A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
If you’re thinking that the Bookfoxes had all this month mapped out with time to spare, and gave a cursory glance to each day’s post muttering “we knew that” – not so. We’ve waited impatiently for each day’s post, and have been constantly surprised and exhilarated. The word in the den has been how much we’ve learnt, from our wonderful contributors, and from one another.
So, here are Foxes Moira, Kirsty, Lisa, Rosy and Hilary with their highlights from our first Audiobooks Month, and what they’re going to take away from it.
In spite of being an audiobook fan for something like 40 years, I’d never given any thought at all to how that voice got onto that CD (or – when I first started listening – that LP!); never stopped to ask myself what separated good narrators from bad ones; never paid any attention to the skill needed to differentiate between characters, genders, ages … Never, in short, really listened with my brain in gear. So in that respect alone, it’s been an eye-opening experience. Factor into that what happens on the other side of the glass – the director, the sound engineer, the publisher – and all the decisions they have to make all the way along the line: I’ve developed a profound respect for all of them.
I suppose my real highlight though was the part that almost never happened because we’d overlooked them: the pioneers themselves – the RNIB. I knew there were ‘Books for the Blind’, but vaguely considered them to be the shabby country cousins of the ‘real things’ – the commercially produced talking books. I had less than no idea of what a massive, thoroughly professional operation it is – and how many people benefit from it. Amazing stuff.
Audiobooks Month was an education for me. I’d go as far as to say that I am (or was) an audiobook philistine; it wasn’t just that it didn’t occur to me to listen to them, but I had only the vaguest idea of the sheer work and skill that went into producing one. The technical discussions, and particularly the candid and witty contributions from “our” actors (Jay Benedict, Stephen Greif and Edward Petherbridge) together with the estimable Martin Jarvis, were the highlight of this month for me. Their enthusiasm made me think that perhaps I’ve missed a trick…
The highlight of Audiobook Month for me was undoubtedly Sharon’s review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, as narrated by Stephen Fry. All month I have been trying to decide if audiobooks are something I want to investigate further, or if I can live quite happily without ever listening to another one. My first ever encounter with an audiobook, Sum by David Eagleman, was an interesting experience, but also something of a battle. Sharon’s review of the Stephen Fry/Harry Potter audiobook made me realise that there is at least one audiobook that I simply MUST HAVE.
There has been so much great stuff this month. I loved Trevor’s piece on Lord of the Rings and Sharon’s review today was a show-stopper. And Nicolas Soames from Naxos was very inspiring with his passion for the medium.
But my personal highlights were “Where Beagles Dare: Speaking for Darwin?” not only for the chance to put in a cheeky title (thanks Moira) and the chance to raise some really complex and thought-provoking questions but also the ensuing discussion that took place in the comments – which was of such a high calibre.
My other highlight – working with Eve on the first VL podcast! Huge fun, with the added relief that it actually worked! (It was a bit hit n miss about 3 minutes before recording). Mark Buckland from Cargo publishing was the perfect podcast interviewee and I’m looking forward to Vulpes embracing audio a bit more in the future – as a medium for posts as well as for reviews.
It’s hard to know where to start. I think that the revelation to me was the extent to which audiobooks have taken on a life of their own in the publishing world, while I’ve spent so many years thinking of them as just an ‘alternative format’. The playful way in which downloads and an ‘iTunes’ approach are changing the landscape and offering new listening/reading experiences is tremendously exciting.
Like my fellow Foxes, I’ve been fascinated by the wealth of information from readers, producers and publishers on the technical and performance aspects of creating audiobooks. I feel sure that there is a LOT more to say about the theory and practice of abridgement. I’ve been delighted with the reviews and am looking forward to the recommendations. And, with Moira I’m delighted to have found out so much more about the work of the RNIB. I thought it was terrific that we actually got to hear some voices, and I’d like to congratulate Rosy and Eve on their triumphant podcast, and thank Mark Buckland and Edward Petherbridge for lending their voices, literally, to this enterprise.
But the most fascinating aspect of the week for me was the exploration of the variety of responses to audiobooks, and highlights for me were Sam’s piece challenging us to think about the similarities and differences between listening and reading, and the spirited debate between Rosy Thornton and Caroline Green, taking sides on audiobooks, contrasting the power of storytelling with the mental processes of adapting to the pace of someone else’s reading.
So, our first Audiobooks Month, but surely not our last ……? (Prime movers Moira and Rosy reach for the smelling salts ….)
The irresistible banner above, so utterly apt for our Audiobooks month, comes from the Flickr photostream of Manatee County Public Library System, Florida, USA and was created by Jonathan Sabin. It was so perfect for us Bookfoxes that we just had to use it, and we congratulate this excellent public library on its commitment to provide the experience of books, reading and listening in all formats.