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Beth Cox Report: November 2013

Dear Loyal Readers, Authors, and Publishers,

I hope you enjoyed Thanksgiving as much as I did! Today, I'll ramble a little bit about the changing nature of audiobooks.

I can still remember when audiobooks were giant, bulky plastic cases packed with audio cassettes. You listened to one side, then depending on your player, you might have to pop the cassette out and turn it over to listen to the other side. And if any one of those cassettes suffered a tear in its ribbon, the whole, expensive audiobook was rendered useless!

Then audiobooks evolved to CDs. They became somewhat more compact and easy to use, although long audiobooks might take up a dozen CDs or more. Audiobooks on CD are still quite common - we at the MBR review them regularly - but now they exist in lockstep with the latest revolution: purely digital audiobooks.

As the audible counterpoint to ebooks, and kindred to the digital music shared on iPods or similar devices, purely digital audiobooks (whether in MP3 or other format) are here to stay. They are extremely convenient for the latest and most techno-savvy generation to use, and technology has advanced to the point where a little device that fits in the palm of your hand can hold a mind-boggling quantity of speech, or text.

The really exciting part is that now, even the smallest of indie publishers or self-published authors can potentially create audiobook editions of their work. The costs involved in creating or distributing an audiobook on CD are typically prohibitive for the "little guys" in publishing, but since digital distribution eliminates that expense... well, I'll share with you an excerpt from an email we at the MBR recently received:

Sent: 10/22/2013 1:41:32 P.M. Central Daylight Time
Subj: Do you list audio resources for eBooks?

Good afternoon James,

I came across your MBR listing and I was wondering if you list audio resources for publishers interested in generating audio books.

iSpeech recently launched a platform that allows you to generate an audio book from any PDF. Companies like Pearson and Cambium Education use the iSpeech platform, perhaps this is something your visitors and members would be interested in checking out.

As mistress of the MBR's website, I immediately added their link to the "Technical Resources" part of our "Publisher Resources" links page. But this idea - that anyone could turn a PDF of their own book into an audiobook - is so exciting that I wanted to mention iSpeech's website here as well. It's

Of course, iSpeech is far from the only player in the digital audiobook game. One of the "big dogs" in the field is Audible (, an company, and a provider of spoken-word products to the Apple iTunes store. And due to the marvel that is free-market competition, there are surely others.

On a related tangent, I believe one way that writers, bloggers, and others can potentially earn good publicity on a shoestring budget is by creating podcasts (i.e., modern-day radio for the everyman; podcasts are downloadable audio-only shows that can consist of chatting, radio-style plays, singing, you name it) for free download. If the general public finds what you say interesting enough, they may listen to you while jogging, driving, doing chores, etc.

I'm still somewhat bewildered by ongoing advances in modern technology, and could not possibly tell anyone how to create and distribute a podcast. But the wonderful website can!

teaches readers the basics of how to find, download, and listen to podcasts, and

teaches readers how to make their own podcasts, using relatively inexpensive equipment. The best part is (quoting from the article), "...anyone can start a podcast. You don't need formal broadcasting education, experience or anyone's permission."

I'll conclude this reflection on audio technology with November's Link of the Month, an excellent site suggested Richard S. Russell, a longtime friend of the MBR. It's LibriVox,

a non-commercial, non-profit, completely legitimate website of free, public domain audiobooks, read aloud by volunteers from around the world. (Their public domain guarantee is for the U.S.A. only, since other nations may have different laws concerning which works are in the public domain).

In keeping with the theme, November's Review of the Month is an audiobook:

The Everything Store
Brad Stone, author
Pete Larkin, narrator
Hachette Audio
237 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10017
9781619690295 $30.00

Also available in print or as an ebook, The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon is the audiobook biography of a revolutionary businessman. Jeff Bezos, the founder of, achieved success as an online bookseller, but dreamed of more. He wanted Amazon to become a go-to marketplace for limitless goods and competitive low prices - the "everything store". The logistic and technical marvels continued, as Bezos boldly dared to take risks on unproven ventures such as Kindle and cloud computing. Amazon would ultimately spur a retail revolution that continues to this day. The Everything Store is an unforgettable tour of the life and business accomplishments of a modern-day Henry Ford, and is highly recommended for both personal and public library audiobook shelves. 11 CDs, 13 hours.

No matter what anyone may think of Amazon, positive or negative, they are undeniably the 800-pound gorilla of the publishing industry... and possibly much more. Their story, and the story of their founder, is literally shaping publishing and retail history; all the more reason to learn as much about them as one can!

That's all for the November 2013 Beth Cox Report. Drive carefully in the winter snow!

Bethany Cox
Managing Editor
The Midwest Book Review

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
phone: 1-608-835-7937

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