The Digital Squeeze

The Digital Squeeze Episode 1: Francisca Goldsmith & Robin Whitten

Sep 09, 2019

Audiobooks continue to rise in popularity and currently represent the fastest growing segment in publishing. Listen to Julie discuss the rise in audiobook creation as well as popular and newly released audio content with two prominent voices from AudioFile Magazine.

View an issue of Audiofile magazine

Julie Twomey: Hello and welcome to the first official episode of the Digital Squeeze Podcast. I'm your host, Julie Twomey. Audiobooks continue to rise in popularity and currently represent the fastest-growing segment in publishing, so I had the pleasure of discussing the rise and creation of audiobooks, as well as popular and newly released content with two prominent voices from AudioFile Magazine, the ultimate resource for audiobook recommendations and reviews. Check out the interview here.

I have two guests on the show to talk about the rising popularity of audiobooks. My first guest is Robin Whitten, the editor and founder of AudioFile Magazine which is the number one source for audiobook reviews. Welcome to the program, Robin.

Robin Whitten: Hello, thank you very much.

Julie Twomey: Next, I am joined by Francisca Goldsmith who has worked in the public and academic libraries across North America for more than 25 years. She offers her services as a media consultant, an author, instructor, and a contributing editor and reviewer for AudioFile Magazine. Welcome to the show, Francisca.

Francisca G: Thanks, Julie, good to be here.

Julie Twomey: Let's get right to the good stuff. This segment is dedicated to new and popular audiobooks. We're going to relate a lot of what we talk about today to AudioFile Magazine, which I've mentioned that both Robin and Francisca are very closely involved with. Let me start with you, Francisca. Can you give me some top picks, specifically for kids and teens, for audiobooks?

Francisca G: Sure. One of the things that AudioFile Magazine does annually is present a summer giveaway program of audiobooks and among the audiobooks that are happening on this year's Season of Sync is the title Swing by Kwame Alexander, who's an extremely popular author and narrator, both, for the young adult set. Swing is the latest in a series that he's written. He's written them with Mary Rand Hess. They are in free verse and certainly his performance of them is every bit as wonderful as the writing of them.

For slightly smaller children ... Much smaller children, actually, one of the newest audiobooks to come through the reviewing process at AudioFile Magazine, is Mango, Abuela and Me, which is a read-along, a picture book that's accompanied by an audio version of the reading. This one was published by Live Oak Media and was narrated by a group of three people, Brian Amador, Rosi Amador and Alisa Amador.

Together, they take the roles of the characters in the book. There are background sounds. This book is written in both English and Spanish and their pronunciation, of course, is stupendous in both languages, and weaves back and forth to tell the story of a grandmother, a grandchild and a pet bird.

Julie Twomey: I love that. I noticed you mentioned background noises, which I find very interesting, as I'm a huge audiobook fan and one of the things that I've noticed in a lot of the selections is the use of some background noise. Is that something that you're seeing more of, Francisca?

Francisca G: Certainly for read-aloud books, read-along books, there are this great use of things like the atmospheric sounds that you might hear. You might hear the doorbell, you might hear somebody sweeping a wood floor, et cetera, et cetera. There are also audiobooks that are presented in the same way that radio drama was once presented, so there's much more in the way of sound effects that maybe come more to the fore than they do in these read-alongs.

Francisca G: In the read-alongs, they're pleasant and they set a tone but they don't ever really come to the front of the stage and take a bow whereas sometimes they do in the radio drama.

Robin Whitten: One of the things that I like to call that whole part of a program with sound is a soundscape, and one of the producers, an audiobook producer, first gave me that idea, because she came from the film industry and that's the way she thought about productions, and so the first audiobook that she did, she created a soundscape. I'm like, "Oh, yes, of course, yes, that's a great way to describe it."

Julie Twomey: Yeah, it is, because, it's interesting, even with this podcast. I'm a marketing person so I'm thinking about the music that comes along with the program and the sounds have so much more meaning now that you're actually putting them to something. It's interesting to see them used in this way.

Francisca, for young adults, college, university, do you have any picks there that are popular or upcoming?

Francisca G: These are a little older, and the reason I've chosen them is because they are so popular in older grades, in high school, and also in community college. If you're a librarian and you're just getting into the audiobook collection or recommendations field, these are the kinds of things that you might want to know about, especially if you're working in an academic or a school situation.

