It is interesting to live in an Audible culture (like ours!)

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2014/04/15 15:08 +00:00, original URI:

I never would have believed it if you asked me, but now I know for sure that it is true. As I re-read books from years ago by having Audible read them to me, I realize that I am in the same boat as many of my friends who are just as addicted to Audible as I am!

I often find it amusing to see some of my friends post to Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn about a book they just read, knowing that they are trying to get that Diamond Social Butterfly badge!

For the record, I got mine for sharing 108 times, but in my case, I cheated since I hit the ‘share’ button but then cancelled out, though future versions of the App may fix that bug, so you may have to share your reading habits with your friends!

The books we read are usually different, but we are all reading something. Amazon has to smile as I call Audible tech support to complain that they missed one of the eight in the Arkady Renko series (the missing title is Havana Bay if you’re curious). But then I notice that Audible picks up these titles from Recorded Books, which does have the title, but Audible Support is strangely unsympathetic to my plight.

Okay, serious First World Problem trying to see if I can buy the overpriced book from another site and loading it in the Audible App on Windows Phone. But these are the problems I’m dealing with, so I have to be honest about it. They have me right where they want me over at Audible….

Even knowing the designers of the Windows Phone Audible App wouldn’t necessarily help, since they would have nothing to do with content decisions like this.

So my only option is to petition Audible to add a book to their service which they seem to have missed. I point out the full list with dates and hope that they’ll see the error in their ways:

Arkady Renko novels:

  1. Gorky Park (1981)
  2. Polar Star (1989)
  3. Red Square (1992)
  4. Havana Bay (1999)
  5. Wolves Eat Dogs (2004)
  6. Stalin’s Ghost (2007)
  7. Three Stations (2010)
  8. Tatiana (2013)

“Why couldn’t you have missed a less important title?” I plead with them (given the crucial issues brought up in Havana Bay!), knowing how ridiculous I sound yet still powerless to do anything else.

I doubt there is any request less defensible than the request to add a title I have already read years ago, just so I can have it read to me.

Pathetic. Completely pathetic. Yet there it is….

Audible and thus Amazon made it desirable and thus they own trying to work towards completing the experience. I say this knowing full well that it is easier to sell someone a book that someone else printed than finding someone to read the unabridged version for them to sell. But the Audible helpline doesn’t understand the issue so even they aren’t helpful here. Yet!

I know exactly why that entire Arkady Renko series is so important to me. It is, across those eight books, the Russian equivalent to The Asian Saga of James Clavell is realized!

The Asian Saga is:

◾King Rat (1962)
◾Tai-Pan (1966)
◾Shōgun (1975)
◾Noble House (1981)
◾Whirlwind (1986)
◾Gai-Jin (1993)

The name “Asian Saga” was not applied to the series until following the publication of Shōgun. A listing of the books in order of their internal chronology would go as follows:

◾Shōgun: set in feudal Japan, 1600
◾Tai-Pan: set in Hong Kong, 1841
◾Gai-Jin: set in Japan, 1862
◾King Rat: set in a Japanese POW camp, Singapore, 1945
◾Noble House: set in Hong Kong, 1963
◾Whirlwind: set in Iran, 1979

Looking at Shōgun specifically:

Beginning in feudal Japan some months before the critical Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, Shōgun gives an account of the rise of the daimyo “Toranaga” (based upon the actual Tokugawa Ieyasu). Toranaga’s rise to the Shogunate is seen through the eyes of the English sailor John Blackthorne, called Anjin (“Pilot”) by the Japanese, whose fictional heroics are loosely based on the historical exploits of William Adams.

Each series tries (and in my humble opinion, succeeds!) in translating a large amount of the real cultural issues info English — so much so that I wonder how successful are later translations of their works to other languages.

Just as an example, Shōgun deals with feudal Japanese, Portuguese, and English, not to mention the issues with Spanish and Italian and the Catholic church. I sympathize with anyone who has to deal with all of those issues in one book!

Yet I am left wondering if is any easier for the translator of Red Square by Martin Cruz Smith, and having to deal with the cultural and even the cross-cultural artistic issues of a book in English about Russian and German political issues occurring at a very time of Russia’s collapse post Communism during Germany’s struggles post reunification. And all of it through the eyes of our hero Arkady Renko, who is tasked with solving the mystery while reuniting his passions with his true love Irina Asonova!

I have no idea how much they pay those translators or how good the actual translations are, but I know one thing for sure and for certain: either they are not paid enough or the quality suffered the consequences. I don’t know the other languages well enough to judge which applies to each translation, but having seen the issue in technical book translations, I know that the problem has, does, and will manifest here for Amazon/Audible.

I also noticed minor differences that Audible can be blamed for a little bit more directly, like some Portuguese mispronunciations in Shōgun or less forgivably IMNSHO Russian last name mispronunciations in Gorky Park, since those mistakes are in the Audible reading of the original work in the ‘primary’ language of translation.

Now that makes me wonder if Audible also handles the translated versions (I know Amazon is willing to sell them, but I doubt they fare as well with Audible readings of the translations!).

It makes me want to talk with people at Amazon and Audible to see how closely they are monitoring these issues. I know they don’t affect Microsoft as much right now, but I would want someone to talk to me if Microsoft had an analagous issue!

Other issues come up, like how much my opinion is affected by the reader of the book (each series has varied readers, with many repeats, and no offense but for Russian neither Frank Muller nor Ron McLarty is as good as Henry Strozier!). Each novel has a (usually credited) director, but I lack the expertise to judge their impact. Other books sometimes have multiple readers, some with famous AudioBook celebrities like Scott Brick or Hillary Huber, and others with celebrities I know like Lou Diamond Phillips or Joe Mantegna. For the record IMHO, nothing beats a quick Steve Martini novel read by Joe Mantegna like Prime Witness or Double Tap, except maybe Sun Tzu’s Art of War, read by Joe Mantegna. I enjoyed all three of them more than I did the first time!

Just some of the things that I wonder about in this Audible culture in which I and so many of my friends live….

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