LibriVox Selections iPhone App

LibriVox Selections logoIambik Audiobooks is pleased to announce the official unveiling of the LibriVox Selections iPhone App (cost, for now, $1.99). Description:

The best LibriVox recordings, all in one place. The app is 1.99, after that everything is free!

LibriVox Selections brings together a curated collection of hundreds of favourite audiobooks (mostly solo recordings) from LibriVox, the free public domain audiobook project.

This app helps you get to the best LibriVox recordings, mostly solo recordings with good sound quality.

Selections in this app are made by LibriVox founder Hugh McGuire and a group of trusted audio advisors.

I’ve heard so many times over the years about how hard it is to navigate through the huge LibriVox catalog to find the really good recordings. The LibriVox ethic is come one, come all for those making recordings, and that, truly is a wonderful thing. But not everyone wants readers changing from book to book. Not everyone is prepared for the other hiccups in LibriVox recordings: variable sound quality, and readers of a more amateur nature.

This app aims to solve that problem, by making the selections ahead of time, so that you can be confident of the quality of the recordings before you start listening. Depending on what we learn from this experience, we’ll consider moving into the mobile space with an iambik app.

Download and let us know what you think here.

Announcing LitFic Collection #2

complete litfic#2 collection from iambik audioDearest Listeners,

We’re happy to announce another pride-inducing collection of twelve audiobooks from iambik audio, this time more great literary fiction.  You can buy the whole collection of twelve books for $49.99, or individual books for $6.99… actually, less! Using the code “our-favorite-customers” you’ll get a 25% discount on any purchase until the end of April.

Here is our list:

One Vacant Chair, by Joe Coomer
narrated by Lee Ann Howlett / print publisher Graywolf Press
“Try reading two pages without a chuckle, and I guarantee you’ll be the first to make it.”
—The Sanford Herald

Light Lifting, by Alexander MacLeod
narrated by Adam Verner, / print publisher  Biblioasis
“Sensitive and subtle, MacLeod is a writer through whose deliberately partial and quotidian pieces shimmers life’s unspoken complexity.” –Giller Prize Citation

The Journal of Antonio Montoya, by Rick Collignon
narrated by Linette Geisel / print publisher Unbridled Books
“Strongly reminiscent of the magic realism of Garcia Marquez, this is an enchanting work by a new writer.”
— Library Journal

Alcestis, by Katharine Beutner
narrated by Diane Havens / print publisher Soho Press
“Beutner renders her multilayered heroine with beauty and delicacy, and concerns herself with no less than the intricacies of the soul…”—Publishers Weekly

The Cry of the Sloth, by Sam Savage
narrated by Charles Bice / print publisher Coffee House Press
“Delightful . . . Imagine a comic version of the great Fernando Pessoa’s The Book of the Disquiet in epistolary form, with extra laceration.”

The Failure, by James Greer
narrated by Tadhg Hynes / print publisher Akashic Books
“James Greer’s The Failure is such an unqualified success, both in conception and execution, that I have grave doubts he actually wrote it.”
–Steven Soderbergh

Madewell Brown, by Rick Collignon
narrated by Charles Bice / print publisher Unbridled Books
“Collignon’s writing is exquisite and his characters will touch your heart.”
-–Bookworks, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Perdido, by Rick Collignon
narrated by Charles Bice / print publisher Unbridled Books
“Collignon’s male characters are masterfully drawn, as is his rendering of the stark New Mexico landscape, with its harsh unforgiving climate.” — The San Diego Union-Tribune

A Santo in the Image of Cristóbal García, by Rick Collignon
narrated by Charles Bice / print publisher Unbridled Books
“Dreamlike and melancholy…a worthy read.”
–Publishers Weekly

Pulpy and Midge, by Jessica Westead
narrated by Phil Chenevert / print publisher Coach House Books
“A hilariously deadpan, wincingly funny take on one office innocent’s workplace coming-of-age.”
–- Lynn Coady

Migration Songs, by Anna Quon
narrated by Elizabeth Klett / print publisher Invisible Publishing
“An engaging tale, peppered with memorable scenes and lovingly drawn characters.”
— Quill & Quire

Kahn & Engelmann, by Hans Eichner
narrated by Charles Bice / print publisher Biblioasis
“Eichner’s amazingly, beautiful, word paintings radiate throughout the pages.” –Rayna Eliana

Announcing: Crime Collection #1

We’re very excited to announce the newest release from iambik audiobooks: a wonderful collection of indie whodunnits, mystery, crime, and noir.

