If you’re an audiobook fan, you probably like to listen to your favorite books in many places: at home, in the car, in the gym, or when you’re out walking or running. You can use your iOS devices for this, and you can use a number of apps, depending on where you get your audiobooks. Here’s an overview of apps for listening to audiobooks on iOS.
You can get audiobooks from a number of sources. You can buy and download books from Audible.com, or from Apple’s iBooks Store, or you can rip your own audiobook CDs. You can also buy some audiobooks on MP3 CDs; these CDs contain books already converted to MP3 files, which you can add to your iTunes library without ripping.
Where you buy the files affects how you can play them back. If you rip your own audiobook CDs, your files won’t have DRM, but if you buy audiobooks from Apple or Audible they will. Because of this DRM, you can’t play audiobooks in just any app.
In iTunes 12.2, the latest version of the app, audiobook display by author is broken. When you select this view, and select either All Authors, or a specific author, nothing displays in the right-hand pane of the iTunes window. A few people noted this on Apple’s support forum, and I confirm that it’s happening to me as well.
Here’s a few audiobooks in my test library:
And when I choose the Authors view, here’s what I see:
This seems like a dumb bug. iTunes should be tested for the most basic interface issues. Let’s hope Apple fixes this one in the next update.
A correspondent wrote with a question. A friend bought an audiobook from the iTunes Store on his iPad, and wanted to listen to it on his iPhone. But he doesn’t own a computer, and this actually isn’t possible. Why? Because, as Apple says:
“If you made a backup of these items on your Mac or PC, you can sync the items to your iOS device. You can’t download these items again from iTunes in the Cloud.”
I had mentioned this recently in one of my Ask the iTunes Guy columns, but I hadn’t considered the case of someone who owns two iOS devices, but no computers. If you have a computer, you can copy purchased items from one iOS device to your iTunes library. But if not, you can’t even back up the audiobook.
This is frankly a pathetic situation. Imagine if you have to restore the device; you’ll lose any audiobooks you’ve purchased.
There is software that lets you copy files from an iOS device to a computer, but, again, in this case, the person doesn’t own a computer. What I’d suggest is that they find someone with a computer who can create a user account for them. They can then sync their purchases to iTunes, and sync back from iTunes to the other device.
I’ve long recommended that people buy audiobooks from Audible, and not Apple, and this confirms that one should never buy audiobooks from Apple.
Note: This article is originally from 2006. I repost this article from time to time, because these recordings are so enjoyable that anyone interested in Shakespeare should own them.
“We might be better off with public readings of Shakespeare,” says Harold Bloom in Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human. “Ideally, of course, Shakespeare should be acted, but since he is now almost invariably poorly directed and inadequately played, it might be better to hear him well than see him badly.” (Now that I live near Stratford-upon-Avon, I have to disagree; I’ve seen many good productions of Shakespeare plays both by the RSC in Stratford, and in other theaters in the UK.)
While we cannot always find such public readings, we can listen to recorded, dramatized versions of the plays, as with this set of Shakespeare’s 38 plays (Amazon.com, Amazon UK). With a cast of hundreds, most actors from the Royal Shakespeare Company, these works come alive through a skillful combination of reading, sound effects and music. As radio used to do when dramatizing works, the Arkangel set gives you the acting and the atmosphere. While one may be a bit irked by the “original” music, a sort of Coltrane-inspired Elizabethan music – why didn’t they use actual music of the period, including that composed for Shakespeare’s plays? – the overall production quality is about as good as it gets. Each play comes in a single CD jewel case containing two or three discs, with an insert containing a synopsis and cast information, and the discs are tracked by act and scene (with a handful of scenes that are split at the end of one CD and the beginning of the next one). When I imported a few of these discs to iTunes, the Gracenote CD Database, which iTunes uses to display track information, showed precise tags for each track, including, in the case of scenes that were split, the precise line numbers for the ends and beginnings.
The quality of these performances is excellent. While the occasional actor or actress sounds less convincing that they should–which may be because these actors are trained for working on the stage, not recording in studios–most of them are top-notch. One is quickly enveloped by the atmosphere, both textual and sonorous, and the plays roll on with astounding energy and verve. The tone is that of radio: not the radio of today, of course, but the time when radio was a source of performance and drama. But there is no “old-time” sound in these productions; they are modern and vibrant.
