How today’s students find and use reference sources

Just in from Oxford University Press:

A new multinational survey, carried out by Oxford University Press, indicates  that 75% of university students surveyed rely on library-acquired reference content in their studies, in addition to using freely available resources. That figure increases to 92% among students surveyed in the US and UK.

Paths to Reference: How today’s students find and use reference resources, a new white paper published by Oxford University Pressshows that for university students, reference works support a range of use cases, encompassing most aspects of independent study. Besides research, reference information supports students in class preparation, general reading, and studying for exams. Furthermore, while students generally rely on free resources for brief, factual information, a majority of students rely on their library for in-depth background information.

Continue reading How today’s students find and use reference sources

Book of the week: Lettuce! (Diana Kizlauskas)

In an effort to draw attention to quality self-published literature and in agreement with BlueInk Review, NSR highlights reviews published on BIR’s site each week, including a wide variety of fiction and nonfiction. This week’s pick: Lettuce! by Diana Kizlauskas.

Diana Kizlauskas is a Chicago area artist whose children’s illustrations have been published by nationally and internationally known companies including Harcourt Achieve; Macmillan McGraw-Hill; Pearson Education/Scott Foresman; Compass/Seed Media; Pauline Books and Media; EDCO/Ireland and others. Most recently, she has both written and illustrated LETTUCE! and Christmas Best, published independently under the imprint of Bright Bear Books. She is a member of The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

BlueInk Review was founded by Patti Thorn, former books editor of the Rocky Mountain News, and Patricia Moosbrugger, literary agent and subsidiary rights specialist. It offers serious, unbiased reviews of self-published books. Reviews are penned largely by writers drawn from major mainstream publications, such as The New York Times and Washington Post, and editors of respected traditional publishing houses. Select reviews appear in Booklist magazine.


When Audio Leads

On the heels of the London Book Fair’s attention to audiobooks this year, a story in yesterday’s Entertainment section of BBC News goes more deeply into the medium as its own literary form. Four salient points need attention by librarians, vendors, teachers, and readers regarding how audio-format reading addresses more than just an option for busy consumers:

  1. Audiobook production, as a predetermined publication end, can give authors an opportunity to explore and expose specific narrative styles. Poet and novelist Sophie Hannah points up her desire to make specific use of dialog, when her writing is to be recorded in audio. Knowing that the ultimate publication of a story will be for the ear, rather than the eye, can lead to choices of words and phrasings with specifically auditory power and character and relationship building might take an alternate course, through dialog, than when such developmental passages are intended to be presented as text.
  2. Creating literature for audio sharing takes the role of storyteller back to the roots of literature itself. Attending to how a narrative sounds aloud echoes the role played by epic poets in making the narrative’s sound compelling enough to follow, remember, and revisit.
  3. Reading with one’s ears requires mental attention, just as reading with one’s eyes does. To use audiobooks as background noise defeats the whole purpose of playing them.
  4. And, in a point worth considerable examination and corresponding pilot project study, author and former teacher
    Joanne Harris

    Joanne Harris suggests that audiobooks may offer specific appeal to boys who have been trained that reading is a passive activity.

While the business end of the BBC article is interesting, in that there seems to be increasing harmony between styles of audiobook recording and listening in the UK and the US, these four points go much further than marketing. Each one offers insights for consideration in library programming, classrooms, and practice by both authors and narrators.


Book of the week: The Election (Landon Wallace)

In an effort to draw attention to quality self-published literature and in agreement with BlueInk Review, NSR highlights reviews published on BIR’s site each week, including a wide variety of fiction and nonfiction. This week’s pick:

The Election

Landon Wallace is a native Texan and trial attorney who can tell a story both in and outside the courtroom. He lives in the shadows of Fort Worth, Texas with his wife and family.  He is currently at work on a new novel — The Next Election

BlueInk Review was founded by Patti Thorn, former books editor of the Rocky Mountain News, and Patricia Moosbrugger, literary agent and subsidiary rights specialist. It offers serious, unbiased reviews of self-published books. Reviews are penned largely by writers drawn from major mainstream publications, such as The New York Times and Washington Post, and editors of respected traditional publishing houses. Select reviews appear in Booklist magazine.

