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September 15, 2006

What Makes a Great Audiobook


I've been listening recently to Leadership and Self-Deception and really have been enjoying it. It reminded me a lot of the audiobook for The Goal in that it takes place in the form of a dialogue and the narrator takes on different voices to represent who is talking.

I've realized that having some sort of dialogue (like this with a single narrator or a title like Kosmic Consciousness that's an actual dialogue) seems more engaging (at least to me) than having the traditional model of just having a single narrator reading a book as a monologue.

I'm wondering if that's one of the reasons why podcasts are becoming so popular. 99% of podcast are of the dialogue variety and I think, in the case of audio, that's truly what works better. Think of radio shows that are popular (e.g., Howard Stern, Opie & Anthony). Can you imagine how much worse they would be if you were forced to listen to one person the entire time? I think most people would flip the station in a heartbeat regardless of how entertaining that one person was.

Audiobooks are more popular than ever but I think they'll start to become "mainstream" once audiobook publishers wake up to the fact that most people don't want to listen to a single voice droning on for hours on end regardless of how good the content or narration is. If audiobook publishers don't realize this I think their businesses will be increasingly threatened by what's happening in podcasting.

I find myself listening to more and more podcasts these days and it has little to do with the fact that podcasts are free and audiobooks cost money. Rather it has more to do with the fact that I find the back-and-forth format of most podcasts to be better suited to how I like to consume information. I'm sure it's different for everyone but I wonder how many audiobook publishers even have this on their radar. If not maybe this will be a little free consulting for them...