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Audio News — December 2009

2009 Promotion – The Best Audiobooks Of The Year

The UK voted for Dear Fatty – the audiobook of best-selling autobiography of Dawn French, read by Liza Tarbuck – as the Best Audiobook of the Year 2009.

Launched by Agile Marketing in conjunction with the APA and Midas Pr, on 2nd July this year, the Best Audiobooks of the Year 2009 featured the very best in audio publishing from January 2008 – March 2009. Comprised of three categories — fiction, non-fiction, and children’s — the objective was to create a list showcasing the very best audiobooks, rather than simply audiobook versions of the best books. Samples of each title were available to download from www.20bestaudiobooks.com where the public were asked to vote for their favourite audiobook.

The Best Audiobooks of the Year 2009 highlights the benefits and advantages of the audiobook platform whether as a physical product, or as an opportunity to interact with literature electronically by downloading.

Twenty titles were selected from over one hundred Racing Tips titles entered by audio publishers. The judging panel was formed of key figures from audio publishing, trade press and national media including The Times’ audiobook reviewer Christina Hardyment and prolific audio abridger Kati Nicholl. The panel’s selections were based on excellence in several criteria: quality of literary content, abridgement, reading, production value and sound quality.

The winner of the fiction category is Tea Time for the Traditionally Built by Alexander McCall Smith, read by Adjoa Andoh (Hachette); with Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book (Bloomsbury) topping the children’s chart.

Top ten titles as voted for by over 4,500 of the audiobook listening public are as follows;

Dear Fatty by Dawn French read by Liza Tarbuck (Random House) – Overall Winner !
The Graveyard Book written and read by Neil Gaiman (Bloomsbury) – Children’s Winner !
Tea Time for the Traditionally Built by Alexander McCall Smith read by Adjoa Andoh (Hachette Digital) – Fiction Winner !
Doctor Who : Pest Control by Peter Anghelides read by David Tennant (BBC Audio)
Devil May Care by Sebastian Faulks read by Jeremy Northam (Penguin)
A Room with a View by E M Forster read by Juliet Stevenson (CSA Word)
Slumdog Millionaire by Vikas Swarup read by Kerry Shale (Harper Collins)
The Last Fighting Tommy by Harry Patch read by Alan Howard (Hachette Digital)
The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga read by Kerry Shale (Orion)
The Road by Cormac McCarthy read by Rupert Degas (Naxos)

Chiswick Book Festival

The winning titles of The Best Audiobooks of the Year 2009 were announced at the inaugural Chiswick Book Festival.

The APA hosted an audio panel at the Chiswick Book Festival which was well attended, and saw a spirited discussion between audio actors Adjoa Andoh, Michael Brandon, Andrew Sachs and Kerry Shale and screenwriter David Nicholls, chaired by The Guardian’s Alison Flood.

Michael Brandon writes here about his experience at the festival;

“The Chiswick book festival was a fantastic venue for me especially as I have never spent time discussing the reading of audio books with other actors, writers, and readers. Everyone had their own style of working on the books they read. Some readers like to read the words written and just simply tell the story. I like to give my characters different voices and flavors. It makes it interesting for me to perform and hopefully for the listener as well. It's not the first time I've heard a writer, who reads his own books, speak about the text and wish he had an actor reading it. It's hard work sitting in that room alone with the book for days on end but something magical happens. You dive into a story for two or three, sometimes five days and you not only speak the lines, you give life to the characters. You fill out their personalities and interact with each one and their own set of motives and beliefs. With this Michael Connelly book, Nine Dragons, my leading character, Harry Bosch, is a hard man and a less than wonderful father, but he's a brilliant detective. It's all he knows. When it all comes too close to home, you feel for a man who doesn't know how to feel for himself. His weakest traits are supported by his greatest knowledge. He goes to save his daughter across the world. We as readers are shocked by the circumstances the author has put him in, but we can't wait to read the next word. This was my sixth read for Mr. Connelly and looking forward to many more.

“Hope to be at Chiswick next year.”

Committee news

Ali Muirden - APA Chair, resigns from the APA committee - with effect from 1 December 2009.
Ali has tirelessly supported the APA for the past 11 years, much of that time as APA Chair.  The committee, on behalf of the membership would like to express their thanks and appreciation for all the hard work that Ali has done over the years. Ali has always demonstrated professionalism, enthusiasm and enormous dedication and the Association/Audio industry has benefitted hugely from her endeavours. We wish Ali well for the future.

Quote from Ali Muirden;
“I am resigning due to the increased workload in connection with both Creative Content, the digital download company I founded last year with Lorelei King and with my audio consultancy work, which therefore means that I am unable to devote so much of my time  to the APA.  The position of Chair of the APA is an extremely busy one and really requires someone who can dedicate a considerable amount of time on a voluntary and unpaid basis.  I am hopeful that someone with lots of drive and commitment will step forward and take over the role with enthusiasm and energy to implement the new ideas that we have been working on.”

