Audio News
Trudi M. Rosenblum -- 11/6/00

Clinton Bridges 'Digital Divide'
Audio Partners Nabs Agatha Christie Titles | Christmas Gift for Sedaris Fans

Clinton Bridges 'Digital Divide'
Time Warner AudioBooks, AFB Talking Books
unveil technology for Americans with disabilities
Executives of Time Warner AudioBooks and AFB Talking Books met with President Clinton to unveil a prototype of a digitally synchronized audio and text version of Dr. Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech. The demonstration took place on September 21 during the president's trip to Flint, Mich.

The demonstration was staged as part of Clinton's ongoing "Digital Divide" tour, with this most recent trip focusing on empowering Americans with disabilities. The event addressed ways to include and provide for disabled communities in developing technological innovations.

The audio and text of "I Have a Dream" were linked using NISO and DAISY technology and shown to President Clinton on a laptop computer. The program is compatible with both computers and e-books and will be released free of charge to consumers in December. It will be available on three Web sites: the Time Warner AudioBooks Web site (, The King Center, by permission of Intellectual Properties Management Inc. as exclusive licensor of Dr. King's writings (, and AFB Talking Books (

At the event, President Clinton said, "Bridging the digital divide is not just the morally right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do. Breaking down barriers is not enough. People actually have to have the tools they need to take advantage of this remarkable moment of opportunity--especially the tools they need in cyberspace. There are truly amazing new possibilities, as I saw today on my tour."

King's "I Have a Dream" speech is found in A Call to Conscience: The Landmark Speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., which will be released on audio by Time Warner AudioBooks in December simultaneously with the Warner Books hardcover.

"We are proud to have developed this prototype as part of the kind of industry/nonprofit coalition President Clinton considers crucial to bridging the digital divide," said Maja Thomas, executive director of Time Warner AudioBooks. "This technology will revolutionize the way books, e-books and audiobooks are used. The ability to 'toggle' between audio and print versions of the same work will increase the accessibility and enrich the value of each component. People who are blind, visually impaired and dyslexic will now be able to enjoy these historical words in an exciting new way. In addition, this synchronization technology has broad appeal for students, particularly those learning English as a second language, schools, travelers and commuters who may wish to consult the text or listen to the audio independently or simultaneously."

Audio Partners Nabs Agatha Christie TitlesThe Audio Partners Publishing Corp. has signed a contract with the estate of Agatha Christie for exclusive unabridged U.S. rights to 26 Agatha Christie titles. Twenty-two of the titles have never before been available in unabridged format in the U.S.

The leadoff title in the series is Spider's Web, a "new" Agatha Christie novel adapted by Charles Osborne from a Christie play and published this month by St. Martin's Press. Audio Partners will simultaneously release the audio version on three cassettes for $22.95 and four CDs for $29.95. Narrated by Hugh Fraser, the audio was recorded by HarperCollins U.K. and licensed for U.S. release by Audio Partners. The next in the series will be Death on the Nile in February, followed by one Christie title per month. Audio Partners has also signed a licensing deal with Chivers for a number of that company's Agatha Christie titles, including five Hercule Poirot titles read by David Suchet. Three years ago, Audio Partners won an Audie Award for The Mysterious Affair at Styles, read by Suchet.

According to Audio Partners CEO Grady Hesters, about half of the new Christie titles will be licensed from Chivers, some will be licensed from HarperCollins U.K. and some will be new recordings. "We have the choice of recording them new or licensing them, but when there are already wonderful recordings read by David Suchet or Joan Hickson [who played Miss Marple on TV], it seems silly to record them new," Hesters said.

Audio Partners is also working to brand the Christie titles with an eye-catching, uniform look. The Agatha Christie estate has created a signature logo, which will be used on all the titles. In addition, each Christie series on Audio Partners will have its own symbol--a crow for the Miss Marple titles and a Poirot face against an exotic locale for the Poirot titles.

