Friday, April 13, 2007

Audiobooks, Quanity vs. Quality

When I changed my job, one of the reasons I didn't mind adding 45 minutes to my commute was because I enjoy listening to audiobooks. Since I don't have time to read at work (an all too common misconception about librarians) and somewhat limited time at home, audiobooks are a great way for me to keep up with some of the more popular titles I may not get around to otherwise. And because I get about an hour and a half of listening a day, I tend to run through our library's audiobook collection rather quickly.

It seems I am not the only one either. Libraries are putting more of their funds into audiobooks while sites like ListenNJ have really begun to improve their selections as well.

But are the recording companies pushing these audiobooks out a little faster than they can handle them?

My experience with audiobooks produced in the last six months has been somewhat disappointing. Although the casting has usually been wonderful, I find myself having to adjust the volume up in order to hear everything or down so as not to blow my speakers out. I seem to have this problem with both my car stereo as well as my mp3 player, so I am not particularly inclined to believe it's the devices' fault.

When I asked a couple of my colleagues about this, they have also noticed this offset between the quality of the voice and the production.

Are recording companies spending so much on their voice actors now that they have to compromise the amount of money they can dedicate to refining the quality of the sound? Have the companies found that certain voices will make people more likely to listen and spend for an audiobook?

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At April 13, 2007 11:14 AM, Anonymous Morris County Library said...

Morris County libraries (37 of us) went live with NetLibrary on Jan. 1. Complaints haven't been about quality, but about lack of latest best selling authors/titles. And, of course, the comments from iPod users have been acidic (one said we were violating his constitutional rights?!) I think patrons are still rather buffaloed by the technology/process. Sign-ups just in this library are one a day (103 accounts in 104 days--waiting for first quarter consortium wide numbers), but check-outs are only half that number. Folks seem to have rushed to start an account ("Ooooh?! I don't want to miss anything?") ..but aren't using them. We publicized the Pimsleur language collection to LVA/ESL community ..without appreciable effect, at this point. Think libraries are running slightly ahead of patrons on this one, thus far.
Audiobooks @MCL

At April 13, 2007 1:23 PM, Blogger Terran said...

I commute at least 2 hours a day, and I've noticed the same problems with sound levels on a lot of newer audiobooks. I'm sure there are multiple reasons, but I'd guess the main one is probably that they are just being outsourced to the cheapest & fastest manufacturer? To paraphrase the usability adage, you can only have 2 of the 3: cheap, good, and fast.


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