Speaking of Audiobooks: Best Settings for Importing Audiobook CDs to iTunes

CDs to MP3 playerDo you rip audiobooks from CDs into iTunes so you can listen to them on your iPod? If so, adjusting your iTunes import settings beforehand is a must. These easy changes will save precious space on your iPod and your computer’s hard drive but won’t affect your listening experience. How’s that you ask?

iTunes default import settings are for music; the settings work fine with audiobooks but make the book files much larger than they need to be. Audiobooks don’t require the same quality settings as music in order to enjoy listening.

For example, Audible’s Format 4 at 32 kbps was the highest quality download offered for years before introducing their “e” for “enhanced” format at 64 kbps. In comparison, iTunes imports an audiobook at 128 kbps if the settings are left to default. This makes your audiobook files twice the size of Audible’s “e” format and four times the size of Format 4 downloads. There is simply no need for audiobooks to be that size, taking up prime space on your player. Continue reading

Speaking of Audiobooks: Top Ten 2013 Romance Listens

FFTS and MM -final coversAlthough we’re seeing the audio romance section over at Audible brimming with unknown authors and narrators these days, it’s an indication that romance audiobooks are more popular than ever and the number of quality titles is on the rise as well. 2013 offered the best selection yet of highly entertaining, exceptionally written and performed audiobooks. My Top Ten List could easily number twenty-five.

When choosing the year’s Top Ten romance titles, it goes without saying that the author’s writing and the narrator’s performance are the most influential factors. With the proliferation of home studios, production plays a bigger role each year as those who take the time to give us a seamless listen without awkward corrections, noisy intakes of breath, or poor sound quality deserve recognition as well. And although all of these elements were taken into consideration when making my selections, there’s another dynamic that sometimes comes into play and overrides all the others – it’s that sense of being swept away – a gut feel that tells me “This was a perfect listen for me.”  Here’s hoping that my Top Ten Listens will provide you with the same. Continue reading

Speaking of Audiobooks: An Audio Take on the Top 100

The Devil in WinterIt’s time for another audio take on the Top 100 List. We did so back in 2010 and, at the time, the list contained 58 unabridged audio titles. This year, there are 70 (one abridged, 69 unabridged). Just as with AAR’s Top 100 list of print titles, a good number are titles from the previous poll – 45 to be exact. Where did those 25 new titles come from? In the world of audiobooks, it’s just as likely that older titles are contributing to that number as new titles. Over the past three years, we have seen new audio releases of old favorites including such as Jennifer Ashley’s The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie, Laura Kinsale’s Flowers From The Storm and The Shadow and The Star, Elizabeth Hoyt’s The Raven Prince, Jude Deveraux’s A Knight in Shining Armor, Georgette Heyer’s The Grand Sophy, and soon – Loretta Chase’s Lord of Scoundrels.

At a later Speaking of Audiobooks, we’ll feature those audiobooks contained within The Best of the Rest, those books that ranked from 101 to 200 in the 2013 Top 100 Poll. There are another 65 audio jewels hidden in that list.

Continuing our inclusion of sound samples (other than those found at Audible), you’ll find samples within the list below of five audiobooks romance listeners hold in high regard – Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ It Had To Be You, Elizabeth Hoyt’s The Raven Prince, Lisa Kleypas’ Blue-Eyed Devil, and Linda Howard’s After The Night. Each includes that all-important interaction between the hero and heroine, something you seldom find in an Audible sample. Of course, there are dozens more we wish we could include.

Each title is numbered by its ranking on the Top 100 print list. Since we’re leaving the print titles off this list, the numbering will appear inconsistent. As an example, the first six books on the Top 100 list are available in audio format. The seventh, ninth, and tenth are not. Therefore, the list skips from sixth to eighth to eleventh.

Although our list of Top 100 audiobooks would likely differ greatly from this list since the narrator’s performance heavily impacts the success of an audio title, I feel safe in saying there are fans of each of these audio titles. I encourage you to ask in our comments area if you are unfamiliar with a narrator of a title you think will be of interest. Continue reading

Speaking of Audiobooks: November 2013 Audio News

DeadlineWe have general romance audio news today as well as an announcement from AAR. We also have something new for Speaking of Audiobooks – sound clips from several promising audios.

Speaking of Audiobooks Review News

You know all those audiobook reviews you have seen in the Speaking of Audiobooks columns through the years? There are hundreds and we have mourned the inability to search or even find a listing of those reviews we know are there but are seemingly just out of our reach. Oh, they are all still there, tucked away in a Speaking of Audiobooks column somewhere. Well, the good news is – things are a-changing.