A Poem’s Proof of Aural Power

WEST MOUNTAIN EPILOGUE A READING BY JAY PARINI FROM HIS NEW AND COLLECTED POEMS: 1975-2015 by Jay Parini | Read by Jay Parini Beacon Press | Unabridged Selections, Beacon Press

Thanks to both document digitization and audio recording, we can engage both eyes and ears in extending the life of the oldest English language poem extant. The British Library’s digitization of an early manuscript copy of Beowulf (which, of course, is an epic predating its inscription) is cataloged to include its physical properties as well as presented in full color(s) on screen. As a thousand-year-old document, it looks admirable and the description of its fiber content also provides suggestions of both scent and touch sensations.

Arthur Bahr, MIT Old English assistant professor, reads the first 12 lines in Beowulf’s original here. As this was recorded on video, with the camera directed at Bahr, the disconnect between the aural and visual presentation of a t-shirted and most definitely 21st century man serves to demonstrate how the power of listening alone can allow the reader to be more deeply absorbed than when they are confronted by sight as well as sound. Humans, at the norm, depend on eyesight as our primary means of information gathering. However, when we deploy our eyes while trying to listen, we are, indeed, less likely to hear all that we can when we stop looking.

ELECTRIC ARCHES by Eve L. Ewing | Read by Eve L. Ewing Haymarket Books | Unabridged, Haymarket Books

While many Westerners accompany any listening they do with visual stimulus (either from the same source, as in video, or through multitasking), the true power of what we can hear–and feel and think based on hearing alone–can be revealed when we don’t look. Pull up some poetry  and spend an hour listening with your eyes closed. The link immediately above offers reviews of possibilities ranging from classic to contemporary, collections of verse and novels in verse. Whatever you choose, let your ears have your full attention.

This week in Literature and Arts

Movie fans and Star Wars geeks join me in birthday greetings to Sir Alec Guinness, born in London’s Paddington vicinity, April 2, 1914. I like him best in the David Lean films, and he brought a touch of class as Kenobi, and, of course, the man was born to play Smiley.

Guinness wrote a few memoirs, very charming and worth breezing through. (I guess he liked this pose!)

Continue reading This week in Literature and Arts

Would the world be better off without book reviews and ratings?

Q: What is your ideal kind of online library and book store? 
A: The kind without comments, reviews and ratings. The kind that only gives useful descriptions and context.

Someone asked me recently to describe an ideal app for reading (inside the app: a mix of ebooks, magazines and newspapers), and I found myself describing a very quiet virtual place, full of knowledge and information, without all the white noise. No Comments section. No opinions. No venom.

This led to another question: So you would not allow readers to express their thoughts online? My answer: I want readers to write and express their own original thoughts by publishing their own works (if they so choose), after being inspired or motivated by reading the thoughts of others. But I would like us all to say and write less about other people’s creation, especially since our inherent need (clearly) is to dislike it at least as much as to praise it. It’s become a nasty race. Everything revolves around liking, rating, heart-ing books online. And we must realize it’s hurting more than helping a large number of writers out there.

The value (and the point) of what we create (whether for entertainment or education) is that it will not appeal to every person at every given moment. The writer owes the reader nothing (I’m referring here only to the process of reading). It isn’t the writer’s responsibility to please every reader’s imagination and taste. It is the reader’s responsibility, however, to remain aware of that. Somewhere along the way, it seems, we’ve forgotten to be respectful of each other’s personal journeys of discovery and ways in which we express ourselves (as any writer can attest, this, too, evolves over time). It simply isn’t enough to ‘walk away’ from something we don’t care to read or that we’ve read and disliked. We must leave our mark. We must ‘warn’ others not to like what we didn’t like. Continue reading Would the world be better off without book reviews and ratings?

