Re: Griping about NLS trend towards commercial audio books

Pamela Dominguez

That's what usually happens with the child of somebody who has come to this
country: the parent, or parents, have the accent of the country they came
from, and the child, lots of times, has the accent of the place they are
living now, and were brought up. What I've noticed with foreign families
is, different people in the family will have differing amounts of accent. I
noticed that in George's family. Pam.

-----Original Message-----
From: Roger Loran Bailey via Groups.Io
Sent: Sunday, August 12, 2018 3:10 PM
Subject: Re: [bardtalk] Griping about NLS trend towards commercial audio

Well, the thickness of accents varies and I think it is unlikely that
someone with an extremely thick accent would be hired to narrate talking
books. I had a physics professor in college who had a very heavy Korean
accent and every class session was exhausting because I had to
concentrate so hard on just understanding him. He would have been
extremely unlikely to have been offered a job of narrating talking
books. By the way, as an aside, I once met that professor's son. The son
looked very Korean but had the accent of a West Virginia redneck.
On 8/12/2018 12:33 PM, Joshua Hendrickson wrote:
It depends on how heavy the accent is. I've got a commercial book
called The Bible of Clay and the lady who narrates it has such a thick
middle eastern accent, its difficult for me to understand her. She
also has a raspy voice, so that on top of the thick accent makes it
more difficult. She doesn't strike me as someone who could do
different voices well. Bard does have the book, unfortunately its
available in spanish.

On 8/12/18, john s <jschwery@...> wrote:
Well, I'm hearing impaired so heavy accents are a problem for me.

At 11:13 AM 8/12/2018, Evan Reese, wrote:
Hmmm, now that’s interesting.
I would have thought that you’d get used to
the accent, kind of like getting used to
synthetic voices, so that the effort to follow
what’s being said would become less over time, not more.

<>Roger Loran Bailey via Groups.Io
Sent: Saturday, August 11, 2018 8:33 PM
To: <>
Subject: Re: [bardtalk] Griping about NLS trend towards commercial audio

As for accents, I signed up for VisAbility in
Australia some time back. They seem to get their
books from a variety of sources, so you can't
really tell what kind of accent you are going to
get until you start the book. But for the most
part the narrators have either British or
Australian accents. I liked that at first. It
was actually pleasant to listen to a British or
Australian accent narrate a book for a change. I
think I prefer British accents a bit more than
the Australian accents. But even though they
seem perfectly easy to understand they are still
talking in a way that I am not used to hearing
and so I have to put just a little bit more
effort into paying attention and following what
is being said. At first I don't even notice my
extra effort because it is so minor, but after
time has passed it gets to be just a little
wearing and when more time has passed it gets to
be more wearing until the time eventually comes
that I long for an American accent and feel
relief when I get one. Still, though, I think I
will always prefer a genuine accent over those
fake accents that the American narrators affect sometimes.


On 8/11/2018 5:29 PM, Miriam Vieni wrote:
I guess that the issue of accents is
problematic. Some of us have more problems with
accents than others, and some accents, or
specific narrators with accents, or quality of
the recordings, are more difficult than others.
Given the fact that NLS is a government
service, which is supposed to serve people with
disabilities, one might expect more attention
to this, especially because a lot of patrons
are elderly and are suffering hearing loss. I
really don’t think anyone has given the issue
as much thought as it deserves, probably
because the NLS employees are young and if they
have a disability, it’s just blindness. But
there was a commercially produced book a short
while back, one that had been reviewed in
several magazines and took place in Ireland.
The name escapes me, but it was about this
child in the 1800’s who was starving to death
while everyone believed that she was
miraculously living without eating. There was
something about the irish brogue that the
narrator assumed and the quality of the
recording, that made it impossible to
understand. I remember that someone on the DB
Review list who had no hearing problem at all,
also found the book impossible and did
precisely what I did, which was to switch to
the Bookshare version. The daisy audio version
of Bookshare has been a Godsend in several of
these situations. There is also something about
digital recording which causes huge changes in
the volume level of books. So these narrators
who want to act out each character, whisper
parts of conversation, then shout other parts,
change volume when they’re telling the story
from when they’re acting out characters, all
of that can be very distracting. For many
people though, the accents, the drama, all of
it is fine. If I were a member of the NLS
staff, I’d develop policy about all of this
in relation to an analysis of who the majority
of the patrons are, and I’d periodically ask
the regional libraries to survey their patrons
by phone, if necessary, to see if they’re having difficulties with