Slowly but surely, we are moving those audio reviews into AAR’s review database. As with any review of a print book, you can now go into the Power Search and search by author or title. You can also choose to view our entire selection of audiobook reviews – select Audiobook under Book Type and it will bring up all audiobook reviews ordered by most recent. Right now there are 61 reviews but we will have more than 300 from the past 4 ½ years when we have transitioned all over to the reviews database.

In many of those reviews, you will find more information than that which was included in the original Speaking of Audiobooks review thanks to a number of audio reviewers, both past and present, who have volunteered to provide an overall grade, separate grades for narration and content, and sensuality ratings for a good number of their past reviews. On all audio reviews, you’ll find the length of the audio and prices for both hard copies (if available) and Audible.

Future Audio Review News

And more big review news. We are now writing new audio reviews and publishing those right along with AAR’s print reviews. Regularly, you will see audiobook reviews mixed in with print reviews six days a week in our New Reviews area.

Our audio reviewers at this time are LinnieGayl, Caz, and myself. Our first new audiobook review ran this past Saturday – Caz’s review of Laura Kinsale’s My Sweet Folly. Each column, I’ll provide links to audiobook reviews published since the last column. All reviews included in the current and future Speaking of Audiobooks column are written by me – Lea Hensley and will be shorter in length than the general audio reviews. These SOA reviews will be added to the reviews database after each column runs.

Coming Soon Audio Reviews

Although we have around 25 audio review titles in the works at this time, here are a few you will soon be seeing:

RealClare, Pamela – Striking Distance  Narrated by Kaleo Griffith

Evans, Katy – Real  Narrated by Charlotte Penfield

Heyer, Georgette – Sylvester (unabridged)  Narrated by Nicholas Rowe

Kinsale, Laura – Shadowheart  Narrated by Nicholas Boulton

Milan, Courtney – The Duchess War  Narrated by Rosalyn Landor

Shalvis, Jill – Always on my Mind  Narrated by Annie Greene

Graeme Simsion – The Rosie Project  Narrated by Dan O’Grady

Willig, Lauren – The Passion of the Purple Plumeria     Narrated by Kate Reading

 

Sound Clips – a Welcome Addition to Audio Reviews

As romance listeners, we want to hear interaction between the hero and heroine in sound clips yet, that’s rarely the case. Since Audible’s sound clips typically feature the first few minutes of an audio, we usually hear the intro to one of the characters or the prologue. Starting with today’s Speaking of Audiobooks column, we’re offering a few sound clips you won’t find at Audible. Each will contain that hero/heroine interaction and hopefully help you decide if a particular audio is of interest to you.

We’re featuring all male narrators today (it just happened that way – not purposefully): Stephen Lang – narrator of Sandra Brown’s recent Deadline, Kaleo Griffith – narrator of Pamela Clare’s Defiant, and Nicholas Boulton – narrator of Laura Kinsale’s For My Lady’s Heart and My Sweet Folly.

Deadline – Sandra Brown

Narrated by Stephen Lang

I’m a big Sandra Brown fan who eagerly anticipates each of her new releases while relistening to my Brown favorites to keep my bouts of Brown fever at bay. Not only can I rely on another entertaining romantic suspense each year, but I rest in the knowledge that her new title will be released simultaneously in print and audio formats with the audio featuring an experienced talented narrator. Stephen Lang adeptly delivers Deadline with all the suspense one could hope for while paying homage to the romance within.

Dawson, a well-known journalist who has just returned from Afghanistan, overwhelmed and still suffering from his experiences there, follows a close FBI contact’s suggestion that he cover the presumed murder case of a soldier who looks to be the biological son of infamous terrorists. Amelia is the dead soldier’s wife and mother of his two children. Their romance builds slowly and believably as each discovers Amelia is being targeted – someone wants her dead. Deadline is more romantic that Brown’s other more recent releases and provides complete satisfaction in more ways than one. Aside from some noticeable production issues, Lang’s narration combined with Sandra Brown’s storytelling is a complete winner. My grades – an A- for narration and an A for content. Sensuality: Warm

The following sound sample features one of Dawson and Amelia’s first encounters.