Let It Go: Automating Collection Development to Enable Librarian/Patron Collaboration

By Peyton Stafford, with Mirela Roncevic

As library personnel budgets are cut or held steady, and while the number of scholarly and scientific monographs increases from year to year, academic librarians need to find ways to discover and acquire relevant monographs more efficiently. To make the situation more complex, the research and information management skills of these librarians are often needed throughout the university, not only to assist students and faculty in research, but to create and manage information workflows that will streamline the research process so that researchers can focus on making new discoveries rather than on managing a multitude of documents and files across multiple platforms. This requires librarians to learn new skills, as well as to spend most of their time away from collection management tasks.

This article presents brief case studies based upon conversations with and published papers by working collection development librarians at universities of various sizes that have recently been actively engaged in reevaluating and restructuring their monographic discovery and acquisition processes and workflows, while describing the strategies they have found most successful for themselves as they replace firm ordering with more automated methods, thus freeing librarians for higher level, non-routine work.

Central to all of these strategies, the profiled Approval Plan (AP), in several manifestations, assures that the library receives the books it needs while librarians spend as little time as possible on selection duties. Continue reading Let It Go: Automating Collection Development to Enable Librarian/Patron Collaboration

Indie Audio: Libraries Need Indie Audiobooks

Audiobooks are the fastest growing segment of the publishing industry, both within libraries and without.

OverDrive saw audiobook circulation in libraries increase by 24% during 2017.

RBMedia (formerly Recorded Books), Baker & Taylor’s Axis360, Hoopla and others also saw huge growth in audiobook usage.

Why would a library want to acquire indie audiobooks? Some of the most popular audiobooks are from indie authors. Besides, your local authors may be doing audiobooks, and now you can add them to your local author collections. Adding local author audiobooks is another great way for libraries to support their communities.

Libraries can now add indie audiobooks to their collections through the same channels that they add indie ebooks. Read on to learn how.

But, first, let’s take a quick look at how indie audiobooks are created, and how they can find their way into library collections. As with indie ebooks, it may be easier than you think, both for the authors and for the librarians. Continue reading Indie Audio: Libraries Need Indie Audiobooks

Happy National Poetry Month in Webcomics

Every Wednesday you can catch a new episode in Nonsense Poetry Comics posted by Sean Monett on Twitter @FlowerPower. On Tumblr each week’s update (often unrhymed) offers incisiveness lines with images that pack the major content points.

Since April is National Poetry Month in the US, what better way to discover webcomics? While wit is always apparent, images sometimes appear in black and white, sometimes in gorgeously hued tones. Some weeks bring multi-panel strips while others are single panel cartoons. Here’s a good place to find variety in comics communication styles as well as a moment of reflection with a smile.

Sound Learning Easier to Search

The Audio Publishers Association’s literacy promotion initiative, Sound Learning APA, has had its online presence altered just enough to make a big difference for users seeking audio literacy, and multimodal literacy content. The site includes research on listening and literacy, classroom-appropriate sample activities, and—now more evident than previously—lists of high quality titles sorted by listener interest age.

The lists are complete with annotations, sound clips, and covers. The newest list, Early Childhood audiobook suggestions, includes an essay on the pre-literacy skills audiobooks support and the list itself is subdivided for easy use by preschool teachers: there are titles by theme (e.g., music and rhyme, food, dinosaurs) each followed with activities using them with a group of under-five’s. As with the grade-level lists and the list for those who are ready for adult books, this one is deep as well as broad, with more than half a dozen thematic groups, each offering about four different titles. The range of publishers is also broad, appropriate to the site’s providers which is the audiobook trade group’s association.

This week in Literature and Arts

Seems impossible, but Steven Tyler turns 70 today! Steven was born March 26, 1948 in Manhattan (I wouldn’t have pegged him for a NYer). Happy birthday, Steven. Have a great one, man!

March 26, 1959: Raymond Chandler goes for the big sleep, dying at 70.

