Thoughts from Nicholas Jones of Strathmore about what an audio producer does.
Long, long ago, when television was just starting again after World War 2, and forty years before the web was a twinkle in Tim Berners-Lee’s mind’s eye, the BBC ran audience appreciation surveys. They asked a twelve-year old girl if she preferred radio or television. ‘Radio,’ she said. ‘The pictures are better.’
Last year, Michael Morpurgo was asked why the film of War Horse has been only moderately successful, whereas the stage version is a phenomenon now seen by more than three million people around the world. Having the horse being a puppet on stage, he said, not wholly realistic, prompts the audience to engage with the process of telling the story, whereas the definitive reality of the film leaves no room for the viewer to personalise the story to his or her own experience. The stage version, he concluded, ‘leaves the audience room to imagine’.
That’s what audio books do. They can do some of the ‘heavy lifting’ of difficult books (making, say, Dickens or Tolstoy approachable), but they engage the listener’s imagination. They introduce young listeners to words beyond their reading age, and they do so in context. That is how children learn words.
Our job as producers is to make for the clearest possible understanding of the story an author has to tell, and the strongest engagement in it. We provide an expert reader and use sound effects, music and timing to make this happen. Audio leaves room for the imagination in ways that television and the internet do not, and so still has a place in modern media.
Listeners seem to agree, since the medium is growing twenty per cent a year according to industry figures.
Strathmore began producing audiobooks in 1996 and have won over 20 Audiofile Earphones awards, 5 US Audies and over 20 awards from the Spoken Word Publishers’ Association, believing that an audiobook is not a substitute for the printed word, but a medium in its own right.
Nicholas Jones, Managing Director of Strathmore, is a member of the Audio Group of the Publishers’ Association.