Monthly Archives: July 2013

Behind the Audio: Ender’s Game Alive

Adam Boretz -- July 31st, 2013

If you’re a fan of Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, then check out Ender’s Game Alive, a new, full-cast audiobook from Skyboat Media and Audible.

The six-hour audioplay was written by Card himself and features more than 30 narrators (many of them winners of Audie, Grammy, and Tony Awards), an original score, and sound effects.

For more information on the production, check out the following behind-the-scenes videos from Skyboat.

Orson Scott Card:

Producer Stefan Rudnicki:

Director Gabrielle de Cuir:

Skyboat will also been posting a daily blog on its website, which is filled with photos, clips, and more details.

Audio Casting Contest: Veronica Roth’s Allegiant

Adam Boretz -- July 30th, 2013

AllegiantAudio_Graphics_1HarperAudio wants you to decide who will voice Four in the forthcoming audio edition of Veronica Roth’s Allegiant, the third and final volume in her Divergent series.

Allegiant is written from the point of view of Tris and Four, with narrator Emma Galvin returning to perform the part of Tris.

HarperAudio selected four narrators as finalists for the part of Four — they will remain anonymous until the contest is over — and fans can vote for their favorite until 12pm on August 2.

After voting, fans can enter to win “The Ultimate Divergent Series Audiobook Prize Pack,” which includes a Kindle Fire loaded with the audio editions of Insurgent and Divergent; a pair of Skullcandy Crusher headphones; 12 Audible credits; and an author-signed copy of Allegiant upon its publication in October.

Check out THIS LINK for all the contest details and to cast your vote.

Preserving Less of the World’s Literature

Peter Brantley -- July 30th, 2013

Miners in a tunnelThe rapid development of online publishing has been a boon for advancing access to literature and science. At the same time, it portends a dramatic lessening of the currently-legislated ability for national libraries with preservation and access mandates to record and store national and world literatures. There are at least two principal axes to this concern: independently published literature, and the growing wealth of alternative direct-to-web publishing channels. Continue reading

Big week for UK prizes

Clare Swanson -- July 23rd, 2013

The Man Booker Prize announced their longlist today and, after taking some heat for its populist ways, the award’s judges have deemed the list most diverse it has ever been.

manbooker_1The Guardian reported that Robert Macfarlane, this year’s Man Booker chair of judges, said: “This is surely the most diverse longlist in Man Booker history: wonderfully various in terms of geography, form, length and subject. These 13 outstanding novels range from the traditional to the experimental, from the first century AD to the present day, from 100 pages to 1,000, and from Shanghai to Hendon.”

The reveal arrives one week after the Folio Prize named the panel of judges for their inaugural prize given in 2014, which includes Pulitzer Prize-winning author (and husband to sometimes controversial essayist Ayelet Waldman) Michael Chabon. The award, created by the Literature Prize Foundation, was perceived by some to be the highbrow answer to the Man Booker Prize when first announced in 2011.

Literary agent and prize founder Andrew Kidd said at the time that the two prizes would complement each other, but still added that he wouldn’t apologize if the committee is excited by books that might seem “daunting.” He wrote an impassioned defense of the newly-named prize (it was previously the Literature Prize) in a blog post for the Guardian in March.

Debates about highbrow or lowbrow aside, one major difference between the two prizes is The-Folio-Prizethe Folio’s inclusion of international authors whose English-language fiction is published in the United Kingdom. The Booker is open only to citizens of the Commonwealth.  It stands to reason, then, that prize will be decided on by a global array of judges, who were announced on Tuesday.  The group includes Australian (by-way-of Vietnam) writer Nam Le and Indian novelist Pankaj Mishra. It will be chaired by English poet and novelist Lavinia Greenlaw. 

“Great literature respects no borders or boundaries, and it’s a thrill to be a part of the first literary prize designed to honor that crucial disrespect,” remarked Chabon.

English novelist Sarah Hall, whose The Electric Michelangelo was a finalist for the 2004 Man Booker Prize, is also among the judges. “Great fiction can be divisive as well as edifying,” said Hall. “As a reader and a judge you have to transcend personal taste and preferences, and consider the particular vision, ambition and execution of each work. I’m looking forward to those discussions enormously.”

A shortlist of eight titles will be announced in February 2014, and the winner, who will take home £40,000 (roughly $60,000) will be revealed at a ceremony in London in March.

The Man Booker shortlist will be announced in September, and the winning title will be named in October.



Behind the Audio: The Auschwitz Volunteer

Adam Boretz -- July 18th, 2013

51qzrWpAxkL._SL300_Today in Behind the Audio, we take a look at Audible’s recording of The Auschwitz Volunteer: Beyond Bravery, Witold Pilecki’s account of his nearly three-year incarceration in Auschwitz.

In 1940, the Polish Underground wanted to learn more about the recently opened Auschwitz. A Polish army officer, Pilecki volunteered to be arrested by the Germans and report back from inside the camp. His subsequent intelligence reports were among the first eyewitness accounts of Auschwitz atrocities.

The audio edition of The Auschwitz Volunteer will be narrated by the Marek Probosz, who also played the Pilecki in the recent television film, The Death of Captain Pilecki.

Check out the following behind-the-scenes interview in which Probosz talks about Pilecki, his experiences at Auschwitz, and this important audiobook.

On the NSA’s reading list

Peter Brantley -- July 17th, 2013

Spy Vs SpyWhen I was about 15 years old, I purchased a copy of The Anarchist’s Cookbook by mail. I’m not exactly sure why I did that; it was being heavily advertised back then in the progressive magazines I read, and I probably thought it was the cool, geeky thing for a young boy to do. I remember trying to plow through it, but it was sloppily written and I didn’t think much of it; the author has strongly disavowed it, and wants it off the market.

