Papa is coming to audio in a major way. Simon & Schuster Audio has just published the Ernest Hemingway Audiobook Library, a complete collection of the author’s novels, nonfiction, and short stories. Weighing in at 133 hours on 15 MP3 CDs, the collection is narrated by an all-star cast that includes Donald Sutherland (reading The Old Man and the Sea); William Hurt (reading The Sun Also Rises); and John Slattery (reading A Farewell to Arms).
Since 2002, Simon & Schuster Audio has been producing new audio editions of Hemingway’s work. As the company started releasing titles, the idea of a definitive collection was almost inevitable. “Once the reviews were in and sales were strong, we immediately began to think about putting them all together in a collector’s edition,” said Chris Lynch, president and publisher of Simon & Schuster Audio.
However, the total number of traditional audio CDs needed for a complete collection—more than 100—presented two very real challenges: packaging and price. “We knew people would be willing to pay a premium for a Hemingway collector’s edition, but finding a way to package that many CDs and keep the price from being prohibitive kept us at bay,” Lynch said, noting that the company originally considered MP3 CDs, but decided against the format due to lack of consumer awareness and incompatibility with car stereo systems. “That changed over the past year or two,” Lynch said. “We have seen real success in the MP3 CD format, and we know most new cars have MP3-compatible CD players. This made us see the possibilities for a Hemingway collection in a whole new light.”
Other actors featured in the collection—which retails for $399.99—include Stacy Keach, Brian Dennehy, Boyd Gaines, Bruce Greenwood, John Bedford Lloyd, Josh Lucas, Will Patton, Campbell Scott, and Patrick Wilson. Lynch said it wasn’t difficult recruiting such Hollywood names to read Hemingway. “His works are classics, so the actors jumped at the chance at being part of it,” he said. “The challenge, as always, was casting the individual books with the right voice.”
According to Lynch, the massive audio production presented additional problems, among them how to organize the author’s work within the collection. “One thought was to publish everything chronologically, to present the evolution of Hemingway’s writing,” Lynch said. “But when we thought about how our customers would want to listen to these audiobooks, we decided to group all the novels together, then the nonfiction, and finally the short stories. Within each of those sections, the works are presented in the order they were first published.”
The collection also includes an intimate interview with Hemingway’s only surviving son, Patrick, who discusses his childhood in Key West, Fla., and the life and legacy of his famous father.
Among its efforts to promote the collection, Simon & Schuster Audio is working with Sirius Book Radio on a two-hour Hemingway special featuring audio excerpts and interviews with narrators, and with A&E’s biography.com. The company also launched a discrete Web site for the collection: ErnestHemingwayAudio.com, which is offering discounts on the collection through December 15.