<> On Behalf Of Gerald Levy
Sent: Saturday, August 11, 2018 3:59 PM
To: <>
Subject: Re: [bardtalk] Griping about NLS trend
towards commercial audio books

It would also be helpful if NLS indicated in
the annotation the nationalities of the author
and narrator, if not American. There is
nothing more annoying than downloading a book
from BARD only to discover that it was written
by an English author and the narrator has a
thick Cockney accent and might as well be speaking in a foreign


From: <mailto:miriamvieni@...>Miriam Vieni
Sent: Saturday, August 11, 2018 3:42 PM
To: <>
Subject: Re: [bardtalk] Griping about NLS trend
towards commercial audio books

What I think is that if a website presents
books to download, it’s the responsibility of
that website to provide adequate information
about each book, enough information which is
accurate, so that it isn’t necessary to
search all over the web before deciding whether
or not to download a book. I don’t see any
technical reason why the publisher’s
information can’t be included on that special
page which NLS created for each book. Bookshare
manages to do it without having a special page.
Furthermore, the information that NLS does
provide, is often just plain wrong or
misleading. They employ people to write those
anotations and the annotations are notorious.
I’ve actually written to them about it. But
obviously, one person’s complaint doesn’t
hold much weight, especially someone who is
basically anonymous, not backed up by some powerful organization.


On Behalf Of Roger Loran Bailey via Groups.Io
Sent: Saturday, August 11, 2018 2:55 PM
To: <>
Subject: Re: [bardtalk] Griping about NLS trend
towards commercial audio books

Because just like anything else if you don't
put forth some effort to find out about it you don't find out about it.
On 8/11/2018 7:34 AM, Pamela Dominguez wrote:
All right, here goes! I know somebody isn’t
going to like this, but that’s why there are
all kinds of people in the world: I don’t
see why somebody should have to do all kinds of
searches just to find out what a book is about. Pam.

<>Roger Loran Bailey via
Sent: Friday, August 10, 2018 8:39 PM
To: <>
Subject: Re: [bardtalk] Griping about NLS trend
towards commercial audio books

