Mormon Studies Audiobooks

By October 21, 2014

I have a post up over at The Junto this morning reflecting on my audiobook listening habits. I note there, among other things, that “audiobooks … have become a means of helping me keep up with scholarship outside of early America (including periods and subjects I will likely need to teach at some future point), introducing myself to historical subjects in which I am peripherally interested (including the history of sport, the history of food), and of listening to popular and academic histories that fit under the broad umbrella of ‘early American history’ that I might not find time to read in the immediate future.” While writing that post, my thoughts turned to the relative dearth of quality audiobooks on subjects that fall under the large umbrella of Mormon Studies.

My reasons for wanting to listen to Mormon Studies audiobooks largely mirror the reasons cited in the first paragraph — it would be a convenient way to keep up with a field I remain committed to and interested in but one in which my current research does not fall. Given the general success of books in the subfield published by major university and trade presses over the last few years, I am a little surprised that more have not been recorded as audiobooks. Looking back through the library of audiobooks I’ve purchased, downloaded, and listened to over the last three or four years (a library of 50+ volumes), I realized that it included only one Mormon title — our very own Matt Bowman’s excellent survey of Mormon history. A quick search for “Mormon,” “LDS,” and “Latter-day Saints” in Audible.com’s library turns up an odd mix of ex-Mormon narratives, nineteenth-century faith promoting titles, a couple of volumes either for or against Mitt Romney, and only a small handful of Mormon Studies titles (including, most promisingly, Terryl Givens’s The Book of Mormon: A Very Short Introduction and Spencer Fluhman’s A Peculiar People). The only biography of Joseph Smith available is Alex Beam’s American Crucifixion [edit: I somehow missed Robert Remini’s short and accessible biography of JS.]. The offerings at University Press Audiobooks are even slimmer.

Does anyone know why this is the case, given the relative success of Mormon Studies titles in print and electronic mediums over the last several years? And, in order to try and make this post slightly constructive, which Mormon Studies titles would you most like to see recorded as audiobooks? I think any of the several excellent biographies in the field would work wonderfully as audiobooks, including Bushman’s Rough Stone Rolling, Grow and Givens’s bio of Parley Pratt, Newell and Avery’s Mormon Enigma, and Greg Prince’s biography of David O. McKay. Fawn Brodie and Juanita Brooks’s classics in the field are often mentioned in conversations of the best-written works of Mormon history, and Ron Walker’s Wayward Saints is a lively narrative of a fascinating often overlooked aspect of Mormon history and would work well as an audiobook, too.

What do you think, readers?

Article filed under Book and Journal Reviews Digital Humanities Historiography


Comments

  1. We’ve been toying with the idea of producing audiobooks for some time. The big challenge with it pretty much comes down to $$. Mormon Studies titles simply don’t sell that much, and the amount of time and $$ that goes into producing a quality audiobook (especially for larger academic titles) would not be recuperated by the meager sales that the audio book would receive.

    Comment by Loyd Ericson — October 21, 2014 @ 10:15 am

  2. That makes sense, Loyd. I actually had a line in the OP about the difficulties facing independent presses like Kofford and Signature in producing audiobooks, but deleted it (along with the rest of one paragraph) to keep the post short.

    Comment by Christopher — October 21, 2014 @ 10:21 am

  3. Update. We’re probably going to throw up Joseph Spencer’s “For Zion” onto Audible to test things out. Also, we have been planning on Neylan McBaine’s “Women at Church” for before the end of the year.

    If authors are willing to sit down and read their own book on their own time, then it becomes a bit easier and feasible.

    Comment by Loyd Ericson — October 21, 2014 @ 11:37 am

  4. Awesome. Be sure and let us know when each of those go up. I’ll add them to my wish list when they do.

    Comment by Christopher — October 21, 2014 @ 12:29 pm

  5. John Turner helpfully pointed out that there is also an audio version of his biography of Brigham Young, though it weirdly doesn’t show up in searches for “Mormon” on audible.

    Are there other books I’ve missed? Maybe the problem is with audible’s search engines.

    Comment by Christopher — October 21, 2014 @ 12:43 pm

  6. Great questions, Christopher. I often find my listening time an escape from smart things since I fill it up with an embarassing amount of sports podcasts, but maybe someday I wisen up and listen to audio books.

    I echo your call for specific books. With today’s interests in dissent and fallible leadership, I certainly think Walker’s Wayward Saints deserves a wide audience. JB Haws’s book would also probably be a good seller in audio format.

    Comment by Ben — October 21, 2014 @ 2:20 pm

  7. Ditto what Loyd said in #1.

    Comment by Gary Bergera — October 21, 2014 @ 2:32 pm

  8. The Crucible of Doubt is available on CD but that’s a DB title with a potential audience that dwarfs anything books that appeal to JI readers and others can generate. I listen to a lot of audiobooks. My only suggestion is to use the Kindle text-to-speech feature. As the computer voices get better, there will be more “Audible like” features. Just a few years ago, my Rough Stone Rolling on Kindle didn’t have the text-to-speech, but its standard now. We should just keep hoping.

    Loyd and Gary would know, for sure.

    Comment by Terry H — October 22, 2014 @ 7:29 am

  9. My Kindle no longer has the text to speech function, which saddens me on so many levels. I loved using that in lieu of “real” audiobooks.

    Comment by Saskia — October 22, 2014 @ 4:49 pm

  10. I totally agree with your suggestions for audio books. I was surprised, then ticked RSR wasn’t available. Bowman’s “Mormon People” was extremely good to listen to (and read)!

    I’m listening to Pioneer Prophet and it’s really good as a refresher to follow up after having read it. I love how the reader pronounces Manti and Salina (two of my home towns)! Way funny stuff!!!!

    I think it would serve this Mormon moment-a time of essays and coming to grips with an undertold past-to have these high quality books available to more people who want to dig deeper into Mormonism but struggle tackling a large book with a busy schedule.

    Comment by n8c — October 23, 2014 @ 1:07 am


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