Friday, November 22, 2019

How to do an audiobook of Hidden Order

As I mentioned in a recent post, I have now brought Hidden Order back into print. I am considering producing an audiobook of it, but there is a serious problem.

The problem is that the book contains more than forty figures. I could make the figures available on my web page or on a pdf included with the audiobook, but most people will not be sitting in front of a computer while they listen to the book. Viewing figures on a cell phone while driving down the highway, although not impossible, would be hazardous. So either they ignore the figures entirely and skip over passages that depend on them or they listen to parts of the book that don't have figures on their way to work and go over the parts that they have skipped sometime later when they have access to a computer or smart phone. Not impossible, but clumsy.

The alternative is to rewrite the book to eliminate everything that depends on the figures. That would not be impossible but it would be a rather different book, one that was no longer a substitute for a college class in economics. And it would be a lot of work.


I have been assuming that people who listen to audiobooks mostly do it in situations, such as driving, where looking at a picture on a computer screen is not a practical option. Is that true? Are there a substantial number of people who enjoy listening to an audiobook while sitting at home and could easily enough switch to looking at a figure while listening to the text that discusses it?

Perhaps I should forget about Hidden Order and do an audiobook of Legal Systems Very Different from Ours instead. No figures.


blink said...

Well, *Hidden Order* certainly deserves an audiobook version, but the challenges you describe are real. The optimistic take would be to record as-is with the expectation that presentation is sufficiently compelling that listeners follow up by reviewing an accompanying .pdf or reading a print version of the book.

At least as a first project, *Legal Systems* seems like the obvious choice -- obvious value-added. I encourage you to run with that right now.

wtanksley said...

I listen to audiobooks by preference. For me, having an audiobook will make it more likely I'll read the book (and perhaps spend more time if I need to figure out diagrams, for which I expect to download additional content).

However, it's entirely possible that your book simply wouldn't work without diagrams. I dunno, that's your call. I've listened to a couple of audiobooks that didn't make sense -- Judea Pearl's "Book of Why" needed diagrams, but it was so obviously valuable I am now reading it after listening to it.

Chalid said...

The services that make audio textbooks for the blind will give painstakingly detailed descriptions of the figures. Not sure if that is good enough for your purposes.

Mario said...

Placing diagrams on your website would be the best solution. I have bought Kindle books where the graphics were horrendous, but I had access to the illustrations on the website of the author or publisher. Problem solved.

Carl said...

The Great Courses deals with this issue with many of their courses. Here's how they handle it: search for "Should I Purchase My Course in Audio or Video?".

Izgad said...

These days I do most of my reading through audiobooks. I will look at pdfs later if there is something I really want to understand.

Richard Ober Hammer said...

Make videos with both you talking AND diagrams. These can go up on YouTube or another platform.

When I listen to audio books I can't be looking at pictures; I agree with you on that. But during the past few years since I discovered YouTube I'm spending increasing time watching well prepared, serious content on YouTube. You can reach a larger and different audience.

I expect to try spreading my stuff on YouTube in a year or two. I've completed one YouTube — just to see if I could get some serious work done in the medium.