Charlotte’s Web, one of the most iconic works in children’s fiction, is getting a new audiobook! Each beloved character is voiced by a different actor, but perhaps even more exciting than this is the fact that the role of narrator is read by Meryl Streep.
Image via People
Streep is one of the Hollywood’s most revered actresses. Over the course of her career she has been nominated for 21 academy awards, has played titular characters in iconic films like The Devil Wears Prada and Mamma Mia, and has spent the past two years starring in HBO’s Big Little Lies.
Streep certainly doesn’t need the extra work (especially so soon after the premiere of Netflix’s The Laundromat, which has already received 8 award nominations), but we should all be grateful that she decided to put in for the time.
Streep in the late 70’s/Image via Vulture
On top of the privilege of getting to hear Streep’s iconically dulcet tones read one of your favorite childhood stories, this new audiobook will also feature an appreciation written and read by Melissa Sweet. Sweet, a Caldecott Honor winner, is the author and illustrator behind works like A River of Wordsand You Nest Here With Me.
Plus, fans of the original story can look forward to having their favorite characters brought to life by a full cast. The roles of Charlotte and Wilbur will be played by voice actors January LaVoy and Kirby Heyborne, respectively.
This new audio rendition of Charlotte’s Web will be available for listening this Tuesday, though it’s available for preorder now!
This isn’t Andrews’ first venture into the world of writing. Previously, the actress published Home: A Memoir of My Early Years, a work that explores her difficult upbringing and earliest experiences with performing.
Home Work picks up where Home left off, in the 60’s, when Andrews was cast by Walt Disney as the “world’s most famous nanny.”
And who better to tell her story of success than Andrews herself? Among her other talents, Andrews is often recognized by her voice. Her soothing lilt, and posh accent, is a sound that many have come to associate with childhood comfort. Children who grew up on Mary Poppins, as well as children who grew up on The Princess Diaries, all think of Andrews with the same kind of childlike love. Her career has endured for so long, she’s earned her status as Hollywood’s doting mother.
Image via The Irish Times
Home Work provides a behind-the-scenes look at the career that thrusted Andrews into icon status. The actress shares anecdotes from the sets of her most iconic works, details you wouldn’t find anywhere else. Entertainment Weekly shared one snippet about how, on a rainy day, Andrews was forced to ride in the back of an ox-drawn cart full of camera equipment to get up the muddy Alps.
In her classic, Julie Andrews charm, the actress writes:
“I happened to be wearing a fur coat. It was the 1960s after all, and the humor in the contrast between my attire and the mode of transport wasn’t lost on any of us.”
Andrews’ memoir will hit shelves on October 15th, and the audiobook will be available the same day!
Is an audiobook a book? What about the captioning of an audiobook, for hearing impaired or for a quick reference? An ongoing legal battle between Audible and several major book publishers reckons with the definition of what a book even is.
Image via Publishers Weekly
How Audible’s new Captions technology works is it scrolls a few words of AI-generated captioning to accompany an audiobook’s narration. Audible responded last week with a motion of their own, calling for the publishers’ suit to be dismissed. The legalese of the motion is a tad complex, but here’s the gist of the latest development.
Audible claims its technology constitutes fair use. The motion to dismiss explains this claim as follows:
After listeners purchase an audiobook—and Plaintiffs and their clients are compensated—Audible Captions can help listeners understand it by looking up unfamiliar words, accessing reference materials, or simply verifying and focusing on what they are hearing. This will facilitate access for listeners who have difficulty engaging with audiobooks (or literature in general).
Thus, Audible’s lawyers argue, Audible Captions is in line with the purpose of copyright law: “to expand public learning while protecting the incentives of authors to create for the public good.”
In our previous coverage of this ongoing story, we wrote that publishers were angry with Audible because they didn’t give the audiobook platform permission to publish text versions of their titles because e-books require a separate licensing agreement. Audible’s lawyers also argue that claims they have not breached their licensing contract because the user of Audible Captions never has full access to the complete text of the title they’re listening to:
Audible Captions is not a book of any kind, much less a replacement for paper books, e-books, or cross-format products.
The Captions in action / Image Via Publishing Perspectives
Though the encrypted text is cached on the reader’s device, Audible’s lawyers highlighted the fact that the reader never has direct access to it, so the captions cannot be used except in tandem with the audio recording. Since they’ve paid to license the audio version of the publisher’s titles, and since the text generated by Audible’s technology is not a book in any sense, Audible argues there should not be an issue.
