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October 15, 2012

Listen to a Rare Recording of Samuel Beckett Reading from ‘Watt’

By Tom Hawking

It’s always interesting listening to an author reading from their own work. There are plenty of authors who’ve been perfectly willing to do so, but others are or were more reticent to do so. George Orwell was perhaps the most famous example, but Samuel Beckett was another — or, at least, he refused to be recorded doing so — which is why we were fascinated to see that Dangerous Minds have apparently unearthed a video of the late playwright and author reading a passage from his second novel Watt.

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July 31, 2012

Are Audiobooks Preparing to Overtake Ebooks?

Filed under: Audiobooks — Tags: , , , , , , — Bookblurb @ 5:58 pm

  By Joe Daly

If you were the CEO of a large company and your board of directors earmarked $20 million to be allocated at your discretion, what would you do? Build a new office complex? Increase marketing costs? Install one of those fancy toilet seats with a built-in heater and satellite radio?

How about give it away?

That is precisely what is doing and unsurprisingly, it has nothing to do with altruism.

In 2012, the Amazon-owned offered authors a $1 “honorarium” for every audiobook sale made through their website. If attracting the attention of authors is your goal, free money is a slam dunk way of achieving it. There is, however, far more to the offer than its attractive financial component—authors who agree to make their titles available in audiobook format through not only reap a buck for every sale, but they additionally receive the expertise and manpower of Audible’s sales and marketing divisions, as well as additional advertising materials for promoting their work. And just for the heck of it, authors get a free copy of their audiobook.

Notice that the preceding paragraph made no reference to the role of the publisher in this financial arrangement. This is because the publisher is cut straight out of the deal. The buck passes freely and without encumbrance from the teeming coffers of Audible to the back pocket of the grateful author. While such an arrangement cannot impede or alter publishing rights previously negotiated between the author and publisher, it nonetheless offers writers a substantial incentive to cut their own side deal.

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May 22, 2012

Audie Awards 2012: And The Winner Is… Part I

Filed under: Audiobooks — Tags: , , , , , , — Bookblurb @ 7:49 am

By Adam Boretz

With the Audie Awards fast approaching, we thought it might be fun to highlight some of the great nominees with an Informal Audie Awards Poll — voted on by you, the readers of Listen Up and PW.

To kick things off, we’ll take a look at two very competitive categories: Solo Narration – Male and Solo Narration – Female.

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January 29, 2012

Rotters Wins 2012 Odyssey Award

By Adam Boretz

The audio edition of Daniel Kraus’ Rotters, produced by Listening Library and Random House Audio, and read by Kirby Heyborne, was awarded the 2012 Odyssey Award.

The Odyssey Award for Excellence in Audiobook Production is given to the producer of the best audiobook produced for children and/or young adults, available in English in the United States and is presented by the Association for Library Service to Children and the Young Adult Library Services Association.

Four other audiobooks also received Odyssey Honors:

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December 6, 2011

Audiobooks for giving

Object lessons: Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum. Photograph: Graeme Robertson

From George Smiley to the complete Harry Potter.

By Sue Arnold

Once the ritual traditions of giving and gorging are over, that quiet, becalmed period between Christmas and New Year is the perfect time for catching up on all the books and programmes you’ve missed during the year. My recommendations for presents and personal indulgence include blockbuster boxed sets whose marathon running times will take you through to next summer, plus a random selection of shorts, single-CD audios for people who prefer to dip.

Best series: The Complete George Smiley (BBC, 21hrs, £80). The award-winning Radio 4 dramatisation of all eight Le Carré books featuring the tubby, bespectacled spymaster with “the cunning of Satan and the conscience of a virgin”. Everyone remembers Alec Guinness’s inscrutable Smiley in the TV version. Simon Russell Beale’s portrayal takes inscrutability to vertiginous new heights.

Best music: Opera Explained (Naxos, 79mins, £5.99). The antithesis of every “Famous operatic arias” and “Best of Verdi” cherry-picking album. Thomson Smillie’s patient, unpatronising analysis of a score of operas on one CD apiece (except for Wagner and Gilbert and Sullivan, who each get two) covers social context, composer’s biog, anecdotes and, of course, cherries.

Best novel: The Sisters Brothers (Whole Story Audio, 9hrs, £17.35). The first western to be shortlisted for the Booker, Patrick de Witt’s quirky modern morality tale about a pair of contract killers in Gold Rush America will make you laugh. It may even change your mind about psychopaths, especially if they clean their teeth.

Best history: A History of the World in 100 Objects (BBC, 25hrs, £23.50). Everyone’s obligatory coffee-table book last Christmas, but remember, it was a radio series, and what made it so memorable were the conversations between British Museum director Neil MacGregor and the experts handling the various artifacts, which have to be heard rather than read. Why does Seamus Heaney looking at a 9th-century Viking helmet and then reading from his own translation of Beowulf immediately conjure up visions of raiders in longships rowing inexorably towards the Northumbrian coast?