We were just talking about the idea of the soundscapes. One of the other ways that sound other than the human voice gets used is with musical beds that either just introduce and are at the end of an audiobook to let you know that it's the end, or, in some cases, actually, there are musical pieces in between chapters. What this music does with classics, like the Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, as it was narrated by Martin Jarvis from Naxos Audiobooks is that bit of music in between chapters or in between parts of a book, allows the listener to key into the fact that they really need to take a moment now and think about what has just come before, before they plunge into what comes after.

It's kind of a way of tapping the person on the shoulder and saying, "Hey, don't speed read this. Take a moment, pause, and then take what you already know forward into the next part that you're going to hear," so that's another way that that kind of use of music that's used.

The classics are done poorly and they're done well. Certainly things from Naxos Audiobooks, such as Metamorphosis are typically done very, very well, and part of that is the pace that the little musical interludes allow.

Another one that's really popular in community colleges right now is Born a Crime, which was written and also performed by Trevor Noah. This was published by Audible. A lot of people, of course, in the target age group for community college, are familiar with who Trevor Noah is, but hearing his story also allows them to think about their own lives and their own stories that they might not have picked up on themselves, because he's such a master of different aspects and has the capacity to sound like a whole lot of different people without really doing a mimic. The audiobook format is really the way to read this book. It really should be read with your ears.

It's a great introduction, especially for librarians who may not be audiobook fans themselves and really want something that they know that they can stay committed to for their first experience.

Julie Twomey: Yeah, that's great. I've heard his name mentioned several times now so I'm definitely going to add that one myself. Now, I'm going to move over to Robin. Robin, can you give us some top non-fiction picks?

Robin Whitten: I'd love to. You have so many good things to choose from, and I think that a couple of them that seem to me to be in people's minds, particularly actually, Francisca just mentioned the Trevor Noah. I was thinking about another author read a memoir, and this is Save Me the Plums by Ruth Reichl.

She was the editor of Gourmet Magazine, she was a food, restaurant critic for many years. She has a number of memoirs and she reads them herself. They're highly listenable, always interesting. This one happens to be about her years at Gourmet Magazine but she's very popular in these memoirs, full of humor, and she delivers them really quite wonderfully.

Julie Twomey: That's a great selection and that definitely gets my interest. I love food, I like cooking, so to hear behind the scenes of Gourmet sounds very interesting.

Robin Whitten: There's plenty of food and talking about food and food experiences here.

Julie Twomey: Love it, love it.

Robin Whitten: Just what you should be doing while you're cooking, and I think a lot of listeners do listen while they're cooking dinner or making some special meal, so it's a great thing.

Julie Twomey: That's awesome.

Robin Whitten: I'm just going to switch here quickly to something, I would say another memoir, because there are so many good ones right now, but one of the audiobooks that I think is everyone's mind is the latest David McCullough title, The Pioneers, and of course many people have followed McCullough's histories as audiobooks for, I don't know, a couple decades here. He often has read his histories himself but this one, The Pioneers, is read by John Bedford Lloyd.

It's interesting, McCullough's in his 80s. It's hard to read an audiobook and I think he may have wanted to read it or may have just said, "Now it's time for someone a little younger with a little more stamina," because he's just written this incredible book, so he has plenty of stamina, but perhaps not for another audiobook narration, John Bedford Lloyd does an excellent job.

Julie Twomey: Yeah, that sounds interesting and it actually brings up a question that I've always had. Maybe you know or maybe you don't, but when it comes down to an author reading their own content, is that typically what happens? Do they have that option? Is that something ...?

Robin Whitten: I think it's negotiated.

Julie Twomey: Okay, okay. I've always been curious about it because some do, some don't, and obviously some will or won't depending on their preference.

Robin Whitten: Right, and some are more successful than others.

Julie Twomey: Agreed, and that's where I was going without actually going there, is there's been a few that I was like ...

Robin Whitten: It's a hard job, and I think sometimes, maybe with fairly good training, or someone like Trevor Noah or McCullough, both have had plenty of presentation and public interaction presentational work, they're great and sometimes with authors in memoirs, you get something so highly personal. It's really an archival thing. Maybe they're not polished but it's very real and that heartfelt emotion. Sometimes they deliver that just naturally as part of, this is their story.

Julie Twomey: Yeah, that's great. I've always wondered about that so thanks for the context. How about some top fiction picks?

