Audiobooks Have Captured Malcom Gladwell’s Imagination

Michael Gladwell, whose first five books, including The Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers, became New York Times bestsellers, is passionate about audiobooks. According to a story in BookTrib, Gladwell narrates his own books and wrote his last few books with a view to turning them into audiobooks. 

What is Gladwell’s History with Audiobooks?

Gladwell has lived by the maximum that you should do what you love and figure out how to make money from it. He is the co-founder and president of Pushkin Industries, which produces audiobooks and podcasts. He also hosts a podcast, Revisionists History, in which he revisits overlooked or misunderstood stories in our history. 

Gladwell recently produced an audiobook for his book, Talking to Strangers. The book was written to be read out loud, or perhaps, more aptly, to be performed. People of a certain generation will recall listening to radio shows and audiobooks that were performed by a whole slew of people and up to the highest production standards. Gladwell’s company produces what he calls 5-star audiobooks, which carry on that fine tradition, offering listeners an immersive experience. He has gone the other way, too, turning a podcast, Bomber Mafia, into a book. He believes that when a person writes from audio content, the style is more conversational than if that writer began straight from text. However, the written word is better for more analytical and complex subjects, which tend to lose on nuance in discursive scenarios.

How Does Pushkin Produce Its Audiobooks?

Perhaps the most famous table read in the world is the Fast Times at Ridgemont High live table read. Table reads aren’t just for movies. The best audiobooks, whether paid or free audiobooks, start off from table reads. During those table reads, the reader or readers practice their parts and develop their affect, intonation, and other aspects of their performance, before they record. This rehearsal is necessary to establish the best way to read the text for the audiobook. 

There’s a lot of rewriting that goes on if the text happens to be Gladwell’s. The aim is to find the most natural way to say something, so if there are phrases or sentences that feel odd when said out loud, Gladwell and his team rewrite the text. It’s important that the text meets the ear test. The better it sounds, the better it is. In that process, he can tell how to pace his reading, whether text is too long, and whether a text has gotten to the point quickly enough.

It’s important for Gladwell to read out loud rather than in his head, because that’s the best way to get his subsequent performance to the very high standards that he sets out to achieve. 

Table reads really help raise the quality of the subsequent audiobook, not simply because they provide a forum to practice, but also because they allow for the editing that is needed to make the writing better. Audiobooks are growing in popularity and it’s clear why: we are not just visual creatures, we are oral ones as well. Humans passed on literature and history through oral recitations before they discovered writing. Listening is fundamental to who we are.