Listening to literature

June, we have been celebrating across nearly two decades now, is Audiobook Month. In many parts of California, the audiobook experience is tied to car-based commuting, and, in agricultural areas, tractor driver companionship. California is also the birthplace of Earphone English secondary school programming targetting English Language Learners in a long-running public/school library collaboration.

And audiobook appreciation is a whole lot more. Audiobooks give inveterate book worms the opportunity to get their reading jones on while working out, walking about, cleaning house, and drifting into sleep. Professional performance turns the written word into, as Booklist audiobook maven Mary Burkey calls it, “Voices in My Head”–voices that pronounce unusual vocabulary correctly, give body to cultural and regional accents, and give those for whom reading with the eyeballs is less than cimfortable ready literary access via reading with the ears.

June now stretches into all summer, with industry promotions bringing all sorts of audiobook freebies, including SYNC, Spoken Freely, and for those who love lists, the shiney new Audies list–with clips, of course. The big news this Audiobook Month is the serious reconsideration DRM is getting from production companies. Oh, and EBSCO’s new audiobook “sound alike” algorithm incorporated into NoveList Plus.

Audiobooks turn literature into performance art, more than just a pretty good aesthetic deal available with a library card. The medium also puts the legs on the idea that we can all become better listeners. We spend a lot of time learning to communicate out. Audiobook Month can remind us thst communication isn’t a one-way street, and the traffic of literary appreciation has intersections, varying speed zones, and unexplored neighborhoods.

Let’s get listening.

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