March 26, 1920: Scribner publishes F. Scott Fitzgerald’s debut novel This Side of Paradise (the book began life as The Romantic Egoist, but was revised after failing to sell).

Scott was fixing cars to pay his bills when the novel appeared in bookstores. In weeks he’d be the darling of American literature. He was 25 years old and had opened the door for many young writers to come.

Happy birthday to scholar and poet A.E. Housman, born in Bromsgrove. Worcestershire, England, March 26, 1859.

A Shropshire Lad is the real thing.

March 27, 1952: Singin’ In the Rain premieres at Radio City Music Hall before opening nationwide April 9.

I’m not a musicals fan, but I like this one tremendously because if the singing/dancing were removed there’s still a fun romantic comedy at work.

Happy birthday to Bohumil Hrabal, Born March 28, 1914, in Brno, Austria-Hungary. Probably not the most widely read guy on American shores, but he’s one of the greats.

His novel I Served the King of England will knock you on your ass!

Join me in wishing a happy 75th birthday Eric Idle, born March 29, 1943 in blitzkrieg England.

Monty Python; The Rutles; Spamalot; wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more.

Happy 75th, Eric. Still one of the great twits!

March 30, 1939: Detective Comics No. 27 featuring the six-page adventure, “The Case of Chemical Syndicate” introduces the “mysterious and adventurous” costumed crime-buster, The Bat-Man.”

Fuck yeah!

Happy 76th birthday to Eric Clapton, born March 30, 1942 in Surrey, England.

He’s still god.

Happy 75th birthday to Christopher Walken, born as Ronald (after Ronald Coeman) in Astoria, Queens, March 31, 1943. Except for a brief part in The Anderson Tapes most fans think his career began with The Deer Hunter but he actually did TV in the 50s as a kid, even appearing with Martin & Lewis.

Walken’s given good performances in a variety of genres—although he’s arguably the worst James Bond villain—but has made a career playing psychos, and he’s great at it, but I actually like some of the smaller, more controlled performances in Suicide Kings and The Maiden Heist. Big or small he’s always fun to watch.

Happy 75th, Chris!

Happy 89th birthday to Milan Kundera, born April 1, 1929, in Brno, Czechoslovakia. Despite having fled to France in 1975 to escape political persecution as a writer, he’ll probably never win the Nobel Prize because he abandoned politics as a theme in his latter novels.

Enjoy your birthday, sir.

Michael Rogers ( is a Jesse H. Neal Gold Award-winning freelance writer, editor, reviewer, and photographer. He is also former Media Editor and audiobook reviewer at Library Journal.

Comics Cultural Laureate

As International Women’s Month rockets toward a close for 2018, kit’s a good time to give a shoutout to the Netherlands’ current Comic Artist Laureate. Stateside, the status of laureate seems to be a designation reserved for arts that have been awarded a kind of protected status: protected from hoi polloi and popular acclaim. Happily, European countries realize that celebrating cartoonists is important, too.

Margreet de Heer draws with whimsical delight that is both infectious and informative. Her books available in America include histories of religion and philosophy, each of which do the heavy lifting of big ideas with accessible observations as well as sweetly engaging imagery. Like these two volumes, her webcomic is about discoveries as well: Discoveries in Comics themselves. In addition to being a crackerjack artist, she’s an observer in awe of both ideas and daily life and that awe is infectious.

You might start by enjoying the emotional—and emotional rollercoaster—of her account regarding her appointment as Comic Artist Laureate of the Netherlands. There is no good reason to stop there, however: after all, laureate status indicates that the person has something worthy of notice by everyone. Move on to read her thoughtful comic on #MeToo. Her wordless account of the process of making comics is one fellow artists will find comforting, s knowing company needs.

There are also pieces about the family cat, political questions, and the research processes she uses when writing nonfiction comics. There are movie reviews, moments of fantasy, and autobiographical moments. Pick up your screen, settle in, and enjoy a good long visit with a laureate.


