October/November 2015

Discover the World of Audiobooks

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Page 47 of 75

Author John Berendt initially didn't want photos in his bestselling true- crime story, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. The book is about a flamboyant antiques collector in Savannah who became embroiled in no less than four murder trials in succession—a record for one crime. But then Berendt heard from someone wanting to do much more than include photos. It began when publisher Ken Siman was thinking one day about mobile devices and an idea germinated to combine the storytelling potential of apps and video games with the written and spoken word. Of course, Amazon already had a way of getting computers to read e-books out loud, but it was rudimentary and primitive at best when compared with narrator-voiced audiobooks. So, he didn't want a computer to read, or animation to dramatize stories like most apps. To make it real, he wanted real people. Bringing aboard brothers Christian and Benjamin Alfonsi, Siman soon defined the company's vision: to marry their combined backgrounds in enter- tainment and digital media with the book format to give readers a visceral, multisensory experience. So they began to assemble a team of composers, designers, filmmakers, and narrators in order to create a new kind of immersive app called Metabook. They chose Berendt's book as their first project because, as Siman puts it, "The book checked off all my boxes . . . it was true crime that had been filmed by Clint Eastwood and a bestseller with offbeat characters, and there was the chance to engage with readers in a way that pushed the limits of the app medium with things that hadn't been seen before." Benjamin Alfonsi, due to his own vision and input, was dubbed creator of Metabook, but the whole team, along with author Berendt, discussed many original possibilities for combining an e-book with a full-cast audiobook, including video interviews about the events in Savannah, a timeline of the crime, trial clips, original music and sound design, several interactive elements, and even a virtual panoramic imaging of the garden itself. "Even with the scale of In the Studio This page: photo by Svet + David; Opposite: photo by Sean Sime, app photos courtesy of Metabook TM "Now we're all fueled by a passion for this, and we're excited for more titles to follow." 46 n AudioFile/ Metabook™ audio director Robin Miles, actress Laverne Cox, and author John Berendt at the audio sessions for the Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil Metabook™ app for iPad and iPhone

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