Reading IS the Part

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What a pleasant surprise to see the continuing coverage of audiobooks by the New York Times. It’s about time journalists caught on to their popularity! Readers had the pleasure of encountering two pieces on audiobooks in the past week alone. The first was a blog post by John Schwartz, who’s practically a beat writer these days when it comes to covering the audiobook publishing industry. He describes Billy Crystal’s live reading at NYU of selections from his forthcoming book, Still Foolin’ Em: Where I’ve Been, Where I’m Going, and Where the Hell Are My Keys? Memoir is a natural fit for the audiobook genre, and Crystal plans to include portions of the live reading in the book’s audio version. It’s particularly noteworthy for Crystal’s display of raw emotion in an otherwise scripted performance.

The second feature appears in the paper’s “Business Day: Media & Advertising” section instead of “Books,” which comes as no surprise since audiobooks are frequently thought of in commercial rather than literary terms. Good news for aspiring narrators: a growing number are able to make a living this way thanks to rising sales figures. For example, Gabra Zackman has recorded over 200 books. Prestigious institutions like Juilliard and Yale have even begun offering audio narration workshops.

The article also points out that Nicole Kidman recently recorded Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. You can watch a video of her reading the novel here.

Here’s a link to “Billy Crystal Reads for an Audience, Prompting Laughter and a Surprise.”

And also one to “Actors Today Don’t Just Read for the Part. Reading IS the Part.”

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When Words Sing

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John Schwartz continues to cover audiobooks for the New York Times with a recent piece on his favorite narrators. Schwartz begins by pointing out that a mediocre narrator can cause a reader to lose interest even in a good book. By contrast, a skilled narrator can bring out a book’s hidden depths or make it more enjoyable. Like many other readers, Schwartz often picks books not by their titles but by their narrators. Some of his favorites include Simon Vance, Grover Gardner, John Benjamin Hickey, and – spoiler alert – Rita Moreno.  Amateur readers receive a share of the praise too in the case of Andrew Solomon’s 962-page book, Far From the Tree. If picking favorites can at times seem impressionistic, Schwartz does a good job here of identifying exactly what he likes about each performance.

The full story is available here: “When Words Sing.”

Expanding the Market for Audiobooks

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Watch out, multitaskers: a publisher campaign is targeting people whose hobbies make them a good fit for audiobooks. According to the New York Times, the website TryAudiobooks.com has been designed with such people in mind and even includes a “personal audiobook assistant” to recommend titles for runners, crafters, road trippers, business travelers, and techies. The piece is full of rich statistics about audiobook reading habits and recent sales figures (for many years, the lack of reliable data has bedeviled those of us writing about the audiobook market). The President of the Audiobook Publishers Association ends the piece on a provocative note by suggesting that audiobooks may no longer be “the stepchild of print.”

The piece appears in the “Advertising” rather than the “Books” section of the NYTimes. You can read Andrew Adam Newman’s article here: “Expanding the Market for Audiobooks Beyond Consumers.”