Tag: audiobooks

Thanks for the Audios….

It’s painfully clear we’re a week out from Christmas at the library: all the books are in (except the Christmas books, we still have a fair number but they’re starting to look picked over) and the audio books and videos are flying out the door.

People have already begun to travel and parents are valiantly trolling the books on cd, trying to find something that will a) not drive them crazy and b) keep the older children engaged while c) still be appropriate for the three year old. I’m trying to hover with intent a little more by those shelves than usual. There’s the various differences in families: age of the youngest child, fantasy v. non-fantasy, series v. non-series…but those are the general parameters.

Audiobooks have greatly increased in popularity, which I think is fantastic. I listened to George Guidall every night in high school, to the point that it was an instant sleep-inducer for the Incredibly-Patient-Mother for a few years thereafter. And yes, I order the kids/teens audiobooks and it’s nice to see my collections circulate. Keep in mind I’m trying not to whine about the fact that the fabulous new chapter books that are coming down from tech services are languishing….

With the acceptance that audiobooks are not just something for people with poor vision and the wonderful quality and variety we’re seeing of performers and titles, it makes sense that there are some followings of narrators. Among the most recognizable of these is Jim Dale.

Two years ago, if I mentioned the name Jim Dale, someone usually swooned in my presence. No matter the subject previous, I would then be treated to a glowing review of how wonderful he was, how fabulous the HP books were on audio, and how their entire family had listened to those books together. Anything he’d read flew out the door as families coming to the end of book 7 sought something else to appease their ears.

Today I came past my display of new audio books and noticed, not for the first time, that our copy of The Return to the Hundred Acre Woods by David Benedictus is still sitting there. Despite the allure of the sequel to a popular classic and being brought to life by no less than the venerable Jim Dale and being displayed face out on the top shelf of the display area (where other things are going quite nicely)…it’s there, wistfully waiting to be popped into someone’s “car bag” and taken along.

Wonder if that will change in the next couple of full court press “we need something for the drive to Grandma’s” days…

A Mild Sense of Vindication

One of the tasks that has landed on my plate over the past year is the care and feeding of our Overdrive collection. I am part of a state-wide group that meets every quarter to decide what audiobooks we’ll make available to our patrons. The last two orders, we’ve been able to start adding mp3, rather than the DRM-laden WMA files. I don’t listen to as many audiobooks as I’d like–I can’t listen and re-design database forms for the 5th time this year. But that’s another blog post.

On the last selection, I noticed that one of the authors available for mp3 selection (it’s a short list) was Christine Feehan. I’m a big fan of her “Dark” series, it’s one of the few series I own the majority of the books. Knowing she’s been on the bestseller list within the past year for at least one of her books, I thought she’d made a good choice for Overdrive.

In the meeting, which was probably 8 or 9 of us from the different library consortia, I learned that apparently I’m the only one who reads paranormal adult romance. But they were willing to take my word that Feehan should circulate and the orders went in. Today I went back to Overdrive to put another hold on a title and I did a quick search for the Feehan books.

All of them are out with multiple holds on them. Granted, demand is slightly skewed because we don’t have that many mp3 books yet, but I feel a little bit vindicated. I’m not the only one in Wisconsin listening to these books. (Actually, I don’t listen to them, I prefer text for her stuff. But that aside…)

Overdrive Making Updates

If you listen to audiobooks, there have been some happenings of note at Overdrive. This is a company which has arisen as one of the primary providers of audiobooks to libraries in the past few years–working with Boston, New York, Chicago and many other systems. I started using it as a patron when I was working in an office where I could wear headphones all day.(1) It was a lovely opportunity to zone out and work with a classical book filtering past my ears. New York Public Library has the widest catalog available of any that I’ve seen thus far and material availability was pretty good too. Lending period is three weeks, which is the most generous time allotment I’ve seen.