Audible’s lawyers make a convincing argument, and it’s definitely interesting to see how crucial the concept of what a books is to this debate.
The rapidly changing digital publishing landscape has often presented a challenge to book publishers, as it seems the definition of what a book even is must change in the world of e-books and audiobooks.
Image Via Alchectron
Maria Pallante, chief executive of the Association of American Publishers, commented on the case:
What’s at stake is the viability of the publishing industry and the ability to rely on copyright law.
Audible has denied the new feature on their app violates any rights or agreements. In a a statement on August 23rd the company said that:
Captions was developed because we, like so many leading educators and parents, want to help kids who are not reading engage more through listening…This feature would allow such listeners to follow along with a few lines of machine-generated text as they listen to the audio performance. It is not and was never intended to be a book.
Since the captions would be machine-generated and not transcribed and edited, Audible admitted “up to 6%” of the text may have errors. In the lawsuit, publishers argued The Captions program would then harm their reputations as “as trusted and valued stewards of their authors’ works.”
The program was set to begin as early as September 10th, though this lawsuit will definitely complicate the release. Thankfully, Audible can still launch for works for which there is no permissions issue, such as public domain works and Audible or Amazon published titles.
Image Via Author’s Guild
Audible is facing a fierce legal battle against a cohort of publishing giants. The plaintiffs in the case include Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Hachette Book Group, Chronicle Books, and Scholastic Corp. It’s difficult to tell what the outcome of the case will be this early on. But it’s definitely going to be an important event for the future of publishing.
While physical books might be going out of style, audiobook sales are on the up and up.
Image Via The Creative Penn
Within the last year Barnes and Nobles was sold, there’s been news here and there about independent book stores struggling like never before, and the debate about whether or not physical books are out style raging on, audiobooks are on the up and up.
Previously The Daily Beast wrote that “while only 24 percent of Americans say they listened to at least one audio book in 2016, the average listener in that category consumed fifteen books in that same period, mostly on a smartphone.”
This year The Publisher’s Association, which collects and reports on data shared by many publishers across the country, released the 2018 year-end results.
All in all, estimated publisher revenue for downloaded audio increased 28.7% over 2017, meaning that, when it comes to audiobooks, publisher’s revenues grew 181.8% from 2014 to 2018. This is important, considering that audiobooks make up an estimated of 13.7% of publishers’ online sales.
What these numbers mean is that audiobook sales have an estimated worth of a whopping £69 million ($87.44 million).
Physical books, on the other hand, are down by 5%.
Considering the culture of audiobooks, and by extension book culture as a whole, these numbers all of that surprising. Step back, and think what could be the top selling audiobook…
Not only did she write the book, but she’s the voice that makes the audiobook, well, into an audiobook.
This isn’t all that surprising. If you want know the story, then why not have the author themselves tell you the story? And Michele Obama must have something to say, being a former US First Lady and mother of two, so why not have her tell you her story complete with the emotion and cadence that can be missed if you skim across the black words on a bone white page.
It’s oral tradition right there on your phone/tablet/desktop that can be played, rewound, or fast-forwarded at your time and convenience.
BBC News quotes Publishers Association chief executive Stephen Lotinga as saying that…
Audiobooks have grown phenomenally, as ever-increasing numbers of people opt to enjoy books in a way that suits new technologies and keeps pace with our busy lives.
Really? Consider this: Listening to audiobooks have less to do with having time reading a book. When reading a novel yourself, you can control how fast you read per word. The phrase ‘You can read’ can be read however faster or slowly you wish, and you can speed up between every other syllable.
So if when listening to an audiobook the speed of the speaker might have some external controls, but the control technology gives you is not as intricate of the control you have over yourself, then why listen to audiobooks if you can read much faster?
Because I can’t read a book and run on a treadmill at the same time. Because books take up valuable space in my backpack. Because I can play an audiobook in my car while I drive instead of reading and driving.
Roger Packer notes that, when polled, audiobook listeners revealed that they listened rather then read the book because “hey can do other things while listening (81%), They can listen wherever they are (80%); and Audiobooks are portable (75%)”.
The Guardian also notes that, “Lotinga said the rise in the popularity of podcasts, with the music streaming giant Spotify spending up to $500m this year buying podcast companies to tap the boom, was indirectly helping the book market.”
The same reason are moving away from CDs to streaming is the same reason why, despite the hits, UK’s took that surprise 5.4% decline.