The committee will appoint a new Chair at the next Executive Committee meeting in January.

The committee welcomes Dominic White (WF Howes) and Francesca Mosley (Naxos). Dominic takes up the publisher seat formerly held by Jo Forshaw and Francesca takes over from Mark Scott who has now left Naxos.

Hannah Whitaker of Walker Books has resigned her seat on the committee.
This leaves 2 vacant publisher seats – any publisher members interested in joining the committee, please email info@theapa.net for more information.

VAT campaign

The APA has joined forces with The Publishers Association and RNIB to campaign for a reduction in VAT on audiobooks.

The Swedish APA has provided some useful information and an insight into how a VAT reduction affects the market. We are currently addressing the requirements laid out by the Treasury and are looking for support from all Audio Publishers - in particular for commitment to pass on savings from a VAT reduction, to the consumer. Any members wishing to get involved, please contact Doron Garfunkel (OK Media). Email: doron@okmedia.biz

New Members

We are delighted to welcome the following new members to the APA:
Rita Barrington—Reader; email rita@barrington-asoundvoice.co.uk / web www.barrington-asoundvoice.co.uk
Andrew Watson—Actor/Reader; email andrew.watson@awwa.co.uk / web www.awwa.co.uk
Chrome Audio—Small Publisher; email office@chromeaudio.com / web www.chromeaudio.com
Andrews UK Ltd—Small Publisher; email info@andrewsuk.com / web www.andrewsuk.com
Innervision—Small Publisher; email info@innerv.net / web www.innerv.net

Kindling The Debate – Audiobooks and EBooks - SYP Speaker Meeting

The Society of Young Publishers recently hosted a Speaker Meeting on digital/audiobooks. Lucy Mitchell from the SYP reports on the event;

The SYP’s September speaker meeting covered the hot topic of the moment: are printed books essential, or is a move to purely electronic media inevitable?

First to speak was Bella Todd, Editor of Latest 7 magazine and founder of Time Out’s monthly audio books column, A Word in Your Ear. ‘I’m speaking to you as a fan rather than an industry professional,’ Bella told us. ‘I pitched A Word in Your Ear in 2008 because I loved audio books. My first encounter of them was my mum taping them for me from the radio. Now it’s more about commuters and iPods.

‘There’s been a massive shift in the past few years in the type and range of audio books available, from classic to cult, to new books. People can download the same books as are being reviewed in the books sections. Time Out exists to give coverage and consideration to all art forms, and I think audio books merit this ­– they are an art form. Think of the quality and calibre of reading that is available.

‘Audio books have allowed me to finish lots of books that I’d only just started to read, such as Midnight’s Children and Tristram Shandy. It’s a bit like having a personal trainer – and it means I don’t read the same paragraph three times! I don’t think it’s dumbing down at all; audio books are a means of engaging new readers.’

Next to speak was Simon Bell, Head of Strategic Partnerships and Licensing at the British Library. Until a year ago, Simon worked in mainstream publishing. ‘Now I work at the British Library on the issue of digitisation – which is front and central to the current debate amongst significant libraries worldwide.

‘We’re a legal deposit library, so a copy of every item published in the UK is deposited in the library. We exist not just to collect and provide access to books, but also to audio, movies, web content, comics, journals and so on. It’s really a collection of the intellectual content of the UK.

‘There’s an increasing appetite from the Google generation – they don’t go to libraries to find information, they want to access it from their desktop. This, of course, means digitisation. We have over 150 million objects in the British Library, so it’s a big project, but it’s a service to the scholarly community. We particularly want to make out of print items available and accessible through digitisation.

‘Digitisation is expensive, even where there’s a commercial return, which isn’t the case for the more obscure items. For example, we have millions of newspapers in our archive – there’s no money from the public purse to digitise them, so how do we find the money? We have to find commercial partnerships, but then how do they gain a return – especially when ideally we want to provide the content for free?’

Colin Weir, Business Development Coordinator at Audible.co.uk, told us that Audible have ‘around 35 000 downloads available on our website, from comedy sketches to books. The pricing varies, but has to be in line with the customers’ expectations. They tend to see a download as equivalent to an album, not a box set of CDs that they’d buy in a shop.

‘We offer a membership plan, which allows you to download one audio book a month for £7.99 or two for £14.99. I take this membership plan, and go out to partners to see how to develop it. I try to spread the word about audio books, and partnerships help us to reach new readers.

