well as HarperCollins new imprint Studio. I wish the author had included Full Cast Audio's production of Melting Stones in the examples - the audiobook was produced and released a full year before the print publication. Read more here about how Tamora Pierce wrote Melting Stones with the audio production in mind and participated in the recording of her work. Listen to a clip here. Love that Luvo!

Monday, April 7, 2008

AudibleKids replies - fast!

Wow! Talk about fast. Here's the reply I received from AudibleKids' Education Product Manager:

Dear Mary,

Thank you for testing out the site and for sending along your feedback. We are very proud of the way our new site features awards, and naturally want to track the most relevant ones—you make a great suggestion here and we will definitely consider adding these awards.

Thanks again for writing and for trying out AudibleKids!

Lynne Feldman

I'll be checking to see if the children's and YA audiobook awards appear soon...

Amazon's digital initiative

Brad Stone's article Amazon Accelerates Its Move to Digital in today's New York Times tells how the online vendor that outsells brick-and-mortar bookstores is working to redefine the paper-and-pages book. As Amazon recently acquired Audible, the parent company of yesterday's post topic AudibleKids, curious minds want to know: Was the idea for AudibleKids in the works before Amazon's takeover or is it a reflection of Amazon's digital initiatives? And if anyone is listening, how about working on using the Kindle as a display for picture book readalongs or as a way to integrate photos & illustrations for an ebook/audiobook package for nonfiction titles such as this year's Sibert Award titles?

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Sunday, April 6, 2008

AudibleKids - but where's the audible awards?

Here’s another sign that audiobooks for young people are moving into the mainstream. Audible, the mega-retailer of downloaded audiobooks, has launched AudibleKids. The site is a portal for purchasing audiobooks for ages 0 to 13 +up. It looks inviting and has lots of interactive features. It is searchable by category, age and grade level. Each title has a clip to sample. Users may create suggestions lists and write their own reviews. If you choose to create a profile, you can connect with others like yourself. There are printable listening guides that can be used as worksheets by teachers or parents. To entice listeners, there are a few free downloads and 99¢ specials. You can even set up a kid’s account with a preset allowance so that they may choose and download their own selections. All in all, the site looks pretty nice.

Except for a glaring omission. The suggested “Award Winners” list has a huge number of awards, from the well-known to the obscure – 44 book awards in all. But NO link to titles that have been named ALSC’s Notable Children’s Recordings, YALSA’s Selected Audiobooks, or ALA’s Odyssey - awards that have been developed to recognize the best in children’s and young adult audiobooks! There is a link for Audie winners (the Audio Publisher Association’s award), but only one title is listed, while a quick search showed that many other Audie titles are available on the site. Very strange. And a very odd oversight that I hope will be resolved. I sent my feedback to Feel free to add your two bits!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Amazon helps us spend more money

I always shudder when I look at my Amazon history and see the dollars spent over the years - that One Click shopping is way too easy. But modern technology has just upped the temptation. Now I'll be able to stroll the aisles at conference or library, whip out the cell phone, type in an ISBN, and presto - make a purchase using Amazon's TextBuyIt. Yikes.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Fairy Tale by Kevin Brooks

I must admit that due to the wedding of older son, I have been separated from my laptop a bit more than usual. Thus fewer posts. And I have not been keeping up with the cool We Tell Stories experiment that I mentioned on February 26th. The third instalment - Fairy Tale - is out and reminds me of the good old days of Mad Libs. I am wondering if they will get around to integrating audio in future stories. After all, Penguin is one of the publishers that is leading the way in the removal on Digital Rights Management on audiobooks!

Try out your version of Fairy Tale - it is a bit of a departure from the regular YA fare from Kevin Brooks. But you can have a Very Sad ending!

Enjoy the Day!

A wonderful bit of good news from Monty Python's Terry Jones and the BBC on this first day of the fourth month!