Complete Crime Collection #1 Cover We have Witness to Myself, from the noir craftsman Seymour Shubin, whom Tony Hillerman calls,  “a master of prose, one of the very best.” Suicide Casanova, by Arthur Nersesian is our very first forray into gritty erotic thrillers, which calls: “perverse and filthy, funny and charming, and utterly compelling.” The Tattoo Murder Case is the famed first novel from Japan’s most acclaimed mystery writer, Akimitsu Takagi, and should give a certain Swedish series a run for its money. DC Brod’s Getting Sassy is part off-beat thriller, part touching portrait of a daughter struggling with her mother’s mental decline.

These books and six more gems come from some of our favourite indie publishers doing some of the most exciting work in letters in English: Akashic Books, Hard Case Crime, Soho Press, HandE Publishing, and Tyrus Books.

With each book priced at $6.99, you can’t afford not to buy one! Even better, you could get the whole collection of ten beautifully read audibooks for only $44.99.

The whole collection includes:

* All or Nothing, by Preston L. Allen, narrated by Mark Nelson  (Akashic Books)

“By turns harrowing, illuminating, and endearing, All or Nothing is more than a gut punch, it’s a damn good book.” –Maggie Estep

* Suicide Casanova, by Arthur Nersesian, narrated by Mark Smith (Akashic Books)

“Suicide Casanova is very New York, perverse and filthy, funny and charming, and utterly compelling.” —

* It’s Behind You, by Keith Temple, narrated by Ruth Golding (HandE Pubishers)

“Keith Temple has obviously had great fun writing about a world he knows well in his debut novel” — Stirling Observer

* Fade to Blonde, by Max Phillips, narrated by Gordon Mackenzie (Hard Case Crime)

“The author has the eye and the ear and the cojones to keep pace with all this fond brutality.” — The New Yorker

* Witness to Myself, by Seymour Shubin, narrated by John Michaels (Hard Case Crime)

“Shubin is one of those making art of the mystery…a master of prose, one of the very best.” — Tony Hillerman

* High Season, by Jon Loomis, narrated by Charles Bice (Minotaur Books)

“Full of entertaining twists and sly observations, this is a perfect book for late summer reading.” — Publishers Weekly

* Death of a Nationalist, by Rebecca Pawel, narrated by Elizabeth Klett (Soho Press)

“Pawel anchors a tense and exciting story with a terrific and complex plot.”—Detroit Free Press

* Tattoo Murder Case, by Akimitsu Takagi, narrated by Mark Douglas (Soho Press)

“Takagi, Japan’s most acclaimed mystery writer, has created a first-rate mystery, excellently translated into English.” –Library Journal

* Getting Sassy, by D.C. Brod, narrated by Karen Savage (Tyrus Books)

“[T]he surprisingly affecting portrait of a woman caught in the midst of a parent’s sad but sure mental decline”. — Booklis

* Late Rain, by Lynn Kostoff, narrated by Kenneth Campbell (Tyrus Books)

“One of those rare novels that transcend genre fiction; it is writing at its very best, brilliant from start to finish.” —Charlie Stella

For more information, or to just talk about audiobooks, or indie publishing, or good books you’ve read recently, please get in touch with us:

tel: +1.514.464.2047

And here are the lovely covers:

Complete Crime Collection #1 Cover

All or Nothing Cover

Death of a Nationalist Cover

Fade to Blonde Cover

Getting Sassy Cover

High Season Cover

Suicide Cassanova Cover

Tattoo Murder Case Cover

Witness to Myself Cover

Late Rain Cover

It's Behind You Cover

Covers From Our Upcoming Crime Collection

We’ll be releasing our new crime collection next week, with eight wonderful books: All or Nothing, by Preston L. Allen (Akashic), Death of a Nationalist by Rebecca Pawel (Soho), Fade to Blonde by Max Phillips (Hard Case Crime), Getting Sassy by DC Brod (Tyrus), High Season by Jon Loomis (Minotaur), Suicide Casanova by Arthur Neresian (Akashic), The Tattoo Murder Case by Akimitsu Takagi (Soho), and Witness to Myself, by Seymour Shubin (Hard Case Crime).

