Accessible Audiobook Production: General Recording Notes
This resource discusses some general technical guidelines that can be used when planning out audiobook production and post-production.
This resource provides guidelines around what sections of a book should be recorded, and offers some discussion around approaches and options for footnotes/endnotes, and image descriptions.
Audiobook Production, Image Descriptions, Strategic Planning
Checklist, Standards and Best Practices
Before you read this, you might want to read:
Unless an agency decision has been made to the contrary, almost all sections of the book should be narrated, including:
Footnotes/endnotes, bibliographies, etc. have commonly been excluded. They should be recorded, and incorporated in a way that works for the publisher and author.
Include a file for the front cover. This should include the title of the book, the author name, and any other text that may be on the front of the book, as well as a brief image description of the front cover.
A table of contents is not necessary to record, as long as the files are presented in the correct order and have embedded track number information – that way, the reader has access to an overview of the contents of the book. However, including a table of contents causes no problems, so the choice is yours.
Foot/endnotes can be recorded in different ways.
In the context of MP3 formats, one approach is to record the notes as a separate file per chapter, and placing the file after their corresponding chapter. The narrator would name only the note reference inline, for example:
“In AD 5, the Romans again stood on the banks of the River Elbe. Note thirty-seven.”
And then record all notes on their own, in a separate file.
The completed files would be presented as, for example,
This way, they are available to readers, while also being easily skippable.
Another approach within the MP3 format is to narrate the footnotes completely inline for example:
“A chance inscription tells us that one of the legions in Cilicia had the numeral XVIII. (Note 16: Models of seigeworks undertaken by Caesar’s army can be seen in the Musée National des Antiquités, Paris.) From this evidence, some have discerned a clockwise numbering system…”
In the DAISY format, notes can be narrated inline, then tagged as such so that they are skippable for the reader while reading. This makes DAISY the most accessible format in terms of navigation.
Whether or not to include image descriptions is a choice that the author and publisher should make together, whenever possible. The things to consider are:
When it is decided that a book will have image descriptions, they should be prepared ahead of time, and shared with the narrator in a separate document.
When preparing your descriptions make sure to stay within the complexity of the book i.e. don’t use words that are more complex than the primary text.
Here are some basic image description guidelines:
For more detailed information on developing image descriptions, please check out the following resources:
There are a few places that image descriptions can be included, and again, this is something that we recommend the author and publisher decide together.
If the images are integral to the telling of the story, then the best place to include them might be as they come up in the text. It is important to indicate to the reader that the text is an image description so the description should begin with text that says “A photo of…”, “A drawing of…”, etc. It is important that the reader knows that the description is not part of the main text. Another approach can be to state “Producers Note” before a description, and “End Producers Note” when the description is finished.
If the images are not integral to the narrative, or perhaps don’t need to be shared as soon as they appear in the book, then it may be best to include them in a separate recording/section, similar to the footnotes approach. So, a book’s list of files may appear as:
This way, the reader can easily choose whether to listen to the section, or skip it.
Good narration is a big part of creating a great audiobook. Make sure that narrators and/or your ebook producers know about these guidelines. They enhance both accessibility and overall quality!
Illustrated children’s books present a unique challenge when it comes to recording audio. This resource discusses a few approaches you may consider.
This specification from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) offers a format to mark up audiobooks, which primarily involves marking up the heading structure but does also allow for including related text content. As of this writing in late 2021 it does not have a great deal of support yet by reading systems.
Content Source Acknowledgement
Accessible Publishing.ca: Audiobook Recommendations for Publishers