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November 30, 2011

The Mind’s Ear

illustration by Joon Mo Kang


Morning commute in America. “I was fully conscious, but there were no more thoughts. Then I felt drawn into what seemed like a vortex of energy. . . . ” At the wheel of her Subaru, driving east on (perhaps) the Massachusetts Turnpike, a woman is afloat on, adrift in, the Germanic guru-tones of Eckhart Tolle. Raw winter light irradiates the car, fixing every scratch on the windshield in a constellation of worldly damage, and Tolle’s voice — deep but somewhat nasal, as if he has a tiny Jedi Master lodged in his sinuses — snuffles spiritually from the speakers. “I could feel myself being sucked into a void. . . . Suddenly there was no more fear.”

Audiobooks are on the rise. Purchasable, downloadable, borrowable from the library, they are making ever deeper inroads into what publishers persist in calling (with touching optimism) “the book market”: a recent article by Peter Osnos on The Atlantic Web site parsed the sales data in anticipation of a “coming audiobooks boom.” There’s something lovely about this. At the very moment the poor old book-object dissolves before our eyes, pecked to pieces by the angry birds of Kindle, iPad and the rest, we are renewing our primary contract with the author by offering him our ears. We offer them intimately — in the car, in the kitchen, or in bed, on headphones, the sleeping spouse-form heavily at hand while poetry or fiction or New Age consolation is piped directly into our cranial darkness. The voice of Eckhart Tolle, well known to the millions of hungry souls who have purchased audio versions of “The Power of Now” or “A New Earth,” is but a strand of the Voice, that human frequency without which, it seems, we cannot do.

It feels banal to observe that the voice is older than the printed word, and has a senior claim upon our attention. So banal, in fact, that I’m going to leave it to Oscar Wilde. “Since the introduction of printing,” he wrote in “The Critic as Artist,” “there has been a tendency in literature to appeal more and more to the eye, and less and less to the ear which is really the sense which, from the standpoint of pure art, it should seek to please, and by whose canons of pleasure it should abide always.” Wilde’s own interface with audio technology is historically shrouded: did he or did he not, at the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1900, recite part of “The Ballad of Reading Gaol” into the recording horn of one of Thomas Edison’s phonographs? Biographers are unclear. Half a century would pass before Dylan Thomas, quivering Celtic super-ham, sealed the compact between literature and the microphone with a 1952 session for Caedmon Records. Some poems, some shaken jowls, and the literary celebrity spoken-word recording was born. Three years after that, Caedmon’s engineers captured T. S. Eliot reading “Preludes”: “The thousand sordid images / Of which your soul was constituted. . . . ” Morose, incantatory — how does one begin to describe Eliot’s style on the mic? Anglo-Golgothan, maybe.

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October 29, 2011

Audible Launches Neil Gaiman Presents

Neil Gaiman Presents

By Adam Boretz

Audible yesterday announced the launch of Neil Gaiman Presents, a bespoke line of audiobooks personally selected by author and audiobook buff Neil Gaiman and produced on the Audiobook Creation Exchange.

Gaiman has chosen some of his favorite works of fiction and nonfiction and — keeping their specific attributes for audio in mind — personally supervised the casting for each audiobook to ensure that the author’s work is performed by that ideal narrator.

The full list of titles comprising the Neil Gaiman Presents label at launch is listed as follows:

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October 4, 2011

Audible Gets Hollywood Stars to Read Audiobooks

Filed under: Audiobooks — Tags: , , — Bookblurb @ 11:33 am, the provider of digital spoken-word entertainment, is introducing a line of audio performances by some of Hollywood’s biggest stars. Underscoring what Audible says is its global mission to establish the audiobook as a mainstream form of interpretive art on a par with theater or film, the new line will feature a roster of celebrated actors narrating distinguished works of literature that each star has helped select. The first of these new productions is scheduled to be released by Audible early in 2012. Actors slated to perform include:

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September 2, 2011

Elementary, My Dear Watson?

By Adam Boretz

We asked you to pick your Favorite Sherlock Holmes Narrator — and you certainly responded! The polls are now closed, the results are in, and I have to say they’re a bit surprising.

After a relatively weak start, David Timson fans rallied, propelling him to the top spot with 39 percent of all votes cast in a flurry of last minute ballot-box stuffing.

This pushed the late great Edward Hardwicke — who listeners will remember as Dr. Watson from the Granada television adaptations of the Holmes stories — into the number two spot with 25 percent of votes cast.

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July 21, 2011

Audiobook Q&A: Simon Vance

Filed under: Audiobooks — Tags: , , , , , — Bookblurb @ 5:44 am

By Adam Boretz

Simon Vance

For our second Audiobook Q&A, Listen Up is proud to sit down with Simon Vance. Over his long and illustrious career, Vance has narrated hundreds (thousands?) of audiobooks, won major awards, and even negotiated a peace accord with a supernatural web cam. We sit down with Vance to chat about social media, the perils of bad writing, his latest project, and what he does to prepare before recording an audiobook.

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