Friday, 14 March 2008

Podcasts and the sudden ubiquity of Dr Ian Hocking

OK, I know people say it’s a small world and there’s that whole however-many-degrees-of-separation thing going on over on Facebook but I’m beginning to realise that the book world – or the book blogging world – is really quite small.

For instance, I’d never heard of Dr Ian Hocking until he was mentioned on Aliyah Whiteley and Neil Ayres’ blog the other day. And then, when I was scouring for links to Mil Millington’s book, I came across him twice and linked to his reviews. And, further astonishment, he lives in Canterbury. Which is where I live.

Apparently his book, Déjà vu (edited by MNW’s own Aliya Whiteley) is now only available as a collector's item (you'll see what I mean if you follow the link to Amazon and read his blog) but he’s made it available as a podcast. Given my penchant for podcasts I’ll try and download it. I wonder if it’s on iTunes?

So, lovely readers of Hawkinsbizarre, what do we think of novels as podcasts? I don’t want to re-Kindle (ha ha) the debate about Amazon’s e-reader but for those out there who are regular MP3/iPod users, do you make use of Audible where you can get books as podcasts cheaper than the paper version? Would you if you knew how to go about it?

I must admit, the only time I listen to fiction rather than reading it is when I’m on long distance drives. And my taste is slightly different in a listen than a read. I need more action when I’m listening and the beautiful flow of elegiac words is unlikely to keep me riveted as it would if I was simply reading. Or maybe that’s to do with the fact that a sizeable proportion of my attention is being taken up by driving so maybe a smaller part of the brain is available to process what I’m hearing and therefore I need it to be more immediate, less ‘let’s read that sentence again it was so fab’ish’.

Before Macmillan New Writing offered to publish Testament, I was investigating various ways of publishing/marketing it myself, so that I could at least get it out there and read, even if people didn’t have to pay for it. And, inevitably given my own penchant for gadgets, giving it away a chapter at a time as a podcast was one of the ways I was keenest on. But that raised its own problems. I would need a website, which – at that point – I singularly failed to have. Should I invest in a professionally-designed website or an off-the-peg one? Would one be a better platform than the other for putting podcasts on? I was pretty sure that I could get my head round any of the necessary technology but first I was going to have to buy it – both hardware and software. The podcast option began to look no less expensive than the self/subsidised publishing one.

And then there would be the whole mechanics of recording the chapters. Who should read them? Clearly, it would be cheapest to do it myself, but do I have the kind of voice which would work well when digitally recorded, or would my tone irritate the hell out of listeners after a page or two?
Then again, with the two strands in Testament being so different – one fourteenth century, one contemporary – I felt it would be better to use two entirely different voices for the two time periods. More complications.

In the end, I’m glad I didn’t have to go down this route. For this, as for so many other things, I am profoundly grateful to Macmillan New Writing. They now own the electronic rights to Testament so, if it’s made into a podcast at any point, they get to decide all the knotty problems about who and how. Meanwhile, I get to listen to other people’s books on drives to West Wales to see my folks or the South of France to see the Other Half’s mum.
You can listen to a lot of book on the way down to the Cevennes mountains, believe me!


KAREN said...

I have only ever listened to novels on CDs, while travelling, but I think novel podcasts are a good idea. I can imagine listening to something while walking the dog, or in bed if I'm too sleepy to drag my eyes across the page. It could never replace reading, for me, but as an alternative, depending on the situation, it's an option I'd definitely consider.

Dr Ian Hocking said...

I do get about, don't I? Are you doing anything for the arts festival in Canterbury this year?

Feel free to take a look at the podcast. It's still on iTunes but the way that iTunes handles the feed is show the latest few, so you can't get all of the episodes there. You'd need to download them manually from:


Alis said...

Thanks Ian - I'll check it out.

David Isaak said...

I've tried listening to audio books, but it just doesn't work for me. I've always ended up buying the book. I dislike having my listening determined by how long I'm in the car, and I'm not going to spoil my walks with an iPod. Plus drives and walks are when I get my best thinking done about my own writing.

I was really proud when I learned to read for myself and didn't need to be read to any more. Maybe that still colors my view...