They are all wonderful, and just looking at the covers, designed by Christine Prefontaine, makes me pretty excited. Christine designed our cover templates, and in cases where we had rights to use the existing cover art, we did so, mostly. Sometimes, though, the existing art can’t be adapted – for design reasons or rights reasons, and in those cases we find creative commons licensed photos on Flickr, and then build our covers around a new image. In any case, here they are. Lovely, no?

You can sign up to our mailing list (see the right sidebar) to get the announcement when the books come out, next week.

All or Nothing Cover

Death of a Nationalist Cover

Fade to Blonde Cover

Getting Sassy Cover

High Season Cover

Suicide Cassanova Cover

Tattoo Murder Case Cover

Witness to Myself Cover

Iambik in OverDrive: Barnes & Noble, Waterstones, Libraries and More

OverDrive LogoSo we made it! Through our great distribution partners at OverDrive, iambik audiobooks are now popping up in online retailers around the world – including Barnes & Noble, Waterstones, and Books-a-Million. We don’t seem to be in Borders, so I’ll have to check on that.

Further, any library using OverDrive’s LibraryReserve can get our books too. So, if you’re a librarian, or know one, perhaps you could suggest that that take a look at iambik audiobooks?

The bad news: our (lovely) square album art got squashed by OverDrive! We’ll fix that for the next release.

Here are some screengrabs:

Barnes & Noble:

iambik in Barnes & Noble


iambik in Waterstones


iambik in Books-a-Million

eMusic Loves Iambik

Well, it’s kind of nice to get this from a distribution partner:

eMusic Loves Iambik Audio
by Scott Esposito

In a world saturated with iPods, smartphones and tablets, it’s no surprise that audiobooks have become a billion-dollar business. But where does the discerning bibliophile go for the hip, overlooked books that have been eclipsed by the kings of the audio world?

Iambik Audio is one answer. It bristles with street cred, with a founders circle that includes the man behind an all-volunteer effort to make over 3,318 out-of-copyright books available for free in 29 languages. It also boasts a founding publisher list that reads like a who’s who of indie imprints — Tin House Books, Graywolf Press, Akashic Books and Cursor/Red Lemonade among them.

Read more, including some lovely reviews of some of our books.

The Question of Revenue Share

At VoiceOver Extra, James Adams, CEO of BeeAudio production house, brings up the troubles with a new move to revenue share in the audiobook business, where publishers (like iambik) pay narrators through revenue share, rather than flat up-front fees.

James identifies three major problems with revenue share:

James Adams1. narrators should not carry the risk for a book, publishers should
2. royalty payments in James’ experience have been very low
3. uncertainty of the value of any given audiobook (see #1 above), and the inefficiency of the audiobook publishing process

A commenter adds a further point, I think worth noting as well:
4. if narrators have no say in marketing, then they have little control over the business side of the audiobook

I think James is right about a lot of this, but the business is changing. I responded to his note with the following:

My Response on Revenueshare

I’m the founder of a new audiobook company – – that is working thus far completely on a revshare basis. I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on this.

First, I think you are right that given the choice between getting paid $X thousand dollars up front, and getting Y% of an uncertain sales figure, you’re probably better off taking the money up front.

Probably the ideal situation for a narrator is an X + Y = upfront + revshare.

The Audiobook Market is Changing

But I think, as some narrators have mentioned above, the industry is going to be changing drastically in the coming years. It’s going to face the same pressure that all content businesses face with the shift to digital, with two fundamental changes:

– growing supply (that is: more media on the market)
– declining prices

Now the hope is that it comes with increasing demand, but that remains to be seen. What is certain is that sales of digital audiobooks are growing at 25%, while hard copies are declining.


So there is no reason to expect that the audiobook market isn’t going to face all the hand-wringing and uncertainty that other industries – built on analog/bricks&mortar supply-chains – have faced with the move to digital, namely: price worries, and the realization that the traditional customer of publishers (bookstores), will be replaced by a new customer: listeners.

The result will be more uncertainty about the value of any given audiobook, and hence a growing hesitancy to pay our large advances, at least for everything that isn’t a sure hit.