 

 

Defiant – Pamela Clare

Narrated by Kaleo Griffith

The third in the Mackinnon’s Rangers series, Defiant delivers an above average American Historical tale set during the French and Indian War. To better visualize this time frame, think Daniel Day Lewis in The Last of the Mohicans. Although I see Lewis as Iain (the hero of Surrender), the action and politics seen in that movie are present as well as cruel treatment from a Native American tribe – this time the Shawnee.

At times, it’s tough to listen to Connor and Sarah’s experiences with the tribe (and it reminds me of Clare’s Ride the Fire) but the bigger story lies beyond those trials. Pamela Clare doesn’t write wallpaper historicals and Defiant is rich with historical facts blended with tender romance. Kaleo Griffith, narrator of Ms. Clare’s audiobooks to date, continues to bring to life these engaging tales with easily distinguished characters while imbuing each scene with the appropriate tension, humor, and attention to tenderness – an absolute requirement for this at-times heart wrenching tale. Grade: Narration – B+ and Content: A.  Sensuality: Hot

Our sound clip features one of those tender scenes between Connor and Sarah.

For My Lady’s Heart – Laura Kinsale

Narrated by Nicholas Boulton

I was hesitant to listen to For My Lady’s Heart as I read that it contained (horrors) Middle English. I want my listening to be easy but the lure was strong with all the highly favorable comments I was reading and … it’s a Medieval, a sub-genre I thoroughly enjoy. And that Middle English? I barely noticed it after hearing the first bit of dialogue as the author seamlessly blends the more archaic language into the overall text.

Nick Boulton, a stage actor more than a little familiar with Shakespeare, delivers it all with such great skill that I only thought about the beauty of the story, it’s complex characters, and the sheer intrigue Kinsale’s words convey. Facing a difficult heroine once again (Prince of Midnight featured such a heroine as well – an A listen for me), I didn’t run away as is my tendency. I have learned that in the hands of this author, it will work for me. I’m sure I’ll accept her character well before the story’s end and appreciate its inclusion. My grades – A+ for narration and A for content. Sensuality: Warm

Here’s a taste of what is waiting for you in For My Lady’s Heart:

My Sweet Folly – Laura Kinsale

Narrated by Nicholas Boulton

Folie (Folly) is quite simply an endearing heroine. A widow and responsible yet loving stepmother, she’s faced the difficulties in her life with great aplomb. She’s paired with what can best be described as a challenging hero who, while at times seems the ultimate in kindness and consideration, can also appear a bit unhinged and downright difficult.

Nick Boulton, once again, gives an outstanding performance and helps the listener understand Robert’s trials and uncertainties. I have learned that Laura Kinsale’s books usually contain an arduous character or plot element that I must accept fully while trusting her to turn it around and deliver an excellent tale in the process. My Sweet Folly is no exception and I reveled in the mystery surrounding Robert and his relationship with Folly that starts so innocently and beautifully only to veer way off the beaten path. In her audio review, Caz gave My Sweet Folly an overall B+ grade. My grade is higher – an overall A with an A+ for narration and an A- for content. Sensuality: Warm

This sound clip features one of their more challenging conversations – Nick Boulton gets every nuance and performs each character even better than my mind can envision:

 

Romance Audiobook News

Linda Howard

Dare we hope to see her unpublished (after 1986) audio titles soon? In particular, we are talking about Duncan’s Bride and her Kell Sabin series, which includes Midnight RainbowDiamond BayHeartbreaker, and White Lies.

Well, Midnight Rainbow is scheduled for release on December 1st by Dreamscape Media! I’m smiling but concerned about the choice of unknown narrator Brenda Sweeney. I was hoping for one of the audio industry’s best narrators with this Linda Howard jewel. Let’s hope Brenda Sweeney fits that bill.

All Through the Night BockwayConnie Brockway

Connie Brockway’s All Through the Night will be released in audio format on November 19th. We are hoping this is an indication that her entire backlist will soon be released in audio format as her debut novel, Promise Me Heaven, is also being released on the 19th. Both are narrated by Alison Larkin, she’s well-known and trusted. Fingers crossed for more audio releases.

