Ask the average bibliophile their opinion about audio books and they’ll tell you they’re for lazy people. You know, people who don’t truly enjoy reading or who are too lazy to actually hold a one pound book in their hands.
In turn, the audio book aficionado reading this will shrug off their prejudices, already aware that the poor audiobook will always have its detractors. They may politely say to those in contra, “if you’ve never listened to one, don’t hate it before you try it.”
Today’s production level of audio books merge aspects of the classic Latin American cuenta cuentos tradition of storytelling with elements of our fast paced digital age. It’s like listening to a campfire tale, but while you’re zipping around town on the metro, in your car or on your electric bike. An audiobook is a narrative told through one person’s perspective. It’s the new art of taking a book and converting it into a whole new platform but without adaptation or cutting scenes. In essence, it’s the same exact book and the author’s same exact words. On average, it takes about six hours to listen to the audiobook. Some are only two hours, some can be 18 hours. For many fighting against time and slow reading habits, this is a big selling point.
For the uninitiated, what we’re about to announce might be the perfect excuse to finally give it a shot. Especially those who are interested in submerging themselves in Spanish as much as they can for personal reasons, but never have the time to sit down and read it.
The Launch of a New Mega Store for Audiolibros
In February, Amazon’s Audible, the giant in spoken word entertainment, launched “Audible Latino”, a platform that industry experts confirm now offers the largest selection of Spanish-language audiobooks in the United States. According to the press release, Audible says it has “thousands of high-quality audio books narrated in Spanish across a growing catalogue of Spanish-language and culturally relevant English-language titles and original content.” Other places to buy audio books in español in the U.S. are Google Play, Apple, Scribd, and Audiolibros.com.
To woo its first Latino guests and perhaps newbies into the audiobook world, Audible launched its store with several heavy-hitting titles like J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter y la Piedra Filosofal. It’s performed by the well-known Puerto Rican actor and singer Carlos Ponce. For a sneak peek at the effort an audiobook actor puts into the job, here’s a link to Ponce in the studio. Incredibly enough, this marks the first time the Spanish language version of a Harry Potter book has officially been released in digital audio, which will surely spawn a whole new generation of Latino Potter fans worldwide. Produced by Audible and Pottermore Publishing, this title is now available for downloading and the subsequent six titles will be available for preorder and released throughout 2019.
If your tastes gravitate more toward international classics, Audible Latino has also launched with the Spanish translation of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince. Although it’s a book that’s seemingly for kids, its philosophical discussions make it a better listen for older readers. To attract old school series junkies, you can download the audiobook for The X-Files: Cold Cases featuring the original Latin American voiceover talent for the hit show.
For Latinxs seeking personal transformation, Don Miguel Ruiz is a household name. The spiritual teacher and internationally bestselling author of the “Toltec Wisdom Series,” which includes The Four Agreements, The Mastery of Love, The Voice of Knowledge, The Four Agreements Companion Book, The Circle of Fire,” and “The Fifth Agreement, are also available in Spanish language audiobook format. The Four Agreements Los Cuatro Acuerdos will take you about two hours to listen to.
Michelle Obama’s Mi Historia and the Making of a Bestselling Audiolibro
It’s not only audiobook lovers that are excited about Audible’s wide selection of titles in Spanish. For Spanish-language publishing houses this also means a new life for their titles. Carmen Ospina, the Director of Marketing, Analytics and Business Development for Penguin Random House in Spain, told us that: “At Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial we’re very excited that Audible has finally launched a Spanish-language store in the U.S. Our audiobooks are now more visible and easy to find in Audible’s vast catalogue of titles, and that will definitely help us grow the market.”
What are the current best sellers in audiobooks en español you ask? According to Penguin Random House, their number one best-seller this year in Spanish audiobooks has been Michelle Obama’s memoir Becoming (Mi Historia). It will take 19 hours and 43 minutes for you to hear about how Michelle Obama dealt with the pressures and thrills of her self-creation, but it’s well worth it. At number two is The New York Times Best Seller, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (Sapiens: De Animales a Dios) by Yuval Noah Harari.
Juliana Rueda, the founder and owner of the Barcelona-based audio book production company Miut, produced Sapiens in her studio and has seen firsthand how the audiobook industry has flourished in the last seven years. Miut’s production of Sapiens, a 500-page-book turned into a 17-hour listening experience, wasn’t as hard to produce as other books. Since this fascinating story about humanity was so well written, Rueda says, its conversion from the page to audio form was relatively easy. In turn, the production of Gabriel García Márquez’s The Autumn of the Patriarch (El Otoño del Patriarca) was especially difficult for the Miut team because of Gabo’s use of multiple narrative voices, which is difficult to convert into an audiobook.
Miut’s Rueda noted how the world is slowly discovering the beauty of listening to an audio book. When she began producing books in 2012, she wasn’t sure if she’d made the best choice in business ventures. But things have changed. Rueda says that audio books are so in fashion now, she practically lives with her earphones on all day producing them. For producers of audiobooks, finding the perfect voice and regional accent for each book is a bit of science, art and luck. Miut has also worked on books by the Nobel prize winning author Jose Saramago and most recently the literary novels of Elena Ferrante, such as Mi Amiga Estupenda (My Brilliant Friend ), which will take you 12 hours and 19 minutes to listen to versus an entire summer to read (like some of us).
Manny Miravete, the Director of Original Content for Spanish Language at Audible, said in a statement: “As the leader in spoken word-entertainment, Audible celebrates the power of storytelling and shares captivating stories across languages and cultures with millions of listeners across the globe. With the launch of Audible Latino, Hispanic customers now have access to a dedicated platform comprised of the largest selection of Spanish language audiobooks in the U.S. We are thrilled to provide this important audience with this customized listening experience.”
For beginners in the audiobook world, here’s what you have to do: first, you go to the Audible Latino page, find the title you want, download the audiobook to your mobile or computer and listen to it offline. It works a lot like Spotify. If you’re not convinced, and still feel like you’d be cheating on actually reading a book, try out Audible’s free 30-day trial and don’t tell anyone.