Audiobooks are the hottest thing going in publishing, yet there are few books that give an insider’s view of how the (aural) sausage gets made. Luckily, there’s a terrific new book that gives an eminently readable overview of the history of audiobooks: The Untold Story of the Talking Book by Matthew Rubery, just released by Harvard University Press, is an essential purchase for audiobook aficionados and libraries.
Rubery takes a wide view, exploring the act of reading, the social history of both oral and print storytelling, research on how the brain processes written and oral information, and how changing technology has (and will) impact the format. He details how narration can interpret text, how audiobooks enhance literacy for all listeners, and how the audio format serves those with print disabilities. Originally from Texas, Rubery is now Lecturer at Queen Mary University of London and previously explored the subject of audiobooks as editor of the scholarly Audiobooks, Literature, and Sound Studies and on his blog, Audiobook History.
If you’re looking to do more audiobook research, an outstanding resource for those selecting youth audiobooks is Listening to Learn: Audiobooks Supporting Literacy by Sharon Grover and Lizette D. Hannegan, both former chairs of the Odyssey Award for Excellence in Audiobook Production Committee. The book presents a thorough look at the methods and titles that support core curriculum educational standards and literacy development.
My own book, Audiobooks for Youth: A Practical Guide to Sound Literature, also addresses audio’s impact on literacy, as well as providing a behind-the-scenes look at the production and construction of an audiobook, collection development for audiobooks, and evaluating audiobooks. There’s also the “Audiobook Lexicon,” a glossary of terminology related to the audiobook industry.
Booklist’s audiobook and readers’ advisory expert Joyce Saricks educates selectors on the qualities of an outstanding audiobook review in “Writing Audiobook Reviews,” the chapter she authored in Brad Hooper’s Writing Reviews for Readers’ Advisory. Saricks’ own book, Read On . . . Audiobooks: Reading Lists for Every Taste, lists over 300 audiobooks for adults, many with teen appeal, categorized into 60 themes.
The Readers’ Advisory Handbook, edited by Jessica E. Moyer and Kaite Mediatore Stover, contains two chapters of interest to those evaluating audiobooks: “How to Listen to a Book in Thirty Minutes,” by Stover, and “Reviewing Audiobooks,” by former Booklist media editor Sue-Ellen Beauregard.
And for those who want to learn the nitty-gritty of working in the audiobook field, try Audiobook Narrator: The Art of Recording Audio Books by narrator superstar and Booklist “Voice of Choice” Barbara Rosenblat, with Dan O’Day.
You’ll need to clear off a shelf for these print editions: Strangely enough, none of these titles about audiobooks are available in audiobook format! [Edited to add: Harvard University Press just let us know that Blackstone Audio will release the audiobook for The Untold Story of the Talking Book on the book’s publication date of November 14.]