Robin Whitten: Okay. For a couple top fiction books, audiobooks that I think a couple of them will be around for a while, one of them is Elizabeth Gilbert's City of Girls, which is out just now and is fantastically read by Blair Brown. Of course, Elizabeth Gilbert is so popular for many of her titles, but this is something a little different and Blair Brown who is an actress that many listeners have heard a number of times, does a beautiful job, about this story of a 95 year old woman recalling her coming of age and her years between current time and back to World War II, but it's a wonderful story.

Julie Twomey: Oh, that's great. Blair Brown, is that her new profession now? Is she an audiobook narrator?

Robin Whitten: She actually ...

Julie Twomey: I know who she is, yeah.

Robin Whitten: Actually, she has been an audiobook narrator for many years, probably not consistently, but I would have to check to see if I could pick up a couple of her other titles, recall a couple of her titles, but she was always a sort of a ... Even before more celebrities were interested in doing audiobooks, she was one of the consistent narrators with a high profile. That's a special treat for listeners to have her doing this Elizabeth Gilbert City of Girls which I think is going to get a lot of nice attention, and should.

Julie Twomey: I agree, yeah, and I'm definitely someone who likes to hear celebrities read audiobooks. I get a kick out of it and I certainly remember Blair from The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd.

Robin Whitten: For something quite different, I'd love to talk about The Other Americans by Leila Lalami. That is a completely different kind of fictional audiobook. There are nine narrators in this cast. It's an ensemble, actually, because there are nine characters in the story and each one of the narrators is taking the story of one of the characters in the audiobook.

Of course, it's very much about today and Americans from coming to this country, the challenges they have, the warmth of families, the tragedy, all kinds of things going on. I think it's a great example of how many voices can be cast in an audiobook that is just in a perfect way. It's great.

Julie Twomey: Yeah, I think that's great, and as an audiobook consumer myself, I love the ensemble casts, especially when they're representing each individual character. I think it really brings something to it. That concludes our first section on popular audiobooks, so now we're going to go to some discussion about the current issue of AudioFile Magazine. If you don't read AudioFile Magazine you're absolutely missing out. This bimonthly publication offers hundreds of reviews, new and popular audiobooks across all genres, and really acts like a guide book, I feel, for librarians and library patrons on all things audiobooks.

For the June, July issue, I just have to say, I love the cover. I come from an art background so it immediately got my attention. It has a beautiful view of the sky and shooting stars and has a very impressionistic feel to it. Robin, can you talk about this cover and the theme of the current issue of AudioFile?

Robin Whitten: We can. First of all, I'd love to tell you that we commissioned an artist here in Portland, Maine, to do the cover for us, and her name is Jamie Hogan and we had some ideas, we wanted to talk about the golden voices, the great stars of audiobooks, so we brainstormed on some ideas of what it could be and how do you represent that. She came up with this spectacular cover of a night sky and the shooting stars. You're so nice to say that about AudioFile and I think we're going to include a link for anyone to get a copy of the magazine later in the podcast.

Julie Twomey: I love it and I don't know anything like that out there that's like AudioFile, and as such a huge audiobook person, it's really become like a guidebook for me, so it's really wonderful. Robin, I'd love for you to talk a little more about the golden voices, what that means and why it exists.

Robin Whitten: Sure. We have ... Quite a few years ago, we started giving a lifetime achievement award, which is a golden voice honor to narrators who have achieved a level of excellence over many subjects, over quite a bit of time, many titles, and they are dedicated to the art form of audiobooks and just have this level of excellence, and there are 30, just 30 narrators who have received this award, and this year we honored five new narrators as golden voices. That was the impetus for having this beautiful cover. These are our stars, and announcing the five narrators. Shall I go ahead and say who they are, because it's quite exciting?

Julie Twomey: Yes, please.

Robin Whitten: All right. We have January LaVoy, Edoardo Ballerini, Suzanne Toren, Bahni Turpin and Johnny Heller. I hope that those names are familiar to many of the people listening, but we're also ready and waiting to tell you more about them and what they've done. We have essential listens for each of our golden voices. This is in the print magazine, but we've also been doing a lot of blog posts, social media, podcasts about the golden voices during the month of June.

Julie Twomey: It's great, and I also love your activity on your social media handles. I know you guys are doing 30 days of golden voices on Twitter, which is great. It's an easy way to follow and find out who those 30 narrators are. I'm sorry, you also do interviews on your podcasts, right?

