Audiobooks: changing the literary landscape


With Audible recently announcing Harry Potter fans have listened to the fantasy series for more than one billion hours, the popularity of the audiobook market has undoubtedly exploded.

Today, industry insiders suggest the global market could be worth more than $35bn by 2030.

Apple recently launched a catalogue of books narrated by artificial intelligence. However, the market remains sceptical, because a great narrator can bring a whole new level of storytelling to the literature.

As such, many authors argue that AI is no substitute for the quality of human narration. For example, in children’s literature, like the Harry Potter series, narrators must be able to convey the youthful and whimsical energy of the characters.

Today, people tune in to audiobooks while multitasking, so instead of competing for a reader’s time, audiobooks enhance the limited time readers have. 

This makes audiobooks an extremely desirable form of entertainment.

A huge factor that has also contributed to the rise in audiobooks is the ability to translate an audiobook into different languages.

What’s not to love? Narration allows the listener to increase the number of books they consume, listen on the go, introduce a different perspective on the author’s story and even listen in a different language.

View some of our favourite audiobooks here.

International Women’s Day 2022

Today on International Women’s Day, the team at Hardy Audio want to thank the women who helped pave the way in Australia’s media industry by challenging bias, stereotypes and discrimination.

This year’s International Women’s Day theme is ‘break the bias’. In the 1990s, Hardy Audio’s Lauren Goodrham was one of the first women in Australian television to break the bias in a field dominated by men, by working as an ENG (News) Camera Operator.

The Good Morning Australia Crew 1997

At the time in Australian TV, women were in front of the camera, not behind it. However, passion and persistence saw Lauren not only succeed in the tough news environment, but go on to work as the Production Editor on Bert Newton’s Good Morning Australia.

Lauren’s media career now sees her as the owner of Hardy Audio, an audio production studio in Ballarat, and an entrepreneur in the tourism industry with QRush Media.

Lauren’s right hand woman at Hardy Audio is Ellen, the Studio Manager. After being exposed to the fast-paced audio industry, Ellen hasn’t looked back.

Having a female boss in what was previously a male dominated field has only encouraged Ellen to be more ambitious and courageous as the next generation to challenge the industry’s stereotypes.

(Feature Image: Lauren & Ellen)

Lost in Translation

Released last month on Netflix, Squid Game has become the most popular show in more than 90 countries and may be the streaming service’s most watched program ever.

The South Korean survival drama centers on a contest where players, who have found themselves in enormous debt, play a set of childrens games (with deadly consequences), for a chance to win a ₩45.6 billion prize.

However, Netflix’s closed caption translation of the hit series, from Korean into English has sparked controversy, with some Korean speakers arguing important meaning has been lost in closed captioned and subtitled versions of the show.

Some suggest audiences are missing out on the richness of the original dialogue as well as key aspects of character development.

However, translation is not always that straightforward, as subtitling is often limited to space constraints on the screen. 

In general, subtitles can’t be longer than two lines and the most perfect of translations may still need to be paraphrased, or adapted if it doesn’t fit within spatial limitations.

Apart from the dialogue, closed captions can also include other aspects of the soundtrack, such as descriptions of the background music, sound effects, or other audio cues. 

Dialogue and soundtrack descriptions in closed captions are therefore necessarily in the viewing experience for deaf, or people hard of hearing.

Viewers of foreign language titles were up over 50 percent in 2020 on Netflix, which underscores the importance today of translation and dubbing casting.

Our Top 5 Audiobooks in September

With A-list actors narrating a host of old favourites, and some fantastic new ones, there’s never been a better time to get into audiobooks. Here are our top 5 picks for September. 

Dune, by Frank Herbert

Dune is set roughly 20,000 years in the future, when human beings have spread out and colonised planets throughout the universe.

Voted the best science-fiction novel of all time in 2012, Dune is again being released as a movie in 2021, this time directed by Denis Villeneuve.

The audiobook version adds a fantastic sense of suspense and is well worth a listen before the new movie adaptation. 

The Body, by Bill Bryson

Travelogue master Bill Bryson’s soft Midwestern tone seems to be a perfect fit for The Body audiobook.

