Voices for Canada

Canada, in spite of its southern neighbor’s too frequent assumptions, is not a cultural outpost of US art, literary, and literacy practices. Canadians create and take pride in the richness of Canadian books, authors, and artists. When it comes to identifying, collecting, and promoting Canadian authors, publishers, librarians, and journalists engage in ongoing projects to discover and make discoverable, through meta-tagging, explicit selection and deselection curation rules, and title page verso reference to national and provincial agencies dedicated to the promotion of books.

Comparisons between 2014 and 2015 surveys of adult audiobook listeners in Canada show that the format has gained solid traction and an increasingly invested listening audience. [1] Canadian listening readers, like their counterparts in the US and other countries, continue to enjoy increasing numbers of titles from which to select. However, as with book publication, the search for Canadian content indicates greater potential than current actuality. And with audiobooks, the product has several points at which its Canadianess—or lack thereof—can be judged: author, audiobook publishing company, and narrator talent.

Several of the largest US audiobook publishers have Canadian branches, of course. With the lion’s share of their production focused on “bestsellers” (a term that describes marketing energy rather than actual listening quality), big name Canadian authors of course make their lists: Margaret Atwood (Penguin Random House) and Robertson Davies (Blackstone Audio), for example. Picture book writer and storyteller Robert Munsch, a children’s figure who has captured decades of attention on both sides of the border, comes to audio through his own production. Mordecai Richler, along with several other classic Canadian authors, arrives aloud through the long, strong art of Audible.

A very few Canadian first audiobook publishers, or book publishers who also produce audiobooks, exist. Podium Publishing provides the celebrity example of having brought out Andy Weir’s The Martian ahead of Hollywood’s interest in it as a “property”. However, the author is not Canadian and the wonderful narrator, R. C. Bray, is a New Englander. Post Hypnotic Press publishes an array of contemporary nonfiction and some fiction, including Canadian mystery writer Gail Bowen and Canadian children’s author Beryl Young, although narrators again are largely drawn from the US.

This may soon be changing. Earlier this month, Audible Creation Exchange (ACX) announced that it is now open to Canadian (and Irish) rights holders.[2] The site now includes Canadian voice samples. With that kind of encouragement, more potential narrators—authors and publishers, too—may discover that giving voice to books can broaden the Canadian book experience.

1 Are You Still Listening? Audiobook Use in Canada 2016 (BookNet Canada, November 2016)

2 Welcoming New Voices and Stories at ACX (https://blog.acx.com/2017/06/01/welcoming-new-voices-and-stories-to-acx/)