Monday, February 23, 2015
It should be obvious why audiobooks cost more than ebooks, and are equivalent or more in price than hardcovers: because they cost more to produce. A professional voice actor must interpret the characters in studio, spending on average three to five days to record a book. Editing and engineering hours are added to this cost, and that's just for downloaded titles. Production of CDs for packaging employ others. Ebooks can be produced at lower cost, and while you pay extra for "name brands," the generics can be just as effective, and might surprise you. The ebook bundle shown here would cost $70 if you bought each of the books individually, but if these books were purchased on audio it might be double that price. Which is not to say there are no bargains on audio: click on the Deals link to the right bottom to see discounted audiobooks, which change weekly. The thing you may not have considered about cost is that audiobooks free you to do something OTHER than to sit in a chair and read. Audiobooks don't involve eye strain, and so you can drive, walk, cook, clean, or exercise while listening. How much is that worth to you? How many more books could you enjoy if someone did the reading for you?
Sunday, February 22, 2015
Grover Gardner is one of the pioneers of spoken word audio, and also one of the most prolific. He's a finalist this year in the Audie Awards (the audiobook industry's Oscar equivalent) with HOUNDED, an amusing mystery by David Rosenfelt, who has penned an entire series of dog related detective novels featuring Andy Carpenter. If it wins in Best Mystery category, it wouldn't be the first time for the Rosenfelt/Gardner duo. This time we have a courtroom drama featuring drugs, the setup of a friend for murder, and a twist ending, all delivered with wit and charm. It's a cosy mystery narrated with the unerring authority and believability of experience that will appeal to both men and women, while A TOUCH OF STARDUST by Kate Alcott will enthrall historical fiction lovers, as the protagonist is employed as publicist for Carole Lombard during her romance with Clark Gable on the filming of Gone with the Wind. Actress Cassandra Campbell narrates that intriguing tale of old Hollywood.
Thursday, February 19, 2015
FUTURE CRIMES by Marc Goodman is a riveting look at the internet of the not too distant future, when technology will have progressed to the point of instant access to accounts at all levels...your credit hacked and your money gone in the blink of a computer eye. Already billions of dollars are stolen by online scammers, but what happens when speed becomes nearly infinite, and the micro-seconds which Wall Street insiders use to their advantage gets leveraged by criminals? Asian countries enjoy much faster speeds than Americans already, and they laugh at the claims of "blazing internet" which Comcast and the like advertise, since theirs are hundreds of times faster (and also cheaper) than ours now. What happens when the U.S. catches up, and what shocking crimes are likely to follow from advancing science? This audiobook is narrated by Robertson Dean, a Broadway actor with skill and an always engaging voice, who also once acted in Star Trek Nemesis and Vanilla Sky. Goodman is founder of the Future Crimes Institute, and a former FBI and Interpol agent. He tells what must be done now in the field of security to prepare for the day, soon coming, when no computer (not even government computers) will be safe, and no password can protect you from hackers.
Saturday, February 14, 2015
Read by an always neutral yet engaging and sympathically curious Sean Runnette, At the Edge of Uncertainty by Micheal Brooks is an examination of the latest discoveries in science that may go against what was previously believed. Life is complex, not just on the social level, but also on the molecular level. This is a broad view of the sciences, but with surprising in-depth focus. So it walks the balance beam between the limited knowledge of pop audiences and the fact-based erudition of geeks, with entertaining flips along the way likely to be appreciated by both. Subjects include the quantum link in understanding smell (and scents perception, as in perfumes); the finding that women experience pain differently than men; why we unconsciously judge what people say by what they are wearing (something politicians exploit); the fallacy of positive thinking in affecting outcomes or overcoming disease (with the caveat of stress and depression); the nature of reality: (holographic, string theory?); why studying vision in how birds navigate may usher in artificially intelligent computers (covering one eye in birds takes away their ability, but not the other!); cosmology and inflation theory; time as illusion; human consciousness (cognition, deception); genes and DNA: are we special? The Nazis experimented on creating chimeras, or human/ape hybrids. It didn't work, but could it? The answer is a shocking "maybe." Stem cell research is but one of the "11 Discoveries Taking Science by Surprise," the subtitle of this fascinating book, written by a journalist with a PH.D in physics. (Note on the narrator: while some readers tend to add drama to non-fiction, as they are used to doing with fiction, Runnette is one of the best because he disappears behind the narrative in the same way that a good dramatic reader does in creating character in novels. This is not an easy task, since one wants naturally to emphasize or dramatize certain revelations. Runnette sticks to goal, which is to create awe in the listener, allowing them to experience that awe by stepping aside, in essence pointing with skillful pacing and pauses.) One of the myopic concepts discussed in the new book THIS IDEA MUST DIE is the notion of simplistic answers to complex problems. We (as humans) tend to want the external world outside our own conscious ego to conform to this need to categorize everything as right or wrong, good or evil, black or white. Star Wars type movies and video games and ball games all require myopic simplicity to work on the level of mindless sensory engagement (US vs THEM.) The real world is not so simple. We do not even know our place in it, and so gravitate toward our baser instincts to dominate or defeat those outside our more understandable clan or family or team. In order for progress to work efficiently we need to retire many such fallacies, and this audiobook discussion of why we are stuck in a violent, incomprehensible world explores and debates the issues posed by dozens of scientists at the frontiers of knowledge.
Friday, February 13, 2015
GHETTOSIDE by Jill Leovy is a gritty but realistic depiction of life in the streets, particularly South Central LA., as it was called before the city tried to change the name to South Los Angeles due to the stigma as a crime-ridden murder and gang capital. This is the true story of the grim complexities of life growing up black. Targeted by police, young black men are the victims of prejudice, but also the victims of themselves, as they kill each other in record numbers. Told from a reporter's viewpoint, with intimate knowledge of shootings, the audiobook is read with Frontline tone skill by Rebecca Lowman. All sides in the tragedy of various cases are shown, and the detectives on the beat must wade through apathy and rage to get at the truth. One relentless detective in particular, John Skaggs, is followed into alleys "more dangerous than Iraq." Weeping family and friends must be pushed aside from dying children in order to save them, and as anger mounts, the police get caught up in the emotion and over-react. The cycle of violence is reinforced, from fear to a sense of outrage at injustice. But what is justice? And how can peace be achieved to break the grip of hopelessness? Do gangster rap lyrics help? Albums sell in the millions for 50 Cent and others, and are purchased by young blacks, who are 25 times more likely to commit murders (and go to jail) than the general population. This audiobook should be listened to, instead. AUDIOBOOK OF THE MONTH. For fiction based on fact, try WHORESON: The Story of a Ghetto Pimp by Donald Goines.
Thursday, February 12, 2015
Jeff Davis has voiced and produced more than 8,000 scripts. Aside from radio and television, his experience also includes long form narration, video training, software tutorials, telephone on-hold messages, and radio dramas.
Q: What do you find most technically difficult about producing audio drama, and what is most satisfying about the business of voice acting and sound engineering?
A: If it is a fully produced audiobook, finding the right piece of music to enhance a scene without becoming intrusive is probably the greatest challenge. The perfect music can really add to any scene, and even though the recording is done in a studio, proper use of effects can place the actors anywhere. It raises the scene to a whole different level. Voice acting takes just as much skill as it does for stage or film acting. I’ve acted in a few dramas, but find my true talents lay on the other side of the microphone. As far as sound engineering goes, it's quite exhilarating to use post production effects to make a dramatic scene sound like it's taking place in a large space.
From Blackstone Audio: on CD or download from Downpour, Audible, or iTunes