Work Title: Can You Hear Me Now? The Rising Standards of Audiobook Publishers
Work Author(s): Lance Eaton
Byline: Lance Eaton
Twenty years ago, audiobook enthusiasts could be spotted by the large clunky cases of cassettes they carried. Rather than purchasing audiobooks at prices often two or three times the cost of their hardcover counterparts, listeners borrowed from libraries or even rented them like videos. Typically, audiobooks were read in a monotonous, droning, and sometimes inconsistent voice. However, the Digital Revolution drastically changed the standards of audiobooks. Listeners can place dozens of hours of listening on their MP3 players, CDs, flash cards, iPods, and other newer technologies. Now, as a multi-billion dollar industry, audiobook publishers have realized that quality (of sound) and quantity (of hours of listening in relation to price) will drive listeners back to their products. Professional actors, elaborate sound studios, and talented directors are now commonplace features for many audiobook publishers. Actors such as Ian McKellen, Glenn Close, Sissy Spacek, and many others have narrated audiobooks.
Like many niche markets though, the independent sector pushes the boundaries of the industry. In recent years, these economically peripheral players have played central roles in the expansion and direction of many trends. Many have been recipients or finalists for Audie Awards, the industry's awards for excellence. These publishers work toward providing the listener the highest quality sound possible, and in most cases, they deliver.
Many new publishers go the route of the classics to establish themselves in the industry. Because of copyrights and the market risk, a classic can be both inexpensive and a generally safe investment. It works on the same principle that sends people to see Shakespeare repeatedly: different performances yield new interpretations.
In this vein, Parmenides Audio has released its first audiobook, The Essential Homer (978-1-930972-12-4), abridged versions of the Iliad and the Odyssey narrated by the translator Stanley Lombardo and award-winning actress, Susan Sarandon. While these epics have been abridged by about one third, Lombardo provides listeners with a brief summation of omitted chapters and sections. His translation proves exceedingly accessible to the common reader, while the philhellene may find it a bit diluted. Lyrical and bass-filled music transitions listeners from one...