Our love of listening to an immersive narration has been with us since the beginning. In days long past, people eagerly crawled forth from their caves, to attend their favorite story tellers appearance, in hope of devouring yet another riveting tale. When radio began to play in the residences of America, in the early 1930’s, entire families would dim the lights and hungrily ingest one of Arch Obler’s nightmare stories, and who could forget the famous radio play, H.G. Wells War of the Worlds, produced by Orson Welles, which set an entire nation into a panic?. Even on the educational front, there’s a tremendous amount of data being produced by researchers which all state the same thing: That audio books increase the “fluency, vocabulary, phonemic awareness and confidence” of those who regularly to audio books. Audio books are relaxing, beneficial and an invaluable resource in education. However, there is a downside, many are quite expensive.
Why are Audio Books So Expensive?
If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance that you’ve stumbled upon a book which may set you back $9.99 on kindle, but a hefty $30.00 or more on Audible. There is a wide berth here, and for a very good reason: Studio, marketing and other random costs contribute to the increase in price. Once a book is to be turned into a professionally produced audio book, many cost factors come into play, most surrounding the studio. First, there’s the fee for the narrator. This will depend on who the narrator is. According to goodereader.com, on average an audiobook costs around $300 or more to produce, with the creation of one audio book taking around 12 hours or so.
The same source notes that World War Z used 21 voice actors, and in their estimation this can drive the price of the production of an audio book up to around $17,000. It’s also not just about production costs, there’s also marketing costs to take into consideration. Not only that, consider the risk involved. No matter what the project, there’s no guarantee that the audio book will sell. After all, perhaps there are those who love the content, but do not like the narrator or voice actors. Lastly, consider that the audio book is purchased with an individuals disposable income, and at the moment, an audio book is more a luxury for some.
As can be seen, producing and marketing an audio book is a risky enterprise. To see just how high the prices can go, we were able to locate some of the most expensive audio books online. and list them here. Please keep in mind that this list fluctuates, as it’s based on recent sales. What was the most expensive book last year, or even last week, may not be now.
10. John Adams
Author: David McCullough
Narrator: Nelson Runger
This Pulitzer Prize winning biography, which was later turned into an award winning mini-series by Tom Hanks, goes deep into the life and world of John Adams, a prolific individual instrumental in the creation of this great country. Definitive listening to those who are intrigued by our founding fathers and what drove them to push forward with the creation of America, against all odds.
9. The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion
Author: James George Frazer
Narrator: Andrew Cullum
Frazer, a noted anthropologist authored a book for those interested in the ties that bind ancient beliefs and rituals to what we experience today. This book delves into the various superstitions of different cultures and attempts to note any similarity between them. Many will find it intriguing on how Christian beliefs have many links to humanities pagan past. A good listen for anyone interested in this topic.
8. Sherlock Holmes
Author: Arthur Conan Doyle
Narrator: Stephen Fry
Those of you who are a fan of the comedic genius of Stephen Fry will no doubt find that his unique form of vocal expression will undoubtedly make for some fabulous listening entertainment. Also note that this audio book was awarded the AudioFile Earphones Award from AudioFile magazine. If you’re a fan of the writings of Arthur Conan Doyle, especially of Sherlock Holmes, then we’re sure you’ll find this audio book quite the listening pleasure.
7. To Green Angel Tower: memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, Book 3
Author: Tad Williams
Narrator: Andrew Wincott
This immersive epic by Williams is oft compared to R. R. Martins novels, especially Song of Ice and Fire. This book takes the listener into the world of Osten Ard, where you’ll engage characters written with depth, precision and great care. As such, be prepared to experience a journey where you’ll become connected to the characters and their personal struggles.
6. An Infinite Jest
Author David Foster Wallace
Narrator: Sean Pratt
David Foster Wallace creates a book where people take their sides: You either love it or hate it, there no is true middle ground. Infinite Jest takes the listener on a visit to a dystopian future that some may enjoy, while others may not. This book is heavy on ideology, philosophy and even tech. Those curious may find it a good listen, while others might just want to toss a wrench at it. Either way, you’ll get what you pay for here.
5. No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II
Author: Doris Kearns Goodwin
Narrator: Nelson Runger
This Pulitzer Price winning book takes the listener back in time, where they can get a birds eye view of what life was like on the home front, during WWII. During that time, America itself was mobilized into a fighting force themselves, with women handling the factories, and families rationing their meals. Good listen for anyone who finds WWII a fascinating period.
4. Our Mutual Friend
Author: Charles Dickens
Narrator: David Timson
Sit back and enjoy a narrative packed with characters, masterfully drawn from the mind of Dickens, from the contemptible to the kind, this story has it all. Though it begins a bit slow, the story soon picks up steam. if you love Dickens but find yourself not having enough time during the day to immerse yourself in his books, this is the next best thing.
Author: David MCullough
Narrator: Nelson Runger
This is a must listen for anyone who is a fan of political science or a fan of President Truman. This in depth analysis of the famed president engages the listener by establishing a base for Truman’s life from ancestry to his presidency. This informative audio book not only covers Truman’s family life, business dealings and personal affairs, but also his political campaigns.
2. Foundations: An Overview of Systematic Theology by R.C. Sproul
Author: R.C. Sproul
Narrator: R.C. Sproul
Price: $122.00 for the Audio CD
This book attempts to convey the meaning of biblical scripture in today’s world. Those who hope to gain a greater insight into biblical scripture may find this audio book a good find. It addresses questions regarding the bible, and it’s major talking points such as the origin of humanity, sin, the church, and so on.
1. Pimsleur Language Series
Price: Varies per language, generally $100.00 to $173.00
Currently, on the top of the list of the most expensive, are Pimsleur books. Pimsleur produces audio books for those who wish to learn a new language. For instance, you can learn Arabic or Italian for around $173.27, or Chinese for $113.35. These prices can vary, but all in all, they are usually on the high end of the pricing spectrum.
When you listen to a radio play or audio book, you’re essentially recreating the world via your imagination, just as you see it. In point of fact, if you take ten people, and have them listen to the same audio book, and request they draw what they think the monster looks like, you’ll probably get 10 different variations of the same creature, and that’s just where our fascination with narration lies. Just as in the old days of radio, where Americans listened to professionally produced radio shows, from the comedic to tales of fear, sorrow and horror, todays audio books assist in satisfying our hunger for well done narration. In short, audio books are an underrated asset for both personal enjoyment and education. They enhance our imagination, provide information, and assist in educating both adults and students.