Robin Whitten: Right, we did interviews with each of the brand new golden voices, so five interviews. The first five podcasts of the month, and then each day in June we're talking on the podcast about one narrator. Today was Dion Graham's day and each narrator has a day during this month, and we have these wonderful podcasts and blog posts, and then every day on Twitter, we're actually putting up some of their essential listens, the audiobooks we feel are essential to get to know these narrators.

Francisca G: One of the things that's really important that Robin has mentioned, but I want to bring it to the attention of people who are beginning audiobook collections or audiobook advisory work, is that these golden voices are narrators who not only have recorded a lot, but they've recorded a lot of different types of things, so when Robin mentioned that today, for instance, features Dion Graham, Dion Graham has recorded audiobooks that are for the very youngest of listeners and also for adults, ones that are fiction, ones that are non-fiction, ones that are popular reading, ones that are more academic, and that's true of all of the golden voices.

They have a wide range, and so any of their names are ones that should become familiar to somebody working with audiobooks in a library, whether it's a public library, school library or an academic library. They have most of their chops in every realm of the literary universe.

Robin Whitten: They have.

Julie Twomey: The next topic I want to talk about is the Audie Gala. There is a big section dedicated to it in the current issue, loved all the pictures of the narrators with their awards. For those of you that don't know, the Audie Awards recognize excellence in audiobooks and spoken word entertainment, and it's sponsored by the Audio Publishers Association, also known as the APA.

This is the 24th year of the awards and outstanding narrators were selected in 24 categories. Robin, if you want to start, what were some of the standout winners this year?

Robin Whitten: It was very much a gala this year. It was, not only are they great awards, but this whole ceremony was very glam, with Tan France was the MC. He brought a great deal of style to this event and it was very exciting to have so many great audiobooks get this recognition. I think, probably the most exciting one was audiobook of the year, as you can imagine, and The Children of Blood and Bone was the winner, and also was winning in other categories at the same time.

Julie Twomey: Yeah. I saw that represented several times. Can you give us a little bit of an idea of why it won, some of the reasons?

Robin Whitten: I think that I would give all the credit, not quite all the credit, but I would give a lot of the credit to Bahni Turpin who was a narrator and also, as I said a minute ago, one of our new golden voices. She just did an amazing job with this young adult title that is really kind of, for me, very wild fantasy, West African inspired, magic, just a whole world that Bahni was able to capture. I think Tomi Adeyemi is a magnificent writer, but as an audio performance, as a listening experience, this was, I think, blew all of the judges away and an exceptional audiobook.

Francisca G: Maybe we should talk about the judges for just a minute and the fact that the Audies, unlike some awards that librarians will be familiar with, are, the selections are not made by popular vote or sales or anything like that. Robin, I think people would be really interested in hearing about how they work.

Robin Whitten: Yes, the entire competition is very rigorous, as many library awards are, as well, but there are several rounds of judges who listened. In fact, there are three rounds of judging, of three panels of judges, who are listening in each category, and they're different, so a title will get through the first round and after being listened to by three people, and then there is another group of three people who select from the best on a, I would say, about 10 different criteria the selection is made across, and the titles that succeed in that round then go into the finalist round.

Then there are three additional judges who make the final decision on somewhat the same criteria of excellence, but it's a lot of people having to vote and select and elevate these titles that finally get to the top.

Julie Twomey: Yeah, that's fascinating, it's quite a process.

Robin Whitten: Yes, and just in the library world, I think this is something that everyone knows, but in the commercial world, it's not. The standard is not the same, but judges listen to everything. They listen to the whole book. They get the entire audiobook and sometimes you may have a judging round that has two or three 20 hour audiobooks. You got to listen to the whole thing.

Julie Twomey: Yeah, some of them can get long, yeah.

Robin Whitten: It's not a 10 minute sample.

Francisca G: Because you're listening to it for the performance, you don't speed it up, you do not play with the performance at all.

Julie Twomey: You want to hear it real time as it ... Yeah, yeah, that makes sense. Just one question about that specific choice, Robin, Children of Blood and Bone, it sounds like ... I know you said that was for young adults. That might be a good audiobook to get kids started on audiobooks, what do you think?

Robin Whitten: Maybe teens? What do you think, Francisca?

Francisca G: Yeah, I think it's teens.

Robin Whitten: Yeah.