The Observant Voice

‘If I’m a storyteller it’s because I listen’ –John Berger [Interview with Kate Kellaway for the Guardian, 30 October 2016]

Critic, author, and aesthetic theoretician John Berger wrote significantly about the primacy and impact of visual experience in The Ways of Seeing close to 50 years ago, before educated access to the world of ideas moved to us through images as much as through words. This text continues to provide readers with better understanding of how the act of seeing affects the viewer as well as them.

Years later (2011), Berger read aloud his essay on imprisonment with its opening statement on our attachment to hearing words. (The essay was published in Guernica Magazine, informs15 July 2011). Hearing him read it aloud in 2018 seems remarkable: his observations on walls built of material and erected on the bases of class, cultural, and political means resonate now with a prescience that would be frightening were Berger not already recognized as brilliant and capable of extrapolating from the local observation to the human condition with more skill than either personal or cultural prejudice.

Available for free listening through the Open Culture portal, here are 33 minutes for all to hear now. Berger’s somewhat idiosyncratic pronunciations do not intrude on the experience of hearing him directly and his pacing supports comprehensive listening, every phrase and statement given its full weight aloud and time to resonate within the hearing.

This week in Literature and Arts

Happy 190th birthday to Henrik Ibsen, born March 20, 1828 in Skien, Norway. He wrote many of theater’s greatest works and influenced god knows how many other playwrights and novelists, yet never won the Nobel, despite three nominations. Must have been the hair (look at that mop)!

Happy birthday to Chico, born Leonard Marx in New York City, March 22, 1887.

That’sa fine, eh!

March 22, 1976: In the Tunisian desert, George Lucas begins rolling film on his low-budget, kids’ space-fantasy film, The Star Wars. Turned out pretty good! Attaboy, George!

A happy 87th birthday to William Shatner, born into a Jewish immigrant family in Montreal, Canada, March 22, 1931.

His career has been so overshadowed by Kirk that you forget all the other fun stuff he did before.

March 22, 1963: Please Please Me, The Beatles’ debut album, is released by Parlophone Records in the UK. All those 50s guys who invented rock’n’roll didn’t know it, but they were done.

Speaking of the Beatles, let’s wish a happy birthday to character actor Wilfrid Bramble (Paul’s spirited grandfather in A Hard Day’s Night), born in Dublin, Ireland, March 22, 1912.

March 24, 1874 : Harry Houdini is born Erik Weisz, a rabbi’s son, in Budapest. His family emigrated to America when he was 4, initially settling in Wisconsin then later New York (where else!). Erik was a champion cross-country runner as a kid (great lungs!) and began studying magic in his early teens.

The name Harry, apparently, is a twisted, Americanized form of Eric, and Houdini allegedly came from the French magician Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin. Harry began his professional career performing slight-of-hand card manipulations in circuses but bombed at it. A colleague advised him to turn his passion toward escape tricks. Good choice.

Happy birthday to Steve McQueen, born March 24, 1930 in Beech Grove, Indiana. He had a tempestuous early life, bouncing between assorted relatives with whom he clashed before his antisocial behavior landed him in reform school. He did a stint in the marine corp armored division, but—ahem—”tanked” at it before finding acting.

He naturally rebelled against authority, a personality trait that served his film persona well but made him the bane of many directors and producers.

Forever The King of Cool.

Everyone join me in wishing a happy 99th birthday—woohoo!—to poet, publisher, and bookseller Lawrence Ferlinghetti, born March 24, 1919 in Bronxville, NY.

Happy birthday, Lawrence! Make it to 100, man!

Michael Rogers ( is a Jesse H. Neal Gold Award-winning freelance writer, editor, reviewer, and photographer. He is also former Media Editor and audiobook reviewer at Library Journal.