Cast members include David Tennant (Antipholus of Syracuse in The Comedy of Errors; Henry VI; Edgar, in King Lear; the Porter, in Macbeth; Launcelot Gobbo in The Merchant of Venice; The Archbishop/Ghost of Henry VI, in Richard III; Mercutio, in Romeo and Juliet), Simon Russell Beale (Hamlet; Angelo, in Measure for Measure; Antonio, in The Tempest; Prologue and Epilogue, in The Two Noble Kinsmen), Imogen Stubbs (Ophelia, in Hamlet), Damien Lewis (Laertes, in Hamlet, Alcibiades in Timon of Athens; Valentine, in The Two Gentlemen of Verona), Jane Lapotaire (Gertrude, Hamlet; Queen Katherine, in Henry VII), Richard Griffiths (Falstaff in Henry IV parts 1 and 2), Bill Nighy (the King of France, in Henry V; Cardinal Pandolph in King John; Antonia, in The Merchant of Venice), Brian Cox (Chorus, in Henry V), Stephen Boxer (Edward IV, in Henry VI, part 3; Edward IV/ Oxford, in Richard III), Adrian Lester (Antony, in Julius Caesar; Ariel, in The Tempest), John Gielgud (John Gower, in Pericles, Prince of Tyre; Time the Chorus, in The Winter’s Tale), Joseph Fiennes (Romeo), and many other well-known Shakespearean actors, nearly all of whom have acted (and some still do) at the Royal Shakespeare Company.
The recordings use the text of the Complete Pelican Shakespeare, an excellent and very readable edition of the plays. (This edition has thick enough paper to make reading easy, unlike some others, and the texts of the plays are in two columns with notes at the bottom of each page.) While there are some minor changes in the text (listening to King John, I noticed that “God” was replaced by “Heaven” throughout), reading the plays while listening is an enlightening experience. You get the advantage of clearly knowing which character is talking (which can be difficult at times when simply listening), you can see the spelling of unfamiliar words (and check the notes), and you get the emotion and intonation that you miss when only reading. Together, the recordings and printed text provide much more immediate understanding of the works.
At just under $400, this set is expensive, for sure. However, that comes to about $10 per play, and how can you put a value on Shakespeare? For fans of the Bard, or for those interested in discovering his work more deeply, this is a worthy investment. You may want to check and see if your library has this set, at least to sample one play before purchasing, but you really can’t go wrong with actors of this caliber, impeccable production, and a huge, heavy box that will impress your friends.
Note: I don’t know who owns this company any more. Some years ago, the BBC bought them out, and was selling the set on CD and by download on their audiobook site, AudioGo. But that company went out of business. I see this set is still listed on Amazon’s sites, but I don’t know if it’s actually still in print. I do see some of these CDs at the shop at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-Upon-Avon, so someone is clearly distributing them, but I wonder if the set will be disappearing soon. It would be great if the entire set were available for download in one big digital box set…
During my recent Shakespeare week, I spent a bit of time browsing in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s shop. They sell books, DVDs, programs, mugs, pencils and posters. But they also have a handful of audio recordings. They have several of the Arkangel full-cast Shakespeare recordings, and some sets by Naxos Audiobooks, but they also had two 2-disc sets of recordings from the RSC.
Made up of live recordings of RSC performances, each of the sets includes excerpts from a number of plays, from 1959 through 2008. They feature a wide range of actors, from Paul Robeson in Othello to David Tennant in Hamlet, by way of Ian Richardson, Ben Kinglsey, Ian Holm, David Suchet, Peggy Ashcroft, Derek Jacobi, Ian McKellen, Alan Rickman, Anthony Sher, Patrick Stewart, Janet Suzman, Jonathan Pryce, Harriet Walter, Judi Dench and Ian McKellen.
Recording quality is variable. These are all “audience” recordings, made live, so you can hear the audience laughing and coughing, but that does not detract from the quality of the material. If anything, it makes it more realistic. (The Arkangel and Naxos recordings I mentioned earlier are studio recordings.)
There are two sets: The Essential Shakespeare Live (Amazon.com, Amazon UK) and The Essential Shakespeare Live Encore (Amazon.com, Amazon UK). If you’re a Shakespeare fan, or if you’re an actor, and are interested in hearing how great actors have performed the plays over the past six decades, these sets are both very interesting to listen to. Note that each set includes a book with the texts that are spoken.
