Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Jim Dale and Audiobooks

There's an article today by Motoko Rich in the New York Times about my favorite audiobook narrator and how he makes an excellent Secret Keeper.

He's won a Tony, a record number of Audie Awards and been nominated for tons of Grammys and even an Oscar. To find out more, visit Jim's website.

He's had a very interesting career to date.... audiobooks are relatively new for him but he's also been an actor, comedian, DJ, songwriter... and when he was younger he was a rock star. Now, that's a cool career.

But that's not why I think he's so great. He's my favorite because he can make a story come alive utterly and completely. He's my favorite because I totally forget that I'm not listening to a full cast recording and there is just one man doing hundreds of voices.

I discovered the power of Jim Dale 's voice through the Harry Potter audiobooks (as most people did) but I've been beguiled into listening to everything else he's recorded. My favorites (not including Harry Potter, of course) are Peter and the Starcatchers and Peter and the Shadow Thieves by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. (These books are so good that I'll give them a post of their own at some point). I think the books are great, but Jim Dale manages, incredibly, to make them better.

Here's some quick unscientific research about how popular audiobooks have become (and in particular the Harry Potter audio books). This morning I went to my library's catalog and added my name to the holds list for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in book, tape and CD format.... and saw what number I was on the lists. (Then I removed my name... because I reserved my copy months ago).

But here's what I found out for my library system (a large suburban system near a major city):
  • 754 holds for the book
  • 247 holds for the CDs
  • 107 holds for the tapes

So, that's 754 holds for the book, 354 holds for the audio format; for a total of 1108 holds.

Which means that in my library system, of the people who put themselves on the holds list... 68% will read the book and an astounding 32% will listen to the audio book (either in CD or tape format. So, essentially one in three people will listen to the sound recording instead of reading the print edition. Wow....

I'm anticipating the Harry Potter audio book as much I'm anticipating the actual book. I don't see it as an extra.... I feel that the two versions (print and audio) combine to make a complete experience. There are things that work better in print than in the audio version.... but there are also things that work better as audio than in print. I'll get more into the specifics of the Harry Potter audio books in another post.

It might be dangerous for me to be involved in a business negotiation with Jim Dale. He could talk me into anything.

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