Literary Nobel Laureates Aloud

Bob Dylan’s unwillingness to collect his Nobel Prize for Literature, in 2016, served as a popular reminder that this accolade (and there are others with similar rules) requires its recipient to speak up publicly when the award ceremony occurs. The Nobel Prize Organization provides snippets of some of the responding speeches. However, some great authors, as we know, are magnificent when writing and less so when speaking. A snippet serves these writers well because only the most compelling aspect of their speech need be archived.

How the Literary Laureate crafts the acceptance speech, and the content they choose to present varies, of course. Some apparently stay within the mode of shock and awe at the celebration of their work, while others use the global public square of the speech to make statements about events beyond the matter of literature and the winning of the grand prize at hand. John Steinbeck’s snippet, for example, gives us his embodied voice of a man who is expressing gratitude without the incisiveness of his writing voice. Austrian playwright and novelist Elfriede Jelinek, on the other hand, whose speech had to be recorded for presentation as she did not have the physical ability to attend, demonstrates the flow of her words as they are meant to be heard even when she places them in actors’ mouths.

And some provide highly literary and yet skillfully performed responses to the award that echo the award’s purpose and meaning: they give back—to all of us—in the spirit of adding to the world body of story and cultural history. Kazuo Ishiguro, the most recent Literature Nobel Laureate, exemplifies the third type, his 45-minute speech accessible to a wide variety of listeners, whether educated, academic, or even teenaged, while also adding to the literary body of the world a tiny gem of well-chosen, skillfully constructed images built entirely of the blending of words with voice. While a video with Ishiguro’s complete speech is available on the Nobel Prize Organization site, the words and the voice are the essentials here. Penguin Random House Audiobooks has it for sale as such; every library needs to make it accessible to its community.



This Week in Literature and Arts

Happy birthday to Jack Kerouac, born in the second floor bedroom at 9 Lupine Road in Lowell, MA on March 12, 1922. Played football at Columbia University. The all-American boy.

March 13, 1956: Warner’s releases John Ford’s The Searchers. For my dime it is one of the ten best American films, and John Wayne gives one of the screen’s great performances.

He’s often criticized for simply being “John Wayne” in every film, but not here. Costar Harry Carey Jr. recalled that although he’d already appeared with Wayne in several films, Wayne was different on The Searchers set; very quiet and distant with a vacant look in his eyes.

Ride away.

Happy birthday to the great Sylvia Beach, bookseller to the Lost Generation’s literary lights and publisher of Ulysses, born in Baltimore March 14, 1887.

During the Nazi occupation of Paris a German officer wanted Sylvia’s last copy of Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, but she told him politely to fuck off. He left threatening to return with other goons and take everything. She locked the door and with the help of her girlfriend carried all the books upstairs to their rooms so when the asshole came back the place was empty.

Considering she could have been shot, hung, or the store burned (with her in it), that’s a woman with real balls.

Fuck yeah Sylvia Beach!

Happy 70th birthday to Billy Crystal, born in New York City March 14, 1948. Billy lived in the Bronx before his family relocated to Long Beach out on the Island. He was a champion high school athlete and attended college on a baseball scholarship.

I think he’s as funny as all hell.

Makeup wizard Dick Smith morphs Marlon Brando into Don Vito Corleone for The Godfather, which opened March 15, 1972.

It’s one of those rarities where the film is superior to the novel. Not just a wondrous script, but many of the memorable lines were ad-libbed by the sterling cast.

Get your Irish up and wish a happy 100th birthday to literary scholar biographer Richard Ellman, born March 15, 1918 in Highland Park, Michigan. His lengthy bios on Joyce, Wilde, and Yeats are standards.

Happy 86th birthday to John Updike, born March 18, 1932 in Reading, PA. Fabulous writer and a nice guy.

Birthday wishes also to George Plimpton, born in New York City March 18, 1927. Because of the Thurston Howell-esque way he spoke, George seemed standoffish, but he was a very warm and friendly man. Funny, a good listener, and a solid writer.

Remembering Chuck Berry, gone a year today (March 18, 2017).