Here are the tracklists:
The Essential Shakespeare Live
1 Othello  (featuring Paul Robeson)
2 Henry IV Part 1  (featuring Ian Holm)
3 The Winter’s Tale  (featuring Judi Dench)
4 A Midsummer Night’s Dream  (featuring Ben Kingsley)
5 Love’s Labour’s Lost  (featuring Ian Richardson)
6 The Merchant of Venice  (featuring David Suchet)
7 Measure for Measure  (featuring Juliet Stevenson)
8 Macbeth  (featuring Jonathan Pryce)
9 Much Ado about Nothing  (featuring Roger Allam)
10 Troilus and Cressida  (featuring Simon Russell Beale)
11 The Two Gentlemen of Verona  (featuring Richard Moore)
1 Henry VIII (All is True)  (featuring Ian Hogg)
2 Timon of Athens  (featuring Michael Pennington)
3 King John  (featuring Trevor Cooper)
4 Pericles  (featuring Roger Frost)
5 The Taming of the Shrew  (featuring Ian Gelder)
6 Cymbeline  (featuring Emma Fielding)
7 Antony and Cleopatra  (featuring Patrick Stewart)
8 King Lear  (featuring Ian McKellen)
9 Henry V  (featuring Geoffrey Streatfeild)
10 Hamlet  (featuring David Tennant)
The Essential Shakespeare Live Encore
1. Coriolanus (featuring Laurence Olivier)
2. Wars of the Roses (featuring Peggy Ashcroft)
3. King Lear  (featuring Paul Scofield)
4. Hamlet (featuring David Warner)
5. Twelfth Night (featuring Donald Sinden)
6. Julius Caesar (featuring Patrick Stewart)
7. Antony and Cleopatra (featuring Janet Suzman)
8. Richard II (featuring Richard Pasco & Ian Richardson)
9. Romeo and Juliet (featuring Ian McKellen & Francesca Annis)
1. Henry V (featuring Emrys James)
2. Henry V (featuring Alan Howard)
3. Comedy of Errors (featuring Roger Rees)
4. The Tempest (featuring Derek Jacobi & Mark Rylance)
5. Richard III (featuring Antony Sher)
6. As You Like It (featuring Alan Rickman)
7. The Merry Wives of Windsor (featuring Janet Dale)
8. Titus Andronicus (featuring Brian Cox)
9. Henry IV Part 1 (featuring Robert Stephens)
10. Henry VI Part 3 (featuring David Oyelowo)
11. All’s Well that Ends Well (featuring Judi Dench)
As regular readers of Kirkville probably know, I’m a fan of Marcel Proust. I recently started re-reading A la recherche du temps perdu, but was sidetracked by moving house. Some time ago, I listened to the entire work, on a French audio recording. But not all Proustians are French speakers. Proust actually has quite a following in the US and England, and his popularity is such that Naxos Audiobooks has recently released the first part of a complete, unabridged recording of Remembrance of Things Past (also know as In Search of Lost Time).
The narrator, Neville Jason, has one of those smooth, soft English accents that lulls and entrances you. His reading is leisurely and relaxed. He takes his time, allowing you to absorb the work comfortably, without speaking too slowly, as is sometimes the case on older audiobook readings. Jason’s reading is a performance, but it also sounds like he’s sitting by your side, reading from the book, like a friend. In addition, his French accent is quite good, and when he speaks the names of French people or towns, it sounds as it should.
Swann’s Way is more than 21 hours long, and is only the first of seven volumes of Remembrance of Things Past. Naxos will be releasing each volume individually, and will most likely offer a box set with the entire text – which will be more than 120 hours – when all the titles have been released.
If you want to listen to Proust, and don’t speak French, Neville Jason’s recordings are excellent. For now, this is the only complete recording in the works. Simon Vance, who is also another wonderful narrator, has recorded Swann’s Way, but it doesn’t look like this will be a complete recording of all seven volumes of Remembrance of Things Past, as this recording was released in September, 2010, and no follow-up has yet been released.
I’ve long been a fan of Marcel Proust, author of A la recherche du temps perdu (or In Search of Lost Time, in English). Last year, a French publisher released a complete audio recording of this extraordinary novel, on 111 CDs, read by 6 well-known French actors. It clocks in at just over 148 hours, and I have been enjoying listening to these recordings in recent weeks. I’m not listening to it all at once, but rather one section at a time. The length and complexity of this work is part of the charm that makes this one of the pillars of French and world literature.
Since most of my readers don’t speak French, you might want to check out an English version, such as the 39-CD abridgment by Neville Jason. This is a good start, while waiting for Naxos (the publisher of this audiobook) to release a complete version in the near future.
If you’ve never read Proust, you might want to try the only part of this epic novel that is really a stand-alone section, Un Amour de Swann. In English, you could start with Swann’s Way , the first volume of the series. This is a great novel of decadence and passion, written in an inimitable style.