Friday, 12 November 2010

A word in your ear...

It's the 75th anniversairy of the talking book - and sound editor Al wonders why bookstores don't do more to promote audio books....

This week I thought I’d focus on the presence of the audio book as part of booksellers floor-space - I know I shouldn’t have to, but sometimes I get so worked up about the “poor relation” aspect of this particular medium when it comes to “in-store” displays of audio book product, that I have to put finger to keypad!

One very positive thing (that has become commonplace) is the simultaneous release of hardback and audio. It took me a while to realise that there was actually a system in at least one high street bookseller whereby the latest hardback releases could be displayed, with the audio version attached in its own little plastic “sub-shelf” - this way, prospective hardback purchasers could be made aware of the audio product at the same time as seeing the hardback on the “big-shelf”.

This was a revelation and meant that the prospective purchaser knew that the audio existed and also where to find it - I get very frustrated when you go into a bookshop have to play “search out the audio.” You have to look long and hard to find the audio section - or as some large chains prefer to call it the “spoken word” section (extremely dated and much in need of a replacement!).

Admittedly, publishers don’t always actually release the audio so that it arrives at the bookshop at the same time as the hardback and I suspect that that the retailer doesn’t always order the audio book - but I also suspect that when it comes to displaying the audio version, there isn’t always that sense of priority that is automatically given to the shiny new hard back. All too often, the poor audio book (which has taken a significant amount of effort to produce) is relegated to that often small and hard to find “spoken word” section.)

With digital download fast becoming THE way to purchase audio book/ eBook product, of course these problems are eliminated. This is one of the real beauties of the download medium - and of course one BIG reason for this is that a prospective purchaser has very little difficulty in finding the product on-line – quite a different from visiting a bookseller in the high street.

I know there are book retailers who do buck the trend and that is admirable and well worth a mention here, but I feel it’s far from commonplace…

So come on all you booksellers out there - the audio book deserves some equality when it comes to floorspace - make it happen! - Al Muirden

Photo by Hans van Rijnberk

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