Michael Rogers ( is a Jesse H. Neal Gold Award-winning freelance writer, editor, reviewer, and photographer. He is also former Media Editor and book/audiobook reviewer at Library Journal.

Your Rights as an Expressive Student

While not strictly a webcomic, this week’s feature in our sequential art category is free, online, and important for today’s planned nationwide student activism. The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has published a comic explaining the rights of teens to express themselves on civic matters. This can be downloaded or, better, shared virally online.

Be Heard! A Comic For Student Rights From CBLDF & NCAC


Book of the week: Freeda the Cheetah (JTK Belle)

In an effort to draw attention to quality self-published literature and in agreement with BlueInk Review, NSR highlights reviews published on BIR’s site each week, including a wide variety of fiction and nonfiction. This week’s pick:

Freeda the Cheetah

J.T.K. Belle is Jeff, Tommy and Katie Belle.  Jeff Bell is Vice President at Amazon Publishing.  Tommy and Katie are his children.  They live in the greater Seattle area.


BlueInk Review was founded by Patti Thorn, former books editor of the Rocky Mountain News, and Patricia Moosbrugger, literary agent and subsidiary rights specialist. It offers serious, unbiased reviews of self-published books. Reviews are penned largely by writers drawn from major mainstream publications, such as The New York Times and Washington Post, and editors of respected traditional publishing houses. Select reviews appear in Booklist magazine.

Light, Sound, and the Speed of the Mind

Reading philosophy, including its essential byway of political theory, requires a kind of patience that demands readers monitor their own capacity as much as the author’s path making. As an undergraduate, I learned that some philosophical texts were best consumed if I read them aloud, a discovery that certainly helped me in graduate school while horrifying some of my fellow students there.

Across most of adulthood, however, my reading of both classical and contemporary philosophy texts has been silently tracked with my eyes. Of course, the going is more slow than when my eyes track murder mysteries in print or even works about biology, behavioral psychology, or history. A rubric of good journalism is its transparency so reading the news happens, for me, at something akin to the speed of light.

However, recent audiobook publishing of mid- and late-twentieth century Western philosophy texts has given me the opportunity to discover—and this time with expert narrators in the driver’s seat—that ears, rather than eyes, are the preferred conduit for taking in sentences in which a variety of dependent clauses, and their order, require careful tracking. Discovering the variety of interpretative performance styles audiobook narrators are bringing to philosophical texts has also led to an eye-opening time. Some present the text in almost casual tones, pacing the reading as though they were chatting with the audience, or performing a literary novel in which word choice and phrasing counts but the emotional inflections do as well. Others assume a kind of lecture pacing, with halts as though they themselves are considering the passage just presented, or rushing ahead when the text doesn’t seem to serve a purpose other than as a bridge to their own next a-ha moment.

One very recent listen brought a variety of insights about differences in eye-reading and ear-reading, however. Hannah Arendt’s 1963 On Revolution is narrated by the Audio Publishers Association’s 2017 Best Female Narrator, Tavia Gilbert, whose voice work can be heard in a variety of genres from science fiction to thriller to romance, and audiobooks for very young listeners, reads this one at a speed that frightened me for all of the first two minutes—and then I realized that she had accurately tapped Arendt’s own speed of thought rather than her speaking pace (which, in her native German, can be heard here). Famous for her long sentences (which her friend author Mary McCarthy would prune ahead of final editing), Arendt required them in order to crystalize the prism of any one of her speculations, assertions, or analyses. And Gilbert, for her part, re-animates that speedy thought process by delivering aloud sentences that might take the eye-reader two or three goes to absorb.

This new spate of audiobook publishing is most welcome, as long as it hews to the high standard of interpreting the author’s expressive pace. Gilbert has set the mark.

Portal on all aspects of digital content and for all creating, reading, publishing, managing, curating, and distributing the written word and other content in digital format, including publishers, writers, editors, content developers, distributors, educators, librarians and information science professionals. With contributions from book and information science professionals and thought leaders in the United States and around the world.