‘So who buys audio books? As I see it, there are two niches. The first is people who go to libraries and shops and buy a CD box set of an audio book, but are yet to be converted to the benefits of downloading. So we’d target these people by something like placing an offer in the Radio Times offering a free audio book.

‘The second is people who love downloading and iTunes, but aren’t yet fans of audio books. They think they’re only for the elderly or the visually impaired. Twenty per cent of 18–25 year olds haven’t read a book in the past year, and these are the people to grab. We give them a celebrity biography or a music biography – for example our partnership with

Xfm where we gave away the Nick Cave audio book. We also have offers for children – for example, free Horrid Henry downloads in partnership with Marmite.’

Clive Stanhope, Managing Director at CSA word, was next to speak. ‘Audio books tend to be forgotten by book publishers – they’re second on the list,’ Clive told us. ‘But digital life is coming and it’s here to stay. And audio books are here to stay. There are of course copyright issues to consider, and the debate over the MP3 versus the Windows format, but these issues are largely being ironed out, and the audio book is well established.

‘Pricing is, of course, an issue. An audio book is a physical product and there is a manufacturing cost. With downloadable content, when it’s created, there’s nothing left to pay for – the publisher doesn’t lose any money on reprints, apart from perhaps through royalties. There are no stock issues.

‘However, you do have to record the book. How do you produce an unabridged audio book for £15.99? There’s no extra CD cost, but you still have to pay the reader, studio costs, and the rights.

‘For many of our titles at CSA, the break-even point is not yet being met by download sales alone. We have only three of four titles which would have made a profit if we hadn’t released them on CD also. But our CD sales are up on last year, despite the recession. I don’t think downloads are taking the place of CD sales, but it shows that new people are getting into audio books.

‘We’ve had a long battle with getting electronic rights. At first it wasn’t clear whether you were allowed to sell downloads as well as CDs when you’d bought audio rights. We have to pay royalties to both the author and the reader, and agents ask for the majority of the money as they think we have no costs. But they don’t think about things like the fact that we had to dump all our cassettes at one stage – we bore that cost – and royalties are being earned, so they’re not being ripped off.’

Our final speaker for the evening was Neil Jewsbury, Commercial Director at Waterstone’s. He was involved with the launch of the Sony e-reader, ‘the most exciting development within the industry in recent years.’ Neil shared with us some customer insights about their experiences of e-books. ‘People think that the people who are into e-books are geeky first-time adopters, but this isn’t the case – the split in our customers were roughly 50 % male and 50 % female, with 70 % over 35. 60% buy more than eight books a year, and 90% had bought a book within the past three months, so they were buying both physical and e-books.

‘When asked what they enjoyed about e-reading, they said that it was “new and exciting,” and “convenient”, especially for travelling. It was also “in-line with current times,” and gave a more fashionable look to reading. In terms of what they didn’t like, they wanted to know why there wasn’t more choice in the range of e-books, and why it’s not possible to buy an e-book at the same time as the hardback is launched. They were also confused by the pricing. They weren’t clear about why e-books are VAT-able and physical books aren’t, thus making the e-book more expensive. They tend to automatically assume that a digital book will be cheaper than a conventional book.

‘It’s certainly an exciting development for the book industry – e-books are touching and reaching new customers. It’s a convenient method of reading, and it’s a positive development for authors, publishers and readers. However, there industry has to consider three things – pace, price and possible piracy. The digital space moves faster than anything we’ve known before, so pace is of the essence. Customers will demand this. In terms of price – it’s not about marching to the lowest price. We should be sensible about pricing. The customer doesn’t want to feel overcharged. If these two things aren’t addressed, piracy will be the result.’

Questions followed, on the topics of whether digitisation is overall a good or a bad thing – the general consensus from the panel was that it is a good one. As Simon pointed out, 80% of academic jounals are available digitally. ‘Academic and STM publishers have been quietly getting on with the process of digitisation while everyone else has been making a fuss about it.’ The panel also felt that the e-reader is an intermediate technology – a multi-purpose device is the way forward, and that in ten years’ time, digitisation will be the norm – no-one will comment on it anymore.

The panel also commented on whether the publishing industry is capitalising on digital technology – to which they suggested that the industry is being held back by fear of piracy and fear of what e- and audio books will do to our existing business model. Clive cited his background in the music industry – ‘the music industry moves a lot faster. They leap on new technologies, even if they don’t always turn out to work, they try it. Book publishers have to realise the technology is out there and get on with it.’

Neil summed up the dilemma and ended the evening with the idea that ‘there are two ends of the spectrum – the problem and the opportunity. Publishers’ focus is wrong. If they continue to be preoccupied by the problem, they will miss the opportunity.’ – Lucy Mitchell, SYP.

Submissions

If you wish to submit an article for inclusion in the next issue of Audio News, please email Laura at info@theapa.net