One SummerListening to a variety of romance audiobooks these days is a fairly simple process. With a large selection that is easily accessible either through competitive pricing or your local library, there’s little to complain about.  But as I look at the variety of audiobooks offered today, I know, as a long time audio enthusiast, that there’s more – a missing segment I guess you could say – from years gone by.

Many of these rarely seen audiobooks are the very ones I cut my romance audiobook teeth on.  They’re still out there but most are in cassette tape format and, if you are able to locate a copy, the price is usually steep.  I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t understand the process of choosing older romances for today’s audio offerings (it’s a well kept secret as far as I can tell) and the effect the entire licensing issue has on the selection process is beyond my comprehension.  Still, I’m always hoping another one of these lost treasures will be rereleased in an affordable MP3 or CD format.  After all, we’ve seen it happen many times over the past few years.  Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, Stephanie Laurens’ Devil’s Bride, and Katherine Sutcliffe’s Notorious are just a few excellent examples of those cassette tape offerings that, after a number of years, finally appeared and became available to many of us rather than just a few with deep pockets and the willingness to listen on a cassette tape player.

What are some of those cassette tape jewels just waiting in the wings for an affordable format?  At the top of my list is Lisa Kleypas’ Suddenly You.  Although I sold many of my cassette tape romances on eBay a number of years ago, I just couldn’t let this one go.  If you can find the cassette tape format, it currently sells in the $70–$80 range (I found only two copies) or it’s now available in CD format at Recorded Books for $46.95.  The most excellent Jill Tanner narrates and I know this one would thrill many a romance audio fan.  So, when will Recorded Books let go and let more of us enjoy Suddenly You at a more reasonable price?

Also sitting at the top of my desired rerelease audiobook list is One Summer by Karen Robards.  I’ve had it on my Wish List at half.com for five years now just waiting for notification of an affordable copy.  Checking around earlier this week I discovered that One Summer is narrated by Kate Fleming (yes – that’s Anna Fields) – how had I missed that?  Still, the asking price was more than I wanted to spend, so I emailed my daughter (whose been asking just what I wanted for my birthday) and I’m pretty sure I’ll be listening to this one in August (I saw one disappear from Amazon’s offerings).  Yes, I’ll have to be pulling out my trusty old Sony Walkman Sports cassette tape player but, honestly, a favorite book and Anna Fields?

morning gloryAnother oldie I’ve been hunting for quite a while now is LaVyrle Spencer’s Morning Glory.  It’s easy to find in the abridged version but it is out there, somewhere, in unabridged format.  Recorded Books produced it in 2003, I have an ISBN number, and Kate Forbes narrates.  I’m really hoping it’s rereleased one of these days in MP3 or CD format but it’s another one I’d happily listen to in cassette tape format.

Mary Balogh’s More Than a Mistress also falls into that hard to find cassette tape category (I could find no copies for sale) and it’s one that still sits in my audio library.  It’s not on my relisten list since narrator Jenny Sterlin performs the part of the Duke (already a harsh character) just a little too harshly for my ear.  Regardless, More Than a Mistress is a well known older Balogh that occupies a place on many a reader’s favorites list and one I believe would work well as a rerelease.

As I prepared for this column, I discovered that Connie Brockway actually has a few unabridged audiobooks as well and all three are affordable, although used, and offered only in cassette tape format.  It’s the McClairen Isle trilogy, The Passionate One, The Reckless One, and The Ravishing One.  I’m unfamiliar with narrator Donata Peters but I would certainly give these a try in MP3 or CD format.

When it comes to contemporary romance, there are a good number of gems crying for rerelease as well.  Karen Robards 1990s titles are often available as unabridged audiobooks (although there are even more abridged titles) but most are offered only as cassette tapes.  Among those I hopefully can enjoy on my MP3 player someday are The Midnight Hour (narrated by Barbara Rosenblat, no less), Ghost Moon, and Walking After Midnight.  And then there’s Ruth Wind’s In the Midnight Rain available in cassette tape and CD format (but not affordably – those I saw started around $50.00).  And one I really want to get my hands on is Judith McNaught’s Someone to Watch Over Me.  It’s another one narrated by the incomparable Barbara Rosenblat but, unfortunately, there are few available.  Prices start at $85.00 and that’s in cassette tape format.  The sheer improbability of ever owning this particular audio drove me to check with my library and they have it!