Audible & iTunes

On top of this, Audible/iTunes now has a near-monopoly on digital audiobooks – and their terms with publishers are … not particularly favorable. So as the digital market grows, the squeeze happens everywhere. So: whither the audiobook business of the future?

The LibriVox Experience

My experience is as founder of LibriVox – where we built a big community of passionate amateur audiobook makers, and we’ve attracted a huge number of listeners – our site get 650,000 visits a month, and our most popular audiobooks have been downloaded more than a million times. These are free titles of course, but there’s something to the model, one we’re trying to adapt for commercial markets with iambik.

Working with Narrators at iambik

And in the case of iambik – we very much want to work with narrators and print publishers to market things together. We want to be efficient. And we want to be a great company to work with.

The big question is: will narrators make lots of money with us? Our bet is that if we focus on making it easy for narrators to do their work, and on paying close attention to the desires of audiobook listeners, we’ll be nimble enough to take advantage of the shift to digital, while finding new audiences. And that means a better chance of money for everyone.

Will we succeed? We shall see … I sure hope so, because one way or another, I think that revenueshare will be a big part of the future of audiobooks.

iambikast #1: Gordon Lish in Conversation with John Oakes

Iambikast #1a (mp3)
Iambikast #1b (mp3)

Our inaugural iambikast comes from a rather extraordinary event. iambik undertook creation of an audiobook of the Collected Fictions from the legendary editor, Gordon Lish. OR Books publisher John Oakes suggested that Mr. Lish read some selections himself, which sounded to us a good idea. In fact, it was better than a good idea: Lish has never, ever publicly performed a reading of his own work. It was an historic idea (and you can hear Lish’s selected readings here, and buy the entire Collected Fictions here, with all stories read by Gregg Margarite).

Gordon Lish reading Collected Fictions

Gordon Lish reading Collected Fictions

So, two intrepid iambikers, Miette and I, set off to meet with Mr. Lish and Mr. Oakes for a reading, which was to be held in John Oakes’ apartment in New York. I admit, I was nervous, but the charming Lish regaled us with stories of his early job as a late-night DJ, and teaching Craig Venter. Son after, we gathered together in John’s children’s playroom – the closest to sound-proof studio we could find — and set up our gear. Lish, arranged comfortably, somehow, on a kid’s chair, with a map of the world, set to reading with an attention to detail that only a demanding editor could have. He delighted us with language play at haute voix. You really should listen.

Before the reading ended, I had to catch a plane. BUt before I left, I asked Miette if she could record John and Gordon for ten minutes or so, talking about literature, once the reading was done. The result is more than an hour of conversation that makes up iambikcast#1.

Miette’s Description

Before arriving to record Gordon Lish’s narration of selections from Collected Fictions, I (like too many people) knew more about the American fiction writers Lish helped cultivate than the American fiction he himself had committed to the page.

Gordon Lish and John Oakes

Gordon Lish and John Oakes

I’d briefed myself on the material just beforehand, an experience which quickly devolved into kid-in-candy-store delight with what I’d discovered:  fully charged pieces, short and raw and sparse and endlessly interpretable.  If you’ve listened to the Iambik selections that Lish read himself, and those read by Iambik narrator Gregg Margarite, you’ll have some idea of this diversity:  the sentences ply their own orbit and speak for themselves, whether spoken with the unrestrained volatility of the author, or from behind the subdued undertones of Gregg’s narration.

If you haven’t yet listened, Lish read with enough force to shake the city, and read more than twice the volume he’d originally agreed on, to the pleasure of us all.  He continued reading selections until he literally could no longer read the words on the page, at which point we invited OR Books publisher John Oakes into the room for a conversation.  Given the impromptu nature of the chat, I didn’t quite have the recording equipment to capture multiple voices, so it’s a little noisy, a little haphazard, and a little desultory, as any good conversation demands.  I’d be a hoarder not to share the result.

In the first part of the conversation, Lish covers Beckett’s boils and other afflictions of our literary heroes, remembrances of Neal Cassady, and the writer as witch doctor.

The second part focuses on Lish’s (as always, uncensored) assertions on the state of contemporary American letters, in which we’re imparted with opinions on Allen Ginsberg and Philip Roth, achieving religious experience through DeLillo, the finer points of book blurbing, and encouraging the further crimes of Tao Lin.