#1 Sunday Times bestseller in both hardback and paperback, The Body is billed as a ‘guide for occupants’. 

Bill’s extraordinarily fun attempt to understand the miracle of our physical and neurological make up, explores everything from genetics to our immune system.

Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell

Cloud Atlas is David Mitchell’s best-selling Man Booker Prize-shortlisted novel.

The novel features six characters in interlocking stories that span a number of centuries, all told from the perspective of six different interconnected characters. 

The tonal shift from 19th century prose to the incomprehensibly simplistic, by the final chapter, comes across beautifully in audio form. 

Mythos: The Greek Myths Retold, by Stephen Fry

In Mythos, Stephen Fry recounts some of the most compelling Greek stories, from the classic favourites to some lesser known myths.

With his wonderful narrative style, Fry transforms the adventures of Zeus and the Olympians into emotionally resonant and deeply funny stories, without losing any of their original wonder.

Each adventure is infused with Fry’s distinctive wit, voice and writing style.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams

One Thursday lunchtime the Earth gets unexpectedly demolished to make way for a new hyperspace bypass.

Stephen Fry again delivers a brilliant narration of this best-selling novel, written by Douglas Adams. 

If you’d rather experience the books in full, all six are also available with narrations from Stephen Fry and Martin Freeman, who played Arthur Dent in the movie adaption. 

The rise and rise of audiobooks

Over the last decade, audiobook listening has often been referred to as the silent revolution.

In Australia, the audiobook market continues to grow. 

Some suggest the surge in popularity comes off the back of the rise in podcasts. 

However, other figures suggest that throughout the pandemic, a huge market demand for audiobooks can be attributed to the families trying to balance education and entertainment for children while working from home. 

Today, Audible’s children’s content has become more popular than ever, and there’s no shortage of stories, with over 50,000 children’s titles on Audible alone, including Harry Potter, Fantastic Mr Fox and The Enchanted Wood.

Audible continues to dominate the audiobook market and is now moving into the original audiobook market, which means they will produce an audio book first, without the need for a traditional print version.

The global audiobook market size was valued at USD 2.67 billion in 2019 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 24.4% from 2020 to 2027.

But audiobooks aren’t exactly new. The term refers to any authored print book vocalised through a variety of technologies, from records to cassettes and CDs, which you may remember from your childhood. 

But, there is no questioning the fact that digitally downloaded, or streamed audiobooks have added a new dimension to this heritage technology.

International Dog Day, 2021

26 August is International Dog Day! With COVID lockdowns continuing around the country, what better way to raise our spirits than to celebrate the wonderful canine. 

Aside from Guinea pigs, we think dogs are just the best, so here are some of the Hardy Audio team’s beloved pooches (and pig).

Our Top 5 Podcasts in August

At Hardy Audio, our love affair with podcasts runs deep. Whether you’re into true crime or lighthearted entertainment, here are our top 5 picks in August.

Unravel True Crime – Juanita 

The seven episode series Unravel: Juanita, tackles one of Australia’s most chilling unsolved true crime stories. 

As a journalist, running her own independent newspaper, Juanita Neilson became the corporate world’s biggest opponent, fighting to preserve heritage terraces and affordable housing in Kings Cross. 

In the middle of her biggest fight, she disappeared without a trace. 

Listen here

Written Off 

Walter Thompson-Hernández speaks with formerly incarcerated young writers, whose work is read by creatives like John Legend over the course of the season.

The series features vulnerable poems and honest stories against an original soundtrack and shines a light on the youth written off in the U.S prison system. 

Listen here 

You’re Doing Great Sweetie!

Hosted by Melisa Mason and Josie Rozenberg-Clarke, You’re Doing Great Sweetie is a podcast for anyone who feels like they’ve fallen off the train of life.

Honest and unapologetic, the podcast talks candidly about life – from the serious stuff, to the stupid stuff. 

Listen here 

Deathbed Confessions

Imagine living with a secret so big, if anyone were to find out it would change everything.