Only one abridged audiobook sits on my rerelease hope list and that is Penelope Williamson’s Heart of the West.  I recently found it in my cassette tape library in a relatively untouched stack along with several other abridged romances (a few with the plastic covering still in place).  I clearly recall the day I made that stack.  It was after I listened to the 2 hour and 54 minute train wreck of an abridged audiobook, A Knight in Shining Armor, by Jude Deveraux (why, oh why wasn’t there an unabridged version?).  But as I look closely at Heart of the West, I see that its length is approximately 5 hours and is narrated by Amy Brenneman.  I think this is one abridged book that just may work.  I may even venture listening to it now rather than waiting for an uncertain rerelease.

Game of KingsLastly, I must mention a series that doesn’t fall into the romance category but is cherished by many romance readers – Dorothy Dunnett’s The Lymond Chronicles.  I’ve often wondered in the past if these were available (and at the same time wondered if I could get all the myriad of details straight in audio format) but still it sounded like a fine thing to me.  Earlier this week, I discovered that all six in the series are indeed available in audio format but in very sore need of greater availability and repricing.  The first three Game of Kings, Queen’s Play, and The Disorderly Knights are available in CD format through Recorded Books while I found the last three, Pawn in Frankincense, The Ringed Castle, and Checkmate in cassette tape format used on Amazon or available for rental through Recorded Books.  The lowest list prices range from $75.00 to $154.00 each.  It sounds great but obtaining the entire series appears not only expensive but complicated as well.  It looks like it’s time to check your local library system if you’re interested (mine only had two of the six).

Of course, along with the hopeful anticipation that we may one day see these missing treasures rereleased comes the sense of adventure in seeking them out in their current format (I so enjoy the thrill of the hunt) and vigilantly watching for news concerning their possible rerelease.  However, if I’m serious about listening to many of these hard to find audiobooks in cassette tape format, it’s obvious that I need to become very well acquainted with my local library system.

Audible Applications for Mobile Phones

Earlier this month, Audible released applications for iPhones and Blackberry smartphones.  Diana has been working with Audible this past month as a volunteer beta tester for their new iPhone app and I asked her to share her impressions:

The app is very pretty, visually pleasing, and I love the library format and sort options. You get cover art and blurbs! I tested on a 3GS phone with 4OS software and had no problems. Navigation is quite clever and intuitive.

It went up in the Apple app store today (free) and I highly recommend. Droid version is still in beta testing and will be available soon.

The most obvious – and surprising – lack is the ability to purchase through your device. I told them that is a must! I think they have enabled multitasking but it may work only on 4G phones and iPad.

What I like very much —

* Choice of sorting criteria: Recent, Title, Author

* Ability to bookmark and annotate

* Share — I sent an update via Twitter

* The book blurb and cover art

* Button-free swiping (I love this!)

* Sleep timer

* I’ve had bookmark failure (does not restart, but goes to beginning when resumed) on iPhone, but not iPod, before. No problems with the app.

Thanks Diana!

MP3 Cases

I have a 4th generation iPod nano and prefer a clip on case to allow for easy attachment to my shirt or waistband.  Although I didn’t really care for it, I purchased Apple’s clip on case only to have it break within several months.  Figuring I had somehow unknowingly abused it, I purchased a second Apple clip on case only to have it break yet again (and I treated it very gently – just used it a dozen times a day).  The Apple store offers no other clip type case (spring loaded variety) and I find myself greatly inconvenienced and unable to locate another around town.  I must add that I had no problem with my previous generation two iPod nano clip on case (not an Apple product) and used it for three years.  Does anyone have a good source for cases not only for Apple products but other MP3 players as well?

Time for Your Thoughts

What older hard to find audiobooks do you want to see rereleased?

Do you listen to audiobooks on a cassette tape player or would you if that were your only option?

Do you know where to locate some of these hard to find romances?

What is your favorite audiobook that is available only in cassette tape format?

Will you be utilizing Audible’s new mobile phone apps?

Do you know of a reliable source for MP3 cases?

And as always, do you have any recent audiobook success of failure to share with us?

Ending Notes

I’m announcing new audiobook releases as they occur each weekday on Twitter.  I don’t cover every new release but attempt to include the more significant titles.  To follow me on Twitter, look for LeaAAR.

For those new to our Speaking of Audiobooks column, please check out our audio archives.

I’ll be back with you again later this month when we discuss August audiobook new releases.

– Lea Hensley