At Digital Book World, Michele Cobb of the Audio Publishers Association talks about the recent explosion in audiobook production. Digital audiobooks have been growing more popular ever since the introduction of the iPod, but it’s only in the last five or six years that audiobook production has boomed, going from 7,237 titles produced in 2011 to 35,574 titles in 2015. What’s the cause of this expansion? According to Cobb, it’s e-books—at least in part.
Digital book files don’t need to wait on a FedEx shipment, she explains, and reading them on an iPad rather than from a printed page means there aren’t any pesky page-turn noises to edit out of the recording. The digital nature of audio production helps, too, as the digital audio files can be more easily manipulated and edited and they don’t have to wait on FedEx to ship them back, either.
Another factor is that narration has moved from formal studios in a business environment to narrators’ own home studios. Even though they need more technical skills and training to work in this way, once they have it they can take on a lot more work than they could have before. The availability of more talent and more production facilities means that authors publishers are putting out more and more of their work in audio formats these days, including doing the books themselves if they have to.
For an example of a self-published audiobook success story, we need look no further than self-publishing booster J.A. Konrath, who has posted an entry to his blog about the process of releasing his first self-produced audiobook. Through an odd series of lucky coincidences and opportunities, he managed to get Bob Walkenhorst—the lead singer of his childhood favorite band, the Rainmakers—to do the narration. After he tells the story, he interviews Walkenhorst about the audiobook production process and how it compares to producing music.
Joe: How does this compare to recording music?
Bob: LONGER, a lot LONGER! But the construction of mood is similar, in that you change tones and volume and tempo. The big difference being that is all has to be done with the spoken (or shouted!) voice, rather than all the infinite choices of instruments and effects in music.
It’s all very interesting—and also interesting to consider how the process of digital creation and editing has changed so many aspects of the way our pop culture is created. The digital advantages of e-books over print books are obvious, but how much easier it is to create audiobooks digitally is something we don’t think about as much. Even if perhaps we should—do-it-yourself operations like Librivox to record public-domain titles have been going on for years, and Amazon’s taken advantage of audiobooks’ new popularity to start offering discount bundles with e-books (to some authors’ and narrators’ chagrin).
In any event, audiobooks are a great way to consume literature while doing other things, and the more of them get made, the more choice we readers and listeners will have. Who knows what digital changes we’ll see next?