The Iambik recording of Gordon Lish’s Collected Fictions can be purchased here.

Oh and you can see more photos of the reading here.

Interview: Andrew Kaufman and Gordon Mackenzie (All My Friends Are Superheroes)

All My Friends Are Superheroes

Julie Wilson, Iambik Publicity Instigator, recently caught up with the Wonder Twins of All My Friends Are Superheroes, the book’s author, Andrew Kaufman, and Iambik narrator Gordon Mackenzie, to see if two sides of the same coin really are that different.

Sample (mp3): Chapter 1 – All My Friends Are Superheroes

The Andrew Kaufman, Author Interview

Andrew Kaufman

Andrew Kaufman

Julie Wilson: Sheila Heti says: “[All My Friends Are Superheroes] is like a kiss in the afternoon sun. Somebody should write Mr. Kaufman a letter and thank him for his tender heart and the way he puts things down so gently. I expect this story will replace boxes of chocolates and flowers in courting rituals to come.”

Keeping the above quote in mind, describe the experience of hearing someone else voice your words. Is it liberating? Amusing? Terrifying?

Andrew Kaufman: I think Gord does an amazing read, but when I’m listening to it, especially the first chapter, it drives me crazy when he doesn’t pause in the same places and I would have, or emphasis the same words that I do. It just reminds me that everyone reads the book it in their own voice and not the one I hear in my head. I don’t know why I find this surprising, but I do. As for Sheila’s quote I think Gord’s voice is more of a gentle nibble on the lobe than a kiss in the afternoon sun, but certainly just as enjoyable . . .

JW: To record an entire book is an athletic feat. If you were to read aloud one book, what would it be and why?

AK: Okay, this is embarrassing, but I’d have to go with In Watermelon Sugar by Richard Brautigan. It’s short enough that it wouldn’t kill me, but, even more, it’s really intimately and sparely written and exactly the kind of story you’d want to read to a friend.

JW: Why is that embarrassing?

AK: Come on! I don’t really need to explain how admitting my influences include Brautigan, Vonnegut and yes, maybe, even Robbins, lowers my chances of being taken seriously do I? Are you suggesting that there isn’t a belief in literary circles that the artistic merit of a book is inversely proportional to how enjoyable it was to read?

JW: I’ll do you a solid and confess that my introduction to Robbins came through a cinematically large and handsome thumb afixed to Uma Thurman. I worked back from there.

Yeah, I take your point. There was a time when if someone asked me what my favourite film was it would have been something like Michael Snow’s Wavelength, Kenneth Anger’s Lucifer Rising or even Guy Maddin’s Sissy Boy Slap Party. Now I answer Xanadu or Spaceballs, not because I’m embarrassed, per se, but because it never leads to fun conversations. Which is a shame because I do enjoy those films. There’s fun to be had.

AK: Have you just admitted to reading the complete works of Tom Robbins? Well I’ll still take your questions seriously . . .

JW: Speaking of Guy Maddin—who lays in all this audio in post—let’s talk about sounds.

What sound most terrifies you: natural and artificial.

AK: The natural sound that terrifies me the most is cats fighting late at night. Every time it happens it takes me a couple of seconds to figure out exactly what that sound is and in those moments it could be anything.

I’ve been in a couple of car accidents and I’d have to say that the sound of glass and metal collapsing is the scariest artificial sound I’ve ever heard. It’s just says that something horrible is happening, and there’s no way to stop it, even though it kinda sounds like walking on very cold, crisp snow.

JW: What sound most humours you: natural and artificial.

AK: I’d be lying if I didn’t say burps. And artificial: old Kids in the Hall repeats.

JW: What sound most impresses you: natural and artificial.

AK: Listen, I’m really not overly sappy, really, but I gotta say that hearing my kids heartbeat inside my wife was something I’ll never forget. And artificial: The Pixies.

JW: What sound do you most often parrot, or aspire to parrot: natural and artificial.

AK: There’s this lilting British accent, almost the voice of BBC news readers from the early 80s, that I often try to parrot when I’m writing. There’s something so very authoritative yet seemingly objective about it that really works for me. That would be the natural sound I try to parrot the most.