Francisca G: It was published for teens. I think the book itself has a recommendation of something like 13 and up. Also, and it's not just content, it's also the length. The sweet spot for younger kids tends to be about four hours, and after that it's just too hard to manage keeping all that information free floating in your brain, in the same way that children's books for the eight to 10 year olds that tend not to be three to 500 pages long.

Julie Twomey: That's understandable.

Robin Whitten: Right, right. That being said, we were talking just the other about sometimes really classic classics like The Count of Monte Cristo is a great thing to take on a long car trip with the whole family because the littlest ones may remember the horses or some small piece of the story, whereas teenagers get something totally different out of it and adults, as well.

There are ... Long, long titles can be fun for families, but I agree with Francisca that for younger audiences, something a little shorter sometimes might work better.

Julie Twomey: Great, and Robin, were there any other audiobooks you wanted to mention from the Gala for award winners?

Robin Whitten: I think one that's quite exciting and is still on the top of the best seller lists and people are interested, is Educated, that won the best autobiography and memoir. Julia Whelan is the narrator of Educated and she also was given the award for best female narrator, so she had a double win for Educated and that has won Earphones awards and recognition, really across the board. She did an extraordinary job with a very difficult story.

Julie Twomey: Yeah, I think she's fabulous, and actually we're going to be interviewing her for an upcoming program, so that will be exciting.

Robin Whitten: Oh, good, well, you must ask her about Educated because she has talked to us about it and it was an experience for her. Talk about being immersed, it takes a big emotional toll sometimes on narrators as they get into very difficult stories.

Julie Twomey: No, that's a good tip and I'm definitely going to go there with her. She's one of my favorites and she's actually one of the first narrators that I experienced for an audiobook, so she has a special place for me. I just wanted to wrap up that section just saying, if folks want to find out more about the Audie award winners and finalists, you can go to www.theaudies.com, and that's spelled A-U-D-I-E-S, so that's www.theaudies.com.

I'm going to move onto the next question, Robin. In your editor's notes, you mentioned two popular narrators and one of them was Scott Brick who has narrated more than 800 books, which to me feels like an impressive amount of content. I know there's a few that are in the same category as him and the craft of audiobook narration seems like an up and coming career path. As I read some of the interviews with the golden voice winners, many of them discussed their involvement in audiobook narration as a surprise or result of a series of circumstances and I read that quite a few times.

Are you hearing more about the dedication to the craft of audiobook narration in acting classes and colleges and things of that nature?

Robin Whitten: Absolutely. I think that what some of the golden voices were saying is, in the early days of audiobooks, it was sort of a side gig that actors could do instead of waiting on tables. They could make a little extra money on the side. Now it is a much more serious aspect of the acting profession, and I think there are classes and I think it has developed as an art form and a specialty within acting that takes a certain kind of skill and it has method within it that, as all different types of acting do, but that audiobook work has become a specialty.

There are classes and there are seminars where there are lots of young actors really working on that.

Julie Twomey: Wow, I think it's great and I heard Scott Brick talk a little bit about it at ALA Midwinter this past winter, and he's actually doing a course himself for audiobook narrators, new and upcoming. It's just interesting to see that kind of a career path unfold which I think is great.

Robin Whitten: Yeah, it is great, and it gives, particularly I think for actors who are not located in major theatrical centers, east coast, west coast, it gives them an opportunity that they would otherwise not have.

Julie Twomey: Then, one last question about the actual magazine, at the end I saw that you had listening for aging well, and what I loved about these selections, where they weren't your traditional self-help type of titles, there were titles like This Chair Rocks, Dementia Reimagined, so it's taking the subject of death and putting it in a very approachable way. Can you talk about the inspiration for this section and will you include these types of titles in future issues?

Robin Whitten: Absolutely, and the inspiration for this section is all down to our contribution editor, Tom Walken, and he has done the section which we call Learning by Ear. Tom has done it for many years. He has gone through topics. He usually picks a theme from all of the non-fiction and personal growth titles that he's looking at and he gathers titles that he's put together into a theme and then, once he's picked a theme, we try to find more for him. They do range from parenting of different kinds, business success, it might be this aging, it might be gender topics. He picks a different one for every issue of AudioFile.

Julie Twomey: Yeah, I think the selections are great and they're so unique and things you don't necessarily hear about, so I thought that was really nice.

Robin Whitten: It's really a great example of how we like to curate our selections of audiobooks so that we've really thought about what's been put together. Of course, librarians understand all this. Sometimes in the book world, not so much, but librarians, of course, do.

