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Penguin Random House Canada launches audiobook program

David Chariandy

PRHC author David Chariandy (Alana Paterson)

It’s a busy time for the Canadian audiobook market. Last week, Rakuten Kobo launched its audiobook subscription program and, on Sept. 13, Audible announced its Canadian e-store. Penguin Random House Canada has been preparing for the demand with the formal launch of its internal audiobook program. Seventeen PRHC titles, including 2016 Scotiabank Giller Prize nominees Gary Barwin’s Yiddish for Pirates and Mona Awad’s Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl, are now available for download.

According to PRHC audiobooks producer Ann Jansen, who joined the publisher in March from CBC Books, the titles are a mix of backlist bestsellers and new releases that “translate well to audio.”

Several fall titles will be released as audio books simultaneously with their print editions – a goal for the program, says Jansen – including David Chariandy’s novel Brother, and several non-fiction titles read by their authors, such as Feeding My Mother by Jann Arden, Game Change by Ken Dryden, All We Leave Behind by Carol Off, and How We Did It by Karl Subban and Scott Colby (narrated by Subban).

Other future releases in the works, include Miriam Toews’s novel A Complicated Kindness, read by the author, and Yann Martel’s Life of Pi, which wrapped up recording in New York on Sept. 9, with narration by Rajiv Surendra, author of the memoir Elephants in My Backyard, which follows the young actor’s quest to play the lead in the film adaptation of Pi. Memoirs by Jen Agg (I Hear She’s a Real Bitch) and Wab Kinew (The Reason You Walk) are also in production, featuring narration by their respective authors. Other backlist titles by Toews, Madeleine Thien, and Elizabeth Hay are also scheduled for future release.

PRHC’s first set of audiobooks were produced in 10 studios across Canada, but Jansen says an in-house recording space in the works, set to open next month. “We’ll still be working with private studios across the country when we need to record authors in their hometowns, or find local actors who are perfect for a book, and given our level of production, we’ll still be recording books with partner studios in Toronto,” she says.

According to Jansen, by the end of 2017, 60 PRHC audiobook titles will be available from Canadian e-retailers, including Kobo, Audible, and iTunes, with an ambitious international plan moving forward. “Recordings done here in Canada will make up about half of our audiobooks list each year. In addition, there are titles for which we have audio distribution rights in Canada or North America, produced by our international colleagues at Penguin Random House, along with a few other audio publishers,” says Jansen. “In those cases, we buy the recording masters for sale in Canada. And we’re also selling some of our masters to publishers with rights in other countries. It’s a joint effort.”