From illicit affairs and fake identities to heists and murder, every episode revealsl the most explosive things people have admitted to moments before the end. 

Listen here 

Song Exploder

In Song Exploder, musicians take apart their songs piece by piece and tell the story of how they were made. 

Guests include Fleetwood Mac, Billie Eilish, U2, Metallica, Solange, Lorde, Yo-Yo Ma, The Roots, Bon Iver, and more. 

Listen here

The Ethics of AI & Deepfake

The documentary Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain, is a chronicle of the late television star’s life, which begins when Bourdain entered the public eye in 2000, with his bestselling memoir Kitchen Confidential.

To make the film, Director Morgan Neville drew on thousands of hours of video footage and audio archives, as well engaging a software company to make an AI generated version of Bourdain’s voice. A move that struck a degree of anger and unease among Bourdain fans. 

Using artificial intelligence in the film, Bourdain improbably reads aloud an email that he sent to a friend, artist David Choe.

Neville suggests that “If you watch the film… you probably don’t know what the other lines are that were spoken by the AI, and you’re not going to know.”

The Director said that creating a synthetic Bourdain voice over seemed far less crass than, say, a C.G.I. Fred Astaire to sell vacuum cleaners, or a holographic Tupac Shakur.

But at a time when deepfake and computer-generated AI have troubling connections with fake news and deception, it’s probably quite natural for viewers and filmmakers to question the boundaries of its responsible use. And Neville’s creation certainly raises fundamental questions about how we define ethical use of synthetic media.

Creative Writing: Don’t overcook it

Whether you’re writing a 15-second radio spot, or a long-form instructional video, your language should never be more complex than it needs to be. Clear, concise communication will always get a better result. 

Here are a few tips when writing for your next media project.

Use fewer words

People often use unnecessary words, or expressions when trying to communicate a simple message. 

For example, instead of saying “at this point in time” you might simply say “now”.

Use plain language

Some writers, or speakers believe long sentences and difficult words make them sound official, or well-educated. 

This type of language simply makes the content inaccessible for most users. 

For example, Government guidelines often stress the use of plain, or simple language to ensure complex rules and services are clearly understood.

Keep it short

Keep sentences short. They are easier to read and understand. 

Each sentence should have one thought. Too many points in a single sentence creates complexity and invites confusion.

Paragraphs can be as short as a single sentence, or even a single word.

Eliminate fluff

Qualifiers and intensifiers limit, or enhance meaning e.g. “I was somewhat busy”, or “The dog was very cute. 

Excessive use can make you sound unsure of your facts, or make your writing too informal.

Don’t ramble

Rambling is a big problem for many writers. Get to the point.

Edit ruthlessly

Shorten, delete, and rewrite. Anything that doesn’t add value should go. 

As well as the basic grammar tools you find in Microsoft Word, or Google Docs, there are several online tools like to check for extra words, or overtly complex sentences.

While we might not want to be the next Hemmingway, we can all improve our writing style to better engage our intended audience.

The future of creative is sound

The onset of the pandemic in 2020 resulted in an abrupt change to people’s daily lives and commutes. 

This resulted in traditional radio taking a hit, however digital audio and streaming quickly filled the gap to see audio content consumption rise by 4% on 2019.

In the past, preference was often given to visual mediums, however things have further changed with the introduction of voice search, interactive voice ads, branded content and podcasts. In fact, Australia has among the highest rates of podcast listening in the world.

Add in real-time analytics and dynamic advertising to personalise creative and you begin to make audio much more accountable, and from a brand perspective, a very powerful marketing tool.

In the realm of audio, digital transformation is being led by personalisation and curated content. But, like any creative, knowing your audience remains key. Understanding how the ad, or content will not only deliver value for the brand, but the consumer is essential.

For example, sponsoring a podcast, or running an ad in a podcast will increase brand awareness, but if you create a branded content podcast, tailored to a specific audience, you will have undivided attention for the entire duration of the podcast.

The return of audiences and new technology provides new opportunities for the audio industry, and the challenges posed by COVID has driven more confidence in the digital options available – so how will you take advantage of audio?