A couple of things have come up in the past couple of weeks that are going to be something to keep an eye on–both as the consumer and as a librarian. First, Overdrive recently announced a partnership with Borders. This is an interesting change, because before this I think we’ve mostly seen Overdrive working with libraries. It changes their model. Of course, Borders isn’t in very good shape at the moment but

I forwarded that little announcement to a friend who is an avid audiobook listener, but who uses Audible primarily. He likes patronizing Borders as well so I knew it would be a good fit but for one caveat: Overdrive uses WMA-Compatible DRM: Digital Rights Management protection software that only works with Windows. Said friend is also a heavy Apple user (2) and the DRM isn’t Apple compatible. So here was a chance for one of his favorite stores to be selling an item he buys all the time–and he wouldn’t be able to use it.

Then last week, the morning I had to give a training presentation on Overdrive usage, this press release came out: Overdrive to Distribute MP3 Audiobooks to Booksellers and Libraries. This is important because mp3 will be compatible to Apple. Now more titles will become available to a whole new group of listeners who were previously excluded because of the DRM. The press release isn’t particularly clear about how much of their back catalog will be available (in May) for purchase without DRM. I did find this statement rather speaking about availability to libraries though: “Following the Borders.com retail launch in May, a limited selection of OverDrive MP3 Audiobooks will be added to OverDrive‚Äôs extensive library network.” So I don’t think that DRM catalog is going anywhere anytime soon and libraries are going to have the joys of trying to explain why some of the materials can be downloaded to a patrons Ipod and other’s cannot.

Removal of DRM is a growing trend, which I think it a good thing for audiobooks. We’re an increasingly wired and plugged in society and it’s a pretty decent model for libraries and shoppers. Now, if you’ll excuse me, my ears are going back to Persuasion.

1. My boss got very adept at getting my attention when I had those headphones in: she threw small soft things acquired from conference exhibits at me. A foam heart bounced off me about once a week.
2. Waited in line to get an Iphone

The Joy of the Spoken/Written Word

I am among an apparently small population that grew up being read aloud to–almost continuously. My mother read scores of books aloud to her three children and I have numerous memories of hearing her create worlds from pages of words. This continued through my teenage years as I listened to her read to a brother seven years younger than I.

Talking books became a part of my reading career when I was in junior high and was thoroughly enamoured of George Guidall reading The Cat Who Mysteries by Lilian Jackson Braun. Apparently I wasn’t the only one–Recorded Books tried, briefly, to switch over to a different reader. He was awful and I think it surprised no one that they not only switched back, but re-recorded those books. It was also the way that I first tackled The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy. As it lead to my reading all of Clancy’s fiction novels (his non-fic is a bit dry for me and no I don’t read the stuff he has “help” writing), I think this proved to be a valuable starting point.

Audio books have come appeared on the news recently with strong feelings for and against. Apparently (news to me) listening to an audio book is considered cheating by “true” bibliophiles. Hmmm. There goes my rank as a true bibliophile. I was rather surprised to read a NYT article which portrayed book clubs rebelling against participants who listened to books instead of reading them–accusing them of “cheating.” (Get through a database—apparently it’s been 2 weeks since the article came out. I’ve got a copy somewhere too.)

I, among others, fail to understand how listening to stories–part of a long oral tradition that predates writing and also part of how we all learned to read–is suddenly taboo. Certainly parents of children wading through the classics just before school starts, as a recent ShelfCheck points out, don’t see any difference between their children listening to CDs or on their Ipods. Harry Potter’s audio performer, Jim Dale, has gained a fascinated following, all waiting to hear the familiar voice intone to them Rowling’s tales. Incidentally, that was the first version out the door at my library the day that Book 7 was published.

I’ve most recently gotten into classical literature via Overdrive through the two . As a result I have the better part of the Jane Austen’s works committed to memory. Nadia May reads the versions that I listen to and she’s very soothing to listen to. I spent a week’s commute recently on yet another “read” of Pride and Prejudice. I enjoy it in the printed format but am usually trying to read new books when the chance to sit down with printed text is available. But Jane plays happily in the background as I iron, do some light database modification, and drive thither and yon–wrapping me into the ridiculousness of middle class English love lives

I’m waxing loquacious..so I’ll just end with a link to a more favorable article on audio books

Listening to books is not cheating