When Amazon.com's SF audiobooks imprint Audible Frontiers launched earlier this year, we were interested in the potential of something new to entertain us on our morning commutes. With the line now in its third month, we checked in with Audible's director of content, Steve Feldberg, to see whether it looks like there's a future in this whole "books in your ear" thing.
The Audible Frontiers imprint has been around for a couple of months now. What has the audience reaction been like so far?
We've gotten a good deal of positive response, and much of it centers on how Audible has really focused on expanding the number of SF&F books available in audio. In fact, that's probably our biggest accomplishment so far – just increasing the selection.
Specifically, we've enjoyed great reviews for our productions of Jack Campbell's Lost Fleet series; Robert J. Sawyer's novels, including the Hugo-winning Hominids (as well as the other books in his Neanderthal Parallax trilogy); Mike Resnick's Starship series; Hugo-winning novellas by Connie Willis, Harry Turtledove, Joe Haldeman, Allen Steele, as well as Resnick; and sci-fi classics like Roger Zelazny's This Immortal and Fritz Leiber's The Big Time.
What was the basis for the creation of the imprint in the first place - Is Audible planning to create sub-stores for each literary genre, or is there something special about SF that demanded its own space (If you'll excuse the pun)?
There were two key factors. We've seen consistent growth in SF&F – yet we also heard from customers that they wished the selection were better. So it wasn't hard to put two and two together and figure out that we needed to improve the breadth and depth of our catalog.
Audible Frontiers is the biggest part of the strategy, but we have two other current initiatives that are highly relevant. First is our long-standing partnership with Harlequin, under which we produce 4-6 titles per month. These have consistently included fantasy titles by Maria V. Snyder, Mercedes Lackey, Jennifer Armintrout, Gena Showalter, and other great authors. Second is our relatively new partnership with HarperCollins to produce some of their great SF&F titles. The first wave includes the Acorna's Children series by Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough; Star Strike by Ian Douglas; Hunter's Run by George R.R. Martin, Gardner Dozois, and Daniel Abraham; and Matt Ruff's Bad Monkeys... The only minor distinction is that we don't brand any of our co-produced titles as "Audible Frontiers". The key point is that we're looking at all aspects of SF & Fantasy – contemporary sci-fi, classic sci-fi, epic fantasy, paranormal fantasy, you name it.
How did Orson Scott Card come to be involved with the site?
Scott is, of course, a big best selling author and an icon in the field, and a special favorite among Audible listeners. But what was most important to us is that he's an avid audiobook fan – and he really gets the value of the audiobook experience. So when we were looking for an author whose opinion would be most valued by Audible SF&F listeners, he was a natural choice. It all turned out to be pretty simple; we reached out, Scott agreed, and we were off to the races. What's been most gratifying is that Scott takes the time to craft a detailed review of each "Selects" title and record it in audio. That really brings his reviews to life for our listeners.
What's planned for the future of the imprint? More original works? More guest columnists? Any surprises coming up?
We have dozens more titles coming this year under the Audible Frontiers imprint. For me, the most exciting current project is that we're bringing Fritz Leiber's entire, classic swords-and-sorcery series featuring Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser to audio for the first time. But even better than that – Neil Gaiman has recorded exclusive introductions to each of the seven books. Gaiman is a huge Leiber fan, which truly comes out in his introductions. The Guest Editor program will continue to be a monthly feature. Robert J. Sawyer is our Editor for July, S.M. Stirling is on board for August, and we'll go from there!
Past that, over the next few months we'll be offering great contemporary SF&F like David Drake's complete RCN/Daniel Leary series; Kay Kenyon's critically-acclaimed The Entire and the Rose novels; Allen Steele's Coyote trilogy; Sharon Shinn's Twelve Houses series, E.E. Knight's complete Vampire Earth series; and lots more. Plus, we'll be bringing into audio for the first time classic award winners by Clifford D. Simak (CITY and WAY STATION); Roger Zelazny (LORD OF LIGHT); and John Varley (TITAN, WIZARD, DEMON and more). And we've got a few surprises that we can't quite reveal yet!
Image courtesy Employee Lounge