In general I think I prefer the books specially
produced for the NLS myself. The commercial
recordings are just so commercial. But to
address a couple of your concerns, it is, of
course, nice to have the annotation right there
in front of you where you are deciding whether
to download, but you give a clue to what to do
right in your message. You say that you can get
annotations for books that you get from Audible
or your library. I know that the ones you want
might not be available at Audible or your
library, but a Google search in another window
should get you lots of synopses and reviews for
the book in question. Also there is Goodreads.
Unless a book is extremely obscure there should
be plenty of reviews available there for most
any book you are contemplating. As for your
wish for titles of certain specialized types,
That is something that horrified me back in
1988 when I first started using NLS books. At
that time I had already been a constant reader
all of my life, so the first thing I did when
my eyesight failed to the point that I could no
longer read I signed up for talking books. I
soon became horrified because I thought that I
was going to have to settle for NLS books the
rest of my life and the NLS didn't really have
anything but entertainment for the most part.
Even the nonfiction was popular nonfiction with
little depth. Less than a year later I was very
relieved to discover Recording for the Blind,
now Learning Ally. Since then I have come
across other resources. There is Bookshare for
one thing. For another resource there is Open
Library with more Daisy books than Bookshare. I
will offer a warning about them though. Lately
every time I try to download a Daisy book from
Open Library the download has failed. I
reported that problem to them and they told me
that they were aware of the problem and are
working on fixing it, but now the problem has
stretched into months and it is still not
working and I am wondering if it ever will
again. That is too bad too because they do have
more Daisy books than Bookshare and Bookshare
has more than 600 thousand now. But Bookshare
is a really good resource. Their collection
building policy is that they will add anything
to their collection that has a title page and a
copyright page. That means that they do have a
lot of books of a very specialized nature in a
whole lot of areas of specialized knowledge.
The NLS, on the other hand, has a very
restrictive collection building policy that
effectively bans most books that are published.
Their intention seems to be that their
collection will remain for entertainment
purposes. They do have some specialized books
that they apparently think would be of interest
to blind people, but those are few and mainly
the policy does seem to be to provide
entertainment to blind people rather than
education. There are officially ways to request
that certain books be recorded and the most
convenient channel is to inform your network
library and let them pass on the request to the
NLS. However, I have never seen evidence that
these requests are paid attention to. When
people request bestsellers it may appear that
their requests are being honored, but the NLS
seems to get most bestsellers anyway and I
would urge you to not waste your requests on
books that they are going to record anyway. You
might want to check out these other agencies
for the specialized books that you are
interested in though. I know. It would be nice
to have a one stop shopping place, but I think
the better one stop shopping place would be Bookshare.

On 8/10/2018 4:13 PM, Deborah Armstrong wrote:
If this has been discussed to death, let me
know and I'll search the archives. But if not,
I'd like to hear other opinions especially if you don't agree!

I am getting tired of the commercial audio
books on NLS. The annotations are so short you
don't really know what a book is about. Half
the time I download it and discover it's not
something I would have picked. The longer
descriptions from the book jacket are only recorded if NLS recorded the

I understand NLS needs to stay on budget, but
when I download a free commercial book from my
public library, I can read the entire book
jacket description on the library's site. When
I download from Audible, I also get a full
description there. It seems like NLS could at
least make these descriptions available, even
if it required a separate file, or perhaps it
could just be a text file included with the zipped download.

The other gripe is that one never knows
anything about the narrator. Some are too
dramatic; some have unfamiliar accents and some
just read way too slowly, and yes my player can
speed them up, but that's not the point. A
familiar NLS reader is always a treat.

It also seems to me that NLS is making choices
based on cost rather than value for its
population. For example, my sighted sister
doesn't qualify for NLS. She has chronic pain
and I began searching for audio books on coping
with chronic pain for her. I found many on
audible. Though she has a Kindle, her pain
makes it easier for her to listen rather than
read visually. She used the audible app and the
credits I bought for her to read these books and better cope.

If you search NLS for books on chronic pain
there are only a few older offerings. None of
these wonderful commercial audio books from
audible have been purchased by NLS, though I
suspect many NLS patrons, being older are more
likely to suffer from chronic pain than the typical audible customer.

Also, many of the commercial books are fiction.
I love fiction -- I'm a writer after all -- but
it seems more heavily weighted towards popular
genre fiction than the type of more
literature-oriented serious fiction that gets
reviewed on NPR. And I again suspect more NLS
patrons are older and prefer more fiction that
isn't oriented towards a younger crowd. And
there is less nonfiction. Seems when I browse
through newly released books I'm seeing three
or four times as many fiction titles as
nonfiction, though commercially, many
nonfiction bestsellers are being released in audio.

Lastly, and this is what I really hate, I often
find after I got a book on Audible that NLS
went ahead and recorded it. I haven't bought
anything on audible for myself for several
years now because of this problem. I also found
books from audible often appeared at my local
public library several years later. So the only
thing I've been buying on audible of late is
gift credits for sighted family members.

Anyway, these are the things I hate about the
new NLS trend towards using more commercial
audio books. What do you others think?



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