Julie Twomey: Right, and that actually segues to my next set of questions which is for Francisca. Francisca, from a librarian's perspective, how important are audiobooks to a library's digital collection?

Francisca G: They are important and they're becoming increasingly important. I think, one of the things maybe we should have set at the outset is that AudioFile Magazine itself is 27 years old and part of that reason is because it's only been a little over 30 years that audiobooks have really become something that other than the librarians for the blind and the talking books program spent a lot of time thinking about how to develop and what titles to select, and this whole business that we've just been talking about of the actual acting and voice acting and that kind of thing.

This is a relatively new intellectual and artistic expression area, but it is certainly as important to the library collection as the DVD collection we all made so much about starting in the late 80s, and in the same way, of course there are some people who have direct access, especially with digital collections now, it's much cheaper for individuals to buy their own audiobooks and they don't take up amazing amounts of space, but as with a book collection, whether it's digital or print copy, what libraries can do is make sure that the collection that they bring together is large and balanced and reaches into directions that potential listeners don't know yet that they want to go.

It's not just offering them what they already know, it's also providing a means to explore much further than they already know. With audiobooks, that means not just content but also exploring performance styles and even production styles. There are small publishers, there are big publishers. All of those things are available in digital format. There are a number of subscription services, there are a number of licensing platforms that are available to libraries of all sorts, and they are as important at this point in the game as our journal collections or, as I said, our DVD and movie collections.

They probably aren't quite as important, yet, as our book collections, just because our book collections have had 5,000 years to accrete, and clearly we do not have 5,000 years yet of audiobooks, but it is important and one of the things that ... I teach audiobook appreciation classes to librarians and one of the things that we're still working very hard to overcome is the limitation that many would-be listeners and librarians themselves bring to the format in thinking of it only in terms of content and not thinking, "Oh, it's the performance that I also need to be paying as much attention to."

The OwnVoices movement which is so popular in youth publishing, when brought into the audiobook world, becomes geometrically even larger because we can have authors who come from particular background experiences where writing about people of similar background and they can be performed by an actor who comes from a similar background, as well, so you're getting the authentic voice in your ear instead of someone who's reading it to him or herself who doesn't really have a cadence in their brain to do this.

Julie Twomey: Yeah, I think that's a really good point, bringing up the performance value, because it really does. When you hear a good audiobook narrator you know it. There's a certain feeling that you get from it and it really pulls you into the story. I think that's really great to point out. How can libraries take information from sources like AudioFile Magazine and put it to use for them, so if they want to boost usage or better inform their audience, how could they do that?

Francisca G: A number of ways, and none of these ways are radically new. They're ways that people have been using, I think, since AudioFile was a pamphlet. That, obviously for selection, because there is no other professional journal that provides reviews of this quantity and quality both on a consistent basis. There are some other journals that do provide us with qualitative reviews of audiobooks but there'll be half a dozen, to AudioFile's hundred, so sheer numbers alone, but also the concentration on giving information that helps new listeners learn how to articulate what it is that they like or don't like about performance, how listening helps them to better understand some topics and confuses them on other topics.

It helps with all of those things. It helps new families and people who are looking for gift-giving occasions find appropriate titles for young children, especially if they have no clue as to what the child might like in the way of a particular type of story or what the family already has in its book library. Certainly getting audiobooks is a great addition to building a child's library.

Also, there are many articles in each issue and there's articles just as with the ones that we've been discussing, point up either performance or content and usually both. There are interviews with narrators, there are interviews with listeners. Both of those are wonderfully popular with other listeners, so yes they're important for librarians to read and understand, but that kind of article is really popular with other listeners, too. Could I be on the back page of AudioFile, too?

Julie Twomey: Right, yeah, yeah. I love that you mentioned building a kids collection because I actually sent a few pages of the AudioFile Magazine to my cousin for her daughter, because like you said, she doesn't even really know where to start, so that, just right there was a huge help. I love that and I think librarians can get a lot of helpful information.

Finally, Francisca, have you seen any unique or highly effective ways that libraries have promoted audiobooks?

Francisca G: Yeah. In the old days when it was a material substance, the audiobook was a material substance, one of the ways that I thought worked really, really well, especially in school libraries, was making sure to shelve the audiobook right next to the book, because it did bring home the fact that these are not ... They're not somehow lesser than, so there's that. Also, looking at AudioFile itself to get some ideas for those lists and displays in which print and audio and video are incorporated together into theme lists instead of making them into separate lists.

