ePublishing in Audio Form

This is the fifth in a series of essays on electronic publishing. The others can be found here:

Essay 1
Essay 2
Essay 3
Essay 4

Back in the first essay, when I defined the way I am using the term electronic publishing, I left the definition open wide enough to include audio fiction. While audio fiction is far from being a new concept, reasonably new is the ability to store the fiction in an electronic file that makes it extremely portable, and the ability to broadcast it to the world via the internet.

Audio fiction is as old as the hills. Fiction began with an oral tradition and wasn’t written down in any quantity until the invention of the printing press. With the invention of the phonograph and the ability to record sounds, audio fiction soon returned and held a steady if not small market segment (ding – turn the page.)

As an aside, a French recording of Au Clare de la Lune by Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville preceeded Thomas Edison’s phonograph recording by about fifteen years. It took until the last couple of years before scientists were able to play the fragile and distorted recordings back. You can listen to it here.

Using the same technology that moved the music industry away from physical recordings and into digital files, audio fiction has a lot more possibilities. You can listen on a ipod on the way to work on the bus. You can listen on your computer as you pay bills in another window.

The concept of podcasting books emerged through the efforts of a number of people working independently with no knowledge of each other at the start. Players include Evo Terra, Tee Morris, Mur Lafferty, and Scott Sigler.

Evo Terra and Tee Morris (along with Chris Miller) started an audio fiction distribution system called Podiobooks. The audio fiction of Scott Sigler was discovered and he has become a New York Times bestselling author. Mur Lafferty has maybe not the name recognition or visibility, but her contribution is no less important.

Some of my own short fiction has been podcasted in Michelle M. Welch‘s audio anthologies Theme and Variations, and Theme and Variations (Opus 2). (My stories are Black Orchid in the first volume and K.622 in the second.)

Is it still viable to build a career around audio fiction, or was there a limited time window that has already passed? I don’t have the answer, but I have been considering releasing an audio version of a novel that I finished a few years back. The difficult part about doing that is most of these people do their own work. They write the fiction, of course, but they also act as voice talent, audio engineer, producer, and distribution hub.

Doing your own recordings has some expense, some equipment is needed, but much of it can be done right at the computer. My own setup includes a 16-track hard drive recorder and various microphones, but I bought that with the intention of doing music, too. To date, I have done more audio fiction with that hardware. But most people just record directly into the computer. Editing can be done with Audiacity, a free audio editing tool, but I have been using video editing software. Whatever works. My setup is no doubt overkill.

While audio fiction may not be for everyone, it is certainly a format worth considering if you are trying to create an online presence.

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