By January 26, 2011 3 Comments Read More →

Digital Synchronicity through enhanced audiobooks

Are libraries being left behind in the shift to digital media? Much of the buzz at ALA Midwinter concerned eBooks, as highlighted in the  AL Inside Scoop “Capacity Crowd Talks Ebooks” blog post by Greg Landgraf, which includes this quote from Sue Polanka: “The market is going very fast, and it’s leaving us behind.”

In my “Voices In My Head: Digital Synchronicity” column in the January issue of Booklist , I interviewed movers and shakers in today’s publishing field about the shift to app-based audiobook content, and audiobook  innovations available to consumers but not libraries. There are plenty of cool changes occurring, ranging from downloadable enhanced toddler read-along apps to subtle changes in the standard adult audiobook CD. Check out Blackstone Audio’s Studio Director & narrator extraordinaire Grover Gardner’s blog post about his production of The 13½ Lives of Captain Bluebear that reads, in part:

Would it be possible, he asked, to use electronic means to help create some of the characters and effects? Under ordinary circumstances, the answer would have been a firm, “No!” Voice alteration tricks have always been frowned upon in the audiobook business, since they are bound to call attention to themselves and distract the listener from the story. It’s also seen as “cheating”—if the narrator doesn’t have what it takes to perform the book as written, what is he doing in the studio?…Yet, yet…times are changing! Enhanced audio productions are a growing part of the audiobook experience. Some publishers are using sound effects and mood music to “sweeten” their top-selling romances and thrillers. A younger generation of listeners is more comfortable with multiple readers, dramatizations, and special effects.

Libraries have a spectrum of digital decisions in the AV department – whether you’re debating the use of in-studio electronic effects in the CDs that you purchase for your audiobook collection, adding streaming Disney content via OverDrive Media, or considering Playaway’s new  product, the Playaway View video player pre-loaded with toddler-friendly storybook classics. Let’s continue to lobby digital content providers and publishers to be sure that libraries have access to the new transmedia world that blurs the line between book and audio. The shift to digital media is no longer just the AV department’s headache – it’s a life or death question for the entire library community.



About the Author:

Mary Burkey is an independent library consultant in Columbus (OH). An enthusiastic audiophile, she has served on all four of ALA's audiobook award committees as well as the Audies. In addition to writing the "Voices in My Head" column for Booklist, she is the author of Audiobooks for Youth: A Practical Guide to Sound Literature (ALA, 2013). Follow her on Twitter at @mburkey.

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