As for artificial I’ve tried unsuccessfully for years to sound like a Wookie.

The Gordon Mackenzie, Narrator Interview

Gord Mackenzie

Gord Mackenzie

Julie Wilson: “[All My Friends Are Superheroes] is like a kiss in the afternoon sun. Somebody should write Mr. Kaufman a letter and thank him for his tender heart and the way he puts things down so gently. I expect this story will replace boxes of chocolates and flowers in courting rituals to come.”—Sheila Heti

Keeping the above quote in mind, describe the experience of sounding out someone else’s words, inserting your own interpretation into the story. Is it liberating? Amusing? Terrifying?

Gordon Mackenzie: As an actor, or narrator in this case, it’s my job to give voice to someone else’s words.  When someone reads a novel to themselves for pleasure, and the book is good, the words transport the reader on an emotional journey.  The journey is sparked by and guided by the authors words, but it’s the reader’s own journey.

With audio books, there’s another layer added: the narrator’s voice. The narrator, of course, allows the listener to hear the words of the author, but if that’s all it was, then listeners would be happy having TTS (Text To Speech) computer programs read to them. While TTS programs are able to make the words understandable, there is something missing.  It’s like a black and white photo of a work of visual art. The details of the artwork are there, but the color is missing.

The narrator adds the emotional color. But it’s a delicate balance. As a narrator you have to remember that the emotional journey which is important is that of the listener . . . and not your own!

Kaufman’s text is filled with emotion. Loneliness, sadness, fear, joy and love are all woven throughout the story in powerful textual images. This might be a love story, but it’s not all sweetness and light, there’s a lot there for an actor to sink their teeth into. My challenge with this book was, in fact, to pull back from the emotion, and let the author’s words do the heavy lifting.

All My Friends Are Superheroes was a joy to read. The language of the book is clear and simple, but carries a heavy emotional punch. Even though the story seems surreal at times, it is based in an underlying bedrock of real emotions that anyone who has been in love can easily relate to.

It’s also very funny, which was another challenge. The humour in the story is often touched with sadness, and had to be handled carefully.

JW: To record an entire book is an athletic feat. How do you prepare to get into, and stay in, that mental space?

GM: First, I read the novel through to gain an understanding of the arc or the story. I pay attention to my first experience with the text. How did it make me feel? What did it “sound” like in my head? When I finally record it, I want to get back to that first experience I had with the text.

Then I think about the characters, and how they should sound. Again, I try to go with my first instinct, or how they sounded in my head the first time I read through. But sometimes its hard to get the voice I hear inside to be present outside.

The actual recording is the fun part. I have a studio in my home, so it’s just me, the microphone and the words at that point. I’ll often record the first chapter a few times before I do one for “real.” In the case of Superheroes, I was able to get some valuable feedback from Andrew Kaufman, who gave me guidance as to the tone he was looking for.

Once I feel I have the right tone, it’s off to the races, and the rest of the novel usually comes relatively easily. Superheroes, in particular, just flowed into the microphone.

After the initial recording, then the hard work of editing and proof-listening comes. Occasionally, I or the proof-listener will be less than satisfied with a segment, and then I’ll go back and re-record. That can be hard, as its difficult to jump into the middle of the text.

But it’s a great privilege to be allowed to record the book, and I love the experience.

JW: Let’s talk about sounds.

What sound most terrifies you: natural and artificial.

GM: Natural: Ice cracking under my feet as I walk across a frozen lake. Artificial: Nails on a chalk board. Seriously. Thank god that schools have mostly switched to white boards, and younger generations will never be exposed to the horror.

JW: What sound most humours you: natural and artificial.

GM: Natural: My kids laughing. Artificial: The Benny Hill theme music.

JW: What sound most impresses you: natural and artificial.

GM: Natural: Thunder from a summer storm. Artificial: The sound of the Space Shuttle launching.

JW: What sound do you most often parrot, or aspire to parrot: natural and artificial.

GM: Natural: My dog growling. Artificial: My wife and kids get awfully tired of me doing character voices from The Simpsons.

All My Friends Are Superheroes by Andrew Kaufman.

Published by Coach House Books, iambik audiobook narrated by Gordon Mackenzie.

Sample (Right Click/Save As to download).