Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Welsh Talking Books -- a thunderous silence

While I have been trying to track down the original digital audio files for "On Angel Mountain"  and "House of Angels" (from Clipper Audio, who issued the audio versions as cassettes in 2006 and 2007) I have also been doing some research into the number of Welsh stories -- in Welsh or English --are to found in the catalogues.   I assumed that there would be many, issued by the bigger Welsh publishers like Parthian, Seren, Gomer and Honno -- intended both for the growing audiobook market and for the more niche market of visually impaired people.

I contacted the county library, the National Library of Wales, the Welsh Books Council, blind societies and other organizations and was amazed to find that there is NOTHING.  Zilch.  No Welsh books published in Wales available for purchase and download from a Welsh "audio-library" or store.  That's quite amazing, demonstrating that Welsh publishers are very slow off the mark when it comes to getting involved with the latest publishing trends and also (and this is the sad bit) apparently ignoring a responsibility placed on all of us to try and provide for the disadvantaged groups in society.  Currently the only way that blind people can access Welsh fiction, for example, is to find somebody prepared to read aloud to them for between 10 and 15 hours, or to slot into one of the schemes run by organizations such as the Ceredigion Association of the Blind, who have volunteer readers who are prepared to make informal tape recordings  for use by members.  But no matter how kind and committed those readers are, they would be the first to admit that they cannot reproduce the voices of trained actors or narrators who can "perform" and mimic the voices of characters rather than simply reading the words from the page........

I'm not criticising anybody here, and since making all of these contacts I have been greatly heartened by the positive attitudes on all sides.  I'm now convinced that there is sufficient goodwill for things to happen, and indeed I am aware that meetings are planned, and a real prospect that facilities will be made available (and possibly some grant aid too) to help selected titles to be recorded and issued as digital audiobooks.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could initially get a catalogue of maybe 20 or 30 audiobooks of Welsh novels, each one available for download for leisure listening  by car drivers and commuters and also available for the visually impaired?  The blind societies are enthusiastic, as are People's Collection Wales, the organizers of the Calibre audio library, the National Library and the Welsh Books Council.

The problems -- and there are many -- relate above all else to costs.  I could of course use the Amazon service available via the Audible web site:

This is all very fine, and the claim is that you can record an audiobook for less than $100 -- but then you would have to do the narration yourself or find somebody who is prepared to do it for free.  If you have to pay for equipment hire, studio hire,  a producer and an actor, and then for editing and uploading to a site such as Audible, the cost could be in excess of £6,000 per audiobook -- and you would need to sell a lot of downloads  before you start moving into profit.  This is especially true in a small country like Wales, where the market is actually quite limited.

The good news is that there are Welsh audiobooks which have been issued by English publishing houses.  "Rape of the fair Country" and "Hosts of Rebecca" are available as audiobooks produced by Chocolatefox Audiobooks, as are "Resistance" by Owen Sheers and a few other titles.  A number of the Welsh novels by Iris Gower and Catrin Collier are also available in cassette format, but I am not sure about availability as digital audiobooks.

However, one must not be deterred, and I am exploring avenues.  Watch -- or listen to -- this space......

Rape of the Fair Country

The Hosts of Rebecca (9 hrs 48 mins)

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