Even in the late 1970s, I didn’t agree with the sentiments; my parents were smart not to intervene or counsel caution. It was a very liberal household for reading, and my father, a professor of literature, also kept a “teaching copy” of The Story of O in a place that was probably a little too accessible — or just accessible enough. My purchase of the Cookbook was primarily about personal semiotics: a (failed) attempt to signal to myself, something about myself.

It was an innocent act. Now, I am not so sure that it would be. With the hands of the NSA clearly deep in international personal and organizational communications traffic, along with presumably any other national security agency around the world worth its salt, tracing that kind of information might well be worth their while. Why not? Storage is affordable at scale, and computation is pervasive.

The government now clearly understands that the most critical internet infrastructure – freely flowing information – doesn’t actually flow that freely, but is usually routed through the application silos maintained by a small number of companies that include Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter, and Yahoo. As citizens, it is our responsibility to consider the ramifications that control over the data we generate as individuals offers for surveillance. Regardless of how ferociously companies have fought to protect user information – e.g., EFF has applauded Yahoo, and Google has apparently given ground only reluctantly – these companies remain data honeypots for government infosec query.

Our reading takes place, overwhelmingly, in those silos, within Apple, Amazon, and maybe Microsoft. With the apparent slow withering of Barnes & Noble’s business, it becomes ever more likely that Microsoft’s strategic investment of $300MM in the Nook Media unit might well become the vehicle to majority ownership. With a new reorganization under its belt, Microsoft is clearly interested in entertainment and mobile hardware platforms, and content is a critical component of hardware based business offerings.

Microsoft has drawn significant attention in the NSA scandal as being eager to please government inquiries, being accused of providing low level access to Outlook and Skype services, among others. Although Microsoft has strongly refuted these allegations, it hedges carefully by noting, “Looking forward, as Internet-based voice and video communications increase, it is clear that governments will have an interest in using (or establishing) legal powers to secure access to this kind of content to investigate crimes or tackle terrorism.”

And so whatever protections progressive States like California have been able to secure to protect reader privacy, it is not at all clear they would work against FISA orders on the national level. With our books in the hands of a few very large internet application hosts, and even assuming the best efforts by those companies to protect their users, we can not purchase ebooks, much less read them, with any sense of privacy or confidentiality.

It was a privilege to read the Anarchist’s Cookbook as a teenager and not worry about it; even to have a reasonably decent chance of not having anyone know about it. But no era is innocent, and the 1970s certainly weren’t. I would later take a university political science class on terrorism, studying the tracts and tactics of Black September and Baader-Meinhof; I would read with some fascination Marighella’s manual on urban guerrilla warfare; the Munich Massacre occurred in 1972, and hijackings continued apace through the decade.

We read in a political and social context. It is far too easy for the knowledge of which books we buy, and what we browse online, to become imbued with a deeply and profoundly political cast by organizations with great power, regardless of the intentions and free thoughts of the individual.

For now, the privilege of reading privately, digitally, has been lost. The Internet needs new architectures for distributing and securing data, using encryption that remains in the hands of the users, creating a very different kind of cloud based architecture for data storage and computation. Until then, assume that someone else has a set of keys to your bookshelf.

What’s next for libraries and digital content

Peter Brantley -- July 15th, 2013

Seattle PublicThe only thing that can be said for certain about the relationship of libraries with publishers and ebooks is that they are subject to change. To keep libraries and publishers up-to-date, ALA is hosting a virtual conference, via registration, that includes a session on “New Directions for Libraries and Digital Content.” Robert Wolven, from Columbia University Libraries, will join Peter Brantley, from, in a discussion of what to expect next for libraries.

Even as Apple lost a price-fixing court case involving the Big 6 publishers (now the Big 5, with the merger of Random House and Penguin Books), ALA continues their on-going dialogue with publishers to attempt to increase access to both current and backlist titles. Spearheaded by the Digital Content and Libraries Working Group (DCWG), co-chaired by Robert Wolven, ALA has made surprisingly and steady progress in broadening the available ebook catalog, while continuing to press for changes in license terms; opportunities for content preservation; development of alternative business models; and privacy guarantees for ebook borrowers.

In the longer run, we are likely to confront far greater changes in what “books” are, and how they are procured and read. Both startups and dominant web companies like Apple, Google, and Amazon are utilizing software development techniques and ever more powerful browsers to advance towards a far different horizon for publishing content. Peter Brantley’s article for the American Libraries’ Digital Supplement, “The Unpackaged Book,” highlights some of these evolutions in how books and storytelling are presented on the web, and the opportunities and challenges that libraries face as a result.

Billy Crystal Delivers Live Recording for Macmillan Audio

Adam Boretz -- July 11th, 2013

9780805098204If you missed Billy Crystal’s hugely successful reading from his new memoir, Still Foolin’ ‘Em: Where I’ve Been, Where I’m Going, and Where the Hell Are My Keys?, last month at New York University, don’t despair. Fans of the comedian and actor will be able to listen to the performance when it’s incorporated into the audio edition of the book for Macmillan Audio.

At NYU’s Cantor Auditorium, Crystal read 7 chapters — covering everything from the buying a burial plot to sex at age 25 versus sex at age 65 and playing with the New York Yankees for a day — to a full (and very enthusiastic) house.

According to Macmillan, Crystal’s performance and the audience responses — laughter, applause, and even shock — will all be featured in the audio edition of Still Foolin’ ‘Em.

For more on Crystal’s performance at NYU, check out John Schwartz’s write-up in The New York Times. And check out THIS LINK for more on the audio and print editions of Still Foolin’ ‘Em from Macmillan.