The Lost Suzanne Enoch Audios

For a couple of years, we have talked about Suzanne Enoch’s five lost audiobooks originally released by Harper Audio, specifically:

The Rake

London’s Perfect Scoundrel

England’s Perfect Hero

Always a Scoundrel

The Care and Taming of a Rogue

This is (and was) especially significant news since the highly talented Tavia Gilbert narrates these lost titles. Released in 2011, these audios were available at Audible for a matter of only months. We discovered in February 2012, that the audios had disappeared. The search was officially on at our Romance Audiobooks Goodreads group and Tavia jokingly referred to it as The Goodreads Disappearing Audiobooks Smackdown Possee.  Well, we have news! Tavia reported on October 21st that Harper had confirmed their rerelease of these titles sometime this fall. In fact, two are already available at Audible – The Rake and London’s Perfect Scoundrel. You’ll also see Ms. Enoch’s newest series, Scandalous Brides, (released in 2012-2013 by Tantor) with Anne Flosnik narrating.

Laura Kinsale

For those of you who have been waiting for For My Lady’s Heart or wondered what happened to it, it is now available at Audible once again. Audible inadvertently left Chapter 14 out of the audio and had to remove the book. Replacement took weeks causing listeners to ask in frustration “Where did it go?!” Surely there is a better way than to just remove an audio in such a situation (the same happened with Pamela Clare’s Surrender earlier this year although it was Tantor making the changes).

Nora Roberts’ Whiskey Beach

Brilliance released Whiskey Beach earlier this year with Peter Berkrot narrating. The reviews were mixed but apparently caused concern for Brilliance as they rereleased Whiskey Beach in October with a new narrator – Luke Daniels. Apparently, there were complaints about Berkrot’s narration and action was taken. Reviews are also mixed on Daniels’ performance. I noticed that the unabridged MP3 CD at Amazon still includes Peter Berkrot as narrator while the abridged version names Luke Daniels as the narrator as does the Audible unabridged version. Confusing as that is, we must applaud Brilliance for their move – they responded to listeners’ complaints.

ALS AuctionThe Fight Against ALS

The audio community is rallying around one of their own, Bob Deyan, who is battling ALS (aka Lou Gehrig’s disease). His company, Deyan Audio, has probably produced at least one if not dozens of the audiobooks you have listened to. In support of his battle and to help him raise money to research ALS, two fundraisers are planned – one a live 24-hour read-a-thon in Los Angeles and the second, an online auction of unique audiobook related items. The online auction is currently underway. The flyer to the right will direct you to the online auction. If you want to know more about the read-a-thon or Bob’s story, visit here.

Ending Notes

Check out our Speaking of Audiobooks Facebook page to see romance audio updates, industry news, and links to articles of interest.

For those new to our Speaking of Audiobooks column, be sure to check out our audio archives for further recommendations and discussions.

Our affiliated Goodreads group – Romance Audiobooks keeps growing and now has 629 members. Come join us for discussions in between columns.

Enjoy your listening!

-       Lea Hensley

 

Speaking of Audiobooks: Locating Your Audiobook Files

sFall

We have something special at Speaking of Audiobooks today. Brenda Lee is giving us some technical advice – she’s quite good at it and has been the hidden technical side of Speaking of Audiobooks for years now. Brenda has now officially joined AAR as our Audiobook Tech and we’ll occasionally run one of her tutorials. Please let her know if there is a specific audiobook technical issue you’d like to see featured here. –  Lea Hensley

Fall turns my mind to sorting, organizing, and settling in for the winter months. Once the snow starts to fly, it stays on the ground until spring in these mountains. What does this have to do with audiobooks you ask? Bringing order to my surroundings includes setting my computer files to rights, audiobooks included.

While doing this, I thought I’d share what many audiobook enthusiasts consider hidden entrances to their audio libraries. The back way in, where you can find normal disorder or utter chaos – neither of which shows from the front entry. Continue reading

Speaking of Audiobooks: Bits of Audio News

Kinsale-FlowersfromtheStorm-shadow(1) Quality versus Quantity

With more and more romance audiobooks flooding Audible these days, it’s not all that easy to locate those audios that may be of particular interest to you. Just two years ago, the romance audio pickings remained slim with proven narrators performing the majority of titles. As with the eBook market, I imagine most readers/listeners understand that increased selection doesn’t necessarily mean increase in the number quality titles.

Of course, with this tremendous increase in audio titles, it only makes sense that there is an increase in the need for narrators as well. Unfortunately, this also means publishers are looking for the most affordable way to bring those narrations to their doorstep and home studios provide them with such. Combine an untrained narrator with a home studio with no director, and the consumer pays the price of an unsatisfactory listening experience.

The result? The percentage of overall quality narrations has decreased with untrained narrators performing not only those numerous new-to-us authors but also well-known authors with backlists just now releasing in audio format. Since successful audio purchasing requires the combination of a talented author (who speaks to you) and a gifted narrator who effectively delivers, it’s more challenging than ever to find these winning combinations. Fortunately, Audible provides an easy return service. If an audio isn’t working for you, return it and state your reason.