Some of the Christie titles will be available on CD, including Spider's Web, Murder in Mesopotamia, and Murder on the Orient Express. Others will be released only in cassette form. Explained president and publisher Linda Olsen, "We've observed that if we can fit an unabridged title on six CDs and sell it for $39.95, it's doable. We're not convinced there's a market for more CDs at a higher price point yet."

Audio Partners has been aggressive in releasing mysteries, particularly with its Mystery Masters series, which has more than 70 titles to date. Hesters noted that in his Audio Editions catalogue (a mail-order catalogue of audiobooks from all publishers), "Classic mysteries sell just as much as brand-new ones. Agatha Christie and Rex Stout sell right up there with John Grisham. Of course, altogether a John Grisham sells more because it's available in all venues and bookstores. But when you put them side by side in a catalogue and give them equal exposure, the older titles do just as well."

In other news, Audio Partners will release the KCRW radio dramatization of Ross McDonald's The Zebra-Striped Hearse. The production features a full cast of 40 actors, including Tyne Daly and Ed Asner, along with sound effects and music. The audiobook will hit stores in December, but will be available earlier through the Audio Editions catalogue. --Trudi M. Rosenblum

Christmas Gift for Sedaris FansTime Warner AudioBooks's boxed set of four David Sedaris titles, called The David Sedaris Box Set, has just gone on sale. The cassette-only set includes pieces from Barrel Fever, Naked, Holidays on Ice and Me Talk Pretty One Day and retails for $59.98 (20% less than the cost of the four titles if bought separately). Sedaris is currently on a 14-city tour, featuring 20 to 25 dates. "He's playing to packed houses, filling halls of 1,000 people," said Maja Thomas, executive director of Time Warner AudioBooks. "People are used to hearing him on the radio, so he's a known voice. Then he began writing books. The audiobooks bring it back to the original audio medium where he started." Next June, Time Warner will release Me Talk Pretty One Day on CD, and it will include a bonus hour of new material culled from Sedaris's live appearances, which are not on the cassette version. The CD release will promote Me Talk Pretty One Day's paperback release.

Audiobook Month Poster Contest
The APA is sponsoring its third annual Audiobook Month Poster Design Contest to create a promotional poster for Audiobook Month 2001. Entries for the June promotion are due by January 5; the winner will be selected by January 29. The winner will receive a $1,000 prize. For complete rules and regulations, visit the APA Web site at

B&B in Successories
B&B Audio will release audio versions of The Power of One series of motivational/business booklets published by Successories, a motivational merchandise company. The 32 booklets have sold

two million copies via the Successories catalogue, said Beth Bax

ter, president of B&B Audio. Each audio version will contain the text of two of the booklets in a two- or three-cassette package and will sell for $17.95. The audios will be sold through the Successories catalogue as well as in other outlets.

L.A. Theatre Works Kicks Off New Season
L.A. Theatre Works has announced its new season of performances, which are recorded live for broadcast on radio station KCRW and release on cassette. Upcoming plays for the season include Twilight's Last Gleaming by Harry Shearer, The Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers, The Rainmaker by N. Richard Nash, and Lost in Yonkers by Neil Simon. For information, contact L.A. Theatre Works at (310) 827-0889.

"Peace" on CD
Independent publisher Relax... Intuit of Chappaqua, N.Y. has reissued Susie Mantell's Your Present: A Half-Hour of Peace on CD. This guided visualization and relaxation program, originally released on cassette in 1996, was an Audie Award finalist, a PW "Listen Up" award recipient, and was named "Most Requested Title in Genre" by Ingram. It is distributed by Ingram, Baker & Taylor and Penton Overseas.

New Appointments
Time Warner AudioBooks announces two appointments. Jeanne-Marie Hudson is named senior sales and marketing manager. She was senior promotion manager at Bantam Doubleday Dell. Kim Sayle is named senior manager of operations. She was operations manager for the Book-of-the-Month Club.
--Trudi M. Rosenblum