You want to know all about South Africa? You would have Trevor Noah's audiobook on there but you would also have print books on there and you would have videos on there. I think that's how people think of topics that they want to find out about. The more libraries direct their energies to doing it that way, the more they'll move their goods, so to speak.

One other thing that we've been doing this year at AudioFile, and I know a number of librarians are playing along, is starting in January we announced a listening challenge for 2019, and there are actually 12 different challenges, so you could do one a month or you could just pick your favorite or whatever, but you can find those on our Twitter feed.

They're things like, one of the challenges is listen to an audiobook of a genre that you don't like reading with your eyes, or listen to an author read by three different narrators, that sort of thing. Those sorts of challenges are done at the local level. Thirdly, there's our Audiobook Sync program which is currently in its eighth of 14 weeks for this summer.

That's a great way that libraries use all the time to introduce not only teens but adults to the audiobook format. We offer a pair of audiobooks each week, and so they're paired thematically and that also helps people who think differently about audiobooks, but for instance, this week one of the titles is a teen novel, the other's an adult non-fiction book.

They have a lot of things in common. That's why we put them together in a pair, but they aren't necessarily the sort of pair that someone who doesn't know very much about audiobooks would instantly think of, and so we're trying constantly to elevate people's awareness and own abilities to analyze and articulate what they like to hear and why they like to hear it.

Julie Twomey: Yeah, I think that's great. I want to end our segment with talking about what we're listening to right now. Francisca, I'll start with you.

Francisca G: As Robin knows, I just finished listening to Mason Funk's Book of Pride. Mason Funk is the executive director of Outwords and The Book of Pride is a collection of over 70 oral histories taken from 20th century gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, questioning, queer folk talking largely about the period of time before Stonewall.

Even though there are over 70 different first person accounts here, the goods are delivered by half a dozen professional audiobook narrators. Some of them choose to act the voices of what these people might have sounded like during their interview, while others take a very neutral, sort of newscaster voice, to just deliver the words very clearly and succinctly, but not assuming the personality of the person who's being interviewed. That's Robin Miles and Kevin R. Free, Eileen Stevens, Charles Constant and Rick Adamson.

That was published by Harper. It is a wonderful collection. It's so provocative and evocative, both, and Mason Funk and his group did an extraordinary job of covering the waterfront in terms of identity, geography and class, as well race and period of time in which the person was active.

Julie Twomey: Fabulous, and Robin, what are you listening to?

Robin Whitten: Now for something completely different, I'm going to talk about a thriller, and I have been listening to Harlan Coben's Runaway, or Runaway. There's a lot of ways you can deliver that, but Steven Weber is the narrator and I'll tell you, I didn't want to pull out those earbuds and turn it off for one second. I was totally hooked. Great thriller, great suspense, wonderful twists and he's a great writer.

Thrillers as audiobooks are probably, they're certainly my favorite and they are statistically the top genre in audiobook listening. That's interesting.

Julie Twomey: This is Julie. They're actually my favorite, as well. I'm a big, big fan of thrillers and I read a lot of them. I try to migrate outside, but actually what I'm reading now is I'm catching up, but I just came back from a trip from Portland ... I'm sorry, not Portland, Seattle, Washington, and I'm listening to The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, and yeah. I love it. I got coffee at this cute little Japanese storefront and little did I know that it was actually a place where it had a ton of history as far as some of the things that have gone down in Seattle, so I picked this up. I really just started listening today and I'm thrilled with it.

Robin Whitten: That is one of the fun things about finding an audiobook that suddenly resonates either with where you're about to visit or where you've been or some part of the things that are in your context of the world. I agree and I always love to take that approach if I'm going somewhere, if I just came back, and try to tie that together.

Julie Twomey: That concludes our segment. Thank you very much, ladies. I've appreciated our conversation, and I think we've given some really good information to our audience. I just wanted to let our listeners know that if they're interested in getting AudioFile Magazine for their library, they can certainly contact us. It is available through Flipster, but it's also available as an individual subscription and that's at audiofilemagazine.com.

Thank you very much for your time and I hope everyone has a great day.

Robin Whitten: Thank you, Julie, it was a great conversation.

Francisca G.: Thanks, Julie.

Transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain errors.