Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Announcements and Questions!

The Winnahs!

First and foremost, congratulations to MaryJanice Davidson for winning the hand selling contest with her hand sell for her book Undead and Unwed. It was a tight race with Jason Evans coming in second with his hand sell for Anne Frasier’s Before I Wake.

MaryJanice and Jason, please email me (via the address in the right hand column) with your favorite truffle choices from Moonstruck Chocolate and an address where I can ship your prize. If you’re allergic to chocolate, please, let me know, and I’ll come up with an alternative.

Thanks to everyone who submitted a hand sell and voted.

This Just In: Bookseller Chick Becomes Theatre Chick!

Just letting everyone know that I’ll be computerless (as far as I know) until Sunday because I’m going on vacation. Woo Hoo! Hopefully it will give me a chance to revive, see some wonderful plays and catch up on my reading. I’m planning to come back with some reviews, questions, another contest or two and some answers to more of those homework questions (p.s. check out Quinny’s response in the comments to “Doing My Homework #6: Product Placement and Co-op Marketing.” It’s not all publisher funded placement, the bookstore has its own agenda too).

Until then, puzzle me this:

What is the future of Audio books?

I’m sure I’m not the first (in fact I know I’m not the first) to bring this up, but let’s look at the future of audio books, shall we? Currently they run from cheap (14.99) to expensive ($75.00), light to cumbersome (wasn’t the last Harry Potter something like 22 CDs unabridged?), and abridged to unabridged, but they make a reasonable alternative for the person on the go who doesn’t have time to sit down and read. I have customers who listen to them in the car, while cleaning the house, or give them to their elderly relatives who can no longer read the small print of books.

Still, in this age of rapidly changing technology, they are behind the curve. Everyday I have customers ask for something they can download to their iPod or cell phone because they don’t want to bother with the multiply CDs or cassettes. Barnes & Noble and Borders responded by test-marketing Playaways—iPod sized, individually packaged audio books “with earphones, a lanyard, and a standard AAA battery to allow for immediate listening.”

Some libraries, meanwhile, now have the ability to allow you to download checked out audio books to your computer. Whether or not you can then download the file to your preferred choice of listening device, burn it to CD, or what, I don’t know. If you can then this cuts out the complaints other booksellers have passed on to me from customers about the Playaways. They either a.) want to be able to refill it, or b.) don’t want to be bothered to keep the Playaway after they’re done with it. One bookseller told me that a customer asked, “What do I do with it afterwards? Just put it on my shelf?”

Listen to it again later? Give it away? Donate it?

I don’t know, let’s ask Mr. Owl! (Sorry, I haven’t had enough coffee yet.)

What I do know is that the future of the audio book (and its method of delivery) is changing rapidly. Are Playaways the future or will it be kiosks in bookstores where you can download straight to your iAudio, iPod, or iriver? Maybe there will be audio book stations on XM Radio?

The future is wide open and I’m interested in your ideas. Where do you see audio books in the next few years?


Wendy said...

My library is currently Beta testing the Playaways - and the feedback has been positive. We provide replacement batteries, but not the earphones. If the patron has an FM adapter ($20 at Radio Shack) they can listen in their car.

As for downloadable audios - libraries are starting to offer them. You can download them to your computer, then burn them onto CD or transfer the file to your MP3 player. It's been a big hit at our more affluent branch libraries.

As for iPods, Apple is trying to keep that monopolized within an inch of it's life. While our patrons shouldn't be able to download the eaudios to the iPod, some of them have found a work around.

What this means for the retail market is anyone's guess - but I see the downloadable audio book idea being a boon for libraries.

Ms. Librarian said...

The Audio book on CD of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" was only 7 or 8 physical CDs, but each CD was marked with multiple "chapters," i.e., 1-4, 5-7, 8-12, etc. up to 22.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the contest BSC!! I had a good time playing. I hope it was photo finish. ;)

TheNinjaKitten said...

Awesome post...and not just because I work for an audio book rental company. People are sort of figuring out how audio books are useful, but the learning curve needs some work. *My favourite oxymoron is when people ask for downloadable books on tape.

Eileen said...

I prefer paper books, but love audio books for the gym or travel. It feeds my desire to always have a book (or two or three) on the go. FYI I picked up Anne Frasier's book on Jason's handsell and am loving it.

Marianne McA said...

UK version of HP has 17 CDs, which I know because I've just taken number 17 from my ten year old, and started her on number one again.
I think it cost £39 on Amazon. In general the price would put me off buying audio books for the children, and I don't like borrowing them from the library, because tapes seem more prone to damage than books.

Michelle said...

There is also MP3s on CDs that can be transfered on to an Ipod.

lady t said...

I haven't seen these new Playaways but it sounds like something that would definately kickstart the audio book market. I've never been too thrilled about the whole audio thing-to me,it's only useful for travel or those with vision probelms.

It all really boils down to easy user access and price-crack those nuts and audio books will take off quicker than a 747. Congrats to the contest winners-I feel very honored to have been competing with such fine company:)

Michele said...

""Whether or not you can then download the file to your preferred choice of listening device, burn it to CD, or what, I don’t know""

FYI - yep, you can download and burn..but you better have a lot of discs! I did Stroke of Midnight, was going to take 14 CDs and on dial up (*sigh*) it took one hour's download time per CD...that was 14 hours spent downloading. It was my first and LAST time doing an audio book. So the future better be be quicker and more compact or it won't find me going near it.

It can be great in the future, if those issues can be met.

Bookseller Chick said...

The problem with Playaways (from what friends have told me) is that although they are much more compact, they are about the same price as the audio book. Customers look at them and think "smaller=cheaper" and then they look at the price and get sticker shock (49.95 in some cases). They don't see the benefits of the the Playaways ability to bookmark your spot, allow you to slow the narrative, or go back to something you missed.

mapletree7 said...

I love audio books. I listen to them often - while I'm exercising, and before I moved, during my commute. But the price is so high that I've only ever bought one audio book(Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, since you ask), although I've listened to more than fifty over the past couple of years. Instead of buying them I check them out from the library.

The production value makes a BIG difference. Listening to a good reading really adds a lot to a book. I never really appreciated the humor of Pride and Prejudice until I listened to it. But a bad reader can make me wince every two seconds and I will avoid certain readers when possible. I'm not a big fan of Flo Gibson; I never want to hear George Guidall again; Doug Ordunio's reading of Guns, Germs and Steel was nearly illiterate.

But they cost so much! Even though the high cost is a valid reflection of production cost per unit, I don't buy them new. Even when dealing with a wonderful, wonderful audio book that I wanted to purchase as a gift for someone who I know would enjoy it.

Plus the industry has got to be facing competition from places like this: Project Gutenberg Audio eBooks.

I worry! I want wonderful artists like Jim Dale to continue to be rewarded, but I don't know if the financials work out.