Keeping this in mind, Speaking of Audiobooks will now mention a few titles each month that should prove to be exceptional while cautioning listeners on a number that may prove to be disappointing. I hope you will join in and share with us those that are exceptional listens or utter disappointments. Continue reading

Speaking of Audiobooks: June is Audiobook Month

JIAM
“June Is Audiobook Month” (JIAM) reads like a sentence but it’s actually the name of a month long campaign to enhance visibility, awareness and popularity for audiobooks by directly reaching out to consumers. Sites and blogs celebrating the audio publishing industry are featuring all sorts of giveaways, interviews, chats, reviews, and examples of the sheer excellence that can be found in audio listening.

Since we’re entering the last week of JIAM, I thought it a good time to share with you some of the many events we’ve already seen during JIAM 2013 and some still to be enjoyed this week. Here are a number of blogs and sites that have strongly supported JIAM: Continue reading

Speaking of Audiobooks: APAC Report

Narrators/Bloggers Breakfast - from left to right - Xe Sands, Simon Vance, Amy Rubinate, Gayle Weiswasser, Anne Flosnik, Lea Hensley, Patrick Lawlor, Lauren Fortgang; Standing - Karen White and Robert Fass

Narrators/Bloggers Breakfast – from left to right – Xe Sands, Simon Vance, Amy Rubinate, Gayle Weiswasser, Anne Flosnik, Lea Hensley, Patrick Lawlor, Lauren Fortgang; Standing – Karen White and Robert Fass

In late May, I attended the Audio Publishers Association Conference (APAC) in New York City, a first time event for me. Not only was I there to meet face-to-face those narrators and publishers I’ve come to know over the years by working together online but to participate in a panel discussion on Listening Community Reviews.

Not knowing what to expect from a one-day conference, I was thoroughly impressed, first with the community of narrators – professionals who work more often than not, alone in a sound booth and hail from all over the country. I discovered it is a close knit group, not large in number, that is highly supportive of one another. And warmly appreciative of bloggers and sites that feature their work and personally promote audiobooks. Continue reading

Speaking of Audiobooks: It’s All Reviews – May 2013

TPOM-print It’s time for another All Reviews column here at Speaking of Audiobooks. Eight audiobooks are up for review including Laura Kinsale’s The Prince of Midnight (no link yet for the audio), Rachel Gibson’s Simply Irresistible, Julie James’ Love Irresistibly, Julie Garwood’s Prince Charming, Cynthia Eden’s Die for Me, J.D. Robb’s Calculated in Death, Jeaniene Frost’s Twice Tempted, and Sophie Kinsella’s Wedding Night.

The Prince of Midnight – Laura Kinsale

Narrated by Nicholas Boulton

Review written by Lea Hensley

It’s finally here. Romance listeners have eagerly awaited The Prince of Midnight, the first audio release from Laura Kinsale’s fascinating backlist. Earlier this year, Ms. Kinsale announced that her entire backlist (twelve titles) would be released in audio during 2013 and into 2014 and now we have a taste of Kinsale’s skillful writing combined with Nicholas Boulton’s talented performance. It’s sheer audio perfection. Continue reading

Speaking of Audiobooks: Covers – Help or Hindrance?

Crystal Cove(1) When making a decision to buy an audiobook, the cover doesn’t influence my choice one way or another. If I want a particular audiobook, I’ll buy it, and if I don’t like the cover, I’ll remind myself that with my iPod, I’ll seldom see it.

But can an attractive or catchy cover influence me to take a second look at a book by an author unfamiliar to me? Or does a non-appealing cover have the power to repel me enough that I won’t consider taking a deeper look at an unknown author? The answer to both of those questions is a “most definitely.” Do those second looks lead to an audio purchase? I admit that it seldom does but if a cover speaks to me, I’m often inspired to take a closer look at the synopsis and reviews.

When you consider that choosing the right audiobook is a series of decisions as one must consider the author, narrator, and the publisher’s history of production quality as well as the synopsis and reviews, I think a case can be made that audiobook covers need to make an even stronger statement than their fellow print versions. After all, their duty is to attract listeners despite the fact that both the author and narrator may be unfamiliar to the buyer. And that’s what a cover is to me – a sales job. Can they entice me to stop and look just a little longer? Continue reading