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Friday, February 27, 2009

The end of the Audiobook argument

Just a quick one, as a follow-up to http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2009/02/quick-argument-summary.html and http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2009/02/zoom-zzzzoom.html.

Right.

1) go and read Wil Wheaton's post http://wilwheaton.typepad.com/wwdnbackup/2009/02/wil-wheaton-vs-text-2-speech.html

2) Listen, actually listen to Wil and "Alex" reading at http://wilwheaton.typepad.com/files/wil_wheaton_vs_text_2_speech.mp3

3) Now imagine a world in which someone sits with a novel on the screen and carefully codes every character and tone of voice, every emotion. Imagine the time involved, and the effort involved in making something that, no matter how good it ever gets, will not be as good as a person reading it. This isn't teaching a computer to play chess. 

An audio book, read by someone who's good at it, is an audio book, an experience that's different to, sometimes complementary to, the words on the page. A computer reading to you is a computer reading to you. And at the point where they can read books to us as well as we can read them aloud to each other, we will have other things to worry about.

As I said first time out, and this is speaking as someone who loves audiobooks, records his own audiobooks, makes a not-insignificant portion of his income from audiobooks and has even won awards for bloody audiobooks... To repeat myself -- I think any money that could be spent on legal bills trying to stop people listening to books (or to anything still in copyright) using the text-to-speech functions on their computers, iPhones, Kindles, Androids etc, would be infinitely better used to promote audiobooks, to tell people there are fine audiobooks out in the world, that there are great books and great readers, and that the experience of listening to a book is a wonderful one. Promote the Audie awards. Get the word out.

(I tell people that my preferred edition of Anansi Boys is the Lenny Henry audio book, and I mean it. Hmm. Currently for sale at 80% off from Amazon.)

Here's a widget that plays the first chapter of The Graveyard Book.



And here's the first chapter of Stardust.

The opening few minutes of Coraline (beginning with Stephin Merritt's You Are Not My Mother And I Want To Go Home song). Lenny Henry's wonderful opening for Anansi Boys.



(Changing the subject completely, a reminder -- we're heading towards the last day for Clarion applications, Clarion and Clarion West, and here's a fine collection of links to the various SF writers workshops and boot camps.) (And one day earlier comes the deadline for Hugo nominations,)

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