It’s just a little mistake …

The crew of Selected Audiobooks has been listening avidly for the past month, and we’ve been coming across a number of publisher errors. Such errors — seemingly trivial as, for the most part, they can pass right by all but the most careful listener — immediately toss a book out of consideration. It’s so disappointing to come across, particularly if it’s a title you’ve really enjoyed.

Selected Audiobooks is charged with creating a list of titles that demonstrate “professional production quality” and here are some of the errors we’ve heard this year:

  • In Marie, Dancing by Carolyn Meyer the author concludes with an afterword. Following the narrated afterword, the book’s announcer (a different voice) comes on and says, “The End. [Credits] We conclude this book with the following author’s note. [pause] That was a note by author Carolyn Meyer …
  • In both Haters by Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez and Alabama Moon by Watt Key, a brief phrase of the story is repeated immediately following its first record of the phrase. (These are hard to catch, and I suspect some do get by us.)

Our list also requires “correct pronunciation of all text words.” (I’m quoting from our policies and procedures.) Correct pronunciation is a little trickier than production errors, of course, and this year we’ve been having discussions about:

  • Katana. The dictionary says it’s pronounced with the accent on the first syllable. In two of the titles under consideration, it’s been pronounced with the accent on the second syllable. If the reader is consistent on a foreign word, is it wrong?
  • Chick-Fil-A. In the book where this appeared, the reader pronounced it chick – feel – ah. I thought it was because the character speaking was making a derogatory comment about lesbians and the LPGA, but some of my colleagues think the reader just said it wrong. This same narrator refers to the novel Robinson Caruso [Crusoe … did I need to tell you that?] several times as well, so she clearly needs some production guidance.
  • Penchant. This comes up in Joyce Carol Oates’ After the Wreck … which I haven’t listened to yet. Do Americans pronounce this word the “French” way?

All food for thought in the audiobook listening world. Your thoughts are welcome!

Finally, the 2007 Selected Audiobooks Committee eliminated from consideration two of our favorite titles because of pronunciation errors:

  • In B for Buster, narrator Jeff Woodman pronounces magneto using a short e. One of our listeners — with military experience — insisted that it was pronounced with a long e. I, and others, thought that Woodman was pronouncing it with a British accent, so we went to the authority: The OED — which has the coolest pronunciation guide [although it does take awhile to understand it] — says that both countries pronounce it with the short e.
  • And perhaps most disappointingly for some audiobook listeners, we couldn’t put Sissy Spacek’s narration of To Kill a Mockingbird on our list because — in the excitement of narrating the trial — she pronounced the word gavel as gravel.

So what do you think? Are we too petty? Should we eliminate something outstanding because of one lousy error?

5 thoughts on “It’s just a little mistake …”

  1. I found most audio books have some mistakes in them–like typos, in a way. I don’t mind, say, 3 mispronounced words in an entire book. What I do mind are global mistakes. (Like the first 2 you mentioned.) A major production error I can think of off the top of my head is the audio version of Absurdistan. So many Russian words in this book. Do you think they hired a reader who spoke Russian? No. They hired an reader with an Israeli accent I guess because the protagonist was Russian Jewish. But Russian Jews speak Russian, not English with an Israeli accent. It annoyed me to no end.

    Good luck! It sounds like a difficult task.

  2. What was a ‘correct’ way to pronounce something in a certain time period or even region changes. Taking context into consideration and whether or not accidental pronunciation significantly alters the meaning of the text.

  3. I’m very disappointed that this committee would eliminate Sissy Spacek’s recording of To Kill a Mockingbird from their discussion because of one mispronunciation/audio typo–however you wish to describe it. This was such a powerful recording and it was sheer pleasure to listen to Spacek voice and make real the heart and soul of Scout. Yes, it would be nice if there had been no mistakes, but I don’t think gravel for gavel is enough to disqualify an otherwise outstanding audiobook. Sometimes it’s more important to consider the whole rather than one tiny error.

  4. An interesting dilemma. Do printed books not get considered for award lists if they have editorial errors? In a sense, that’s the same thing; finding a typo or grammatical error interrupts your reading of a book just as it jolts the listener of an audiobook. But I think if there are only 1 or 2 errors in an audiobook, and the rest of it is perfect, then it should still be considered. That’s a pretty minor thing compared to the book as a whole. And alerting the publisher/producer to such errors means they can fix them in future editions, right? (If they don’t involve having to rerecord the narrator’s voice, I guess.) But then again, maybe that’s why I’m not one of these selection committees, I’m the lenient forgiving sort. ๐Ÿ™‚ What I really can’t stand is hearing the narrator’s lipsmacking or denture whistle-noises; now THAT makes for a bad audiobook. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Yes, it seems a shame to disqualify a book for 1 mispronunciation. Why not keep a good reading on your list but add in a comment that such and such minor error was noted;and, tell the producer/publisher.

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