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Recently, TheBookSeller.com reported that British actor Stephen Fry’s comments about loving audiobooks on BBC2’s Top Gear have increased audiobook sales. Do celebrity endorsements and readings entice readers to purchase audiobooks? Let’s take a look…

Mr Fry:

On June 28th, Stephen Fry offered to viewers of Top Gear that he has been enjoying audiobooks while exercising. That week internet searches for the term audiobook increased by about 20%. I love Stephen Fry, so I would certainly respect his endorsement.

Stephen Fry

Stephen Fry

Fry has also embarked on a new serialized audio feature called The Dongle of Donald Trefusis, available on iTunes. I’ve just purchased the first episode and it really is incredibly funny. He has narrated several audiobooks including:

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a UK version of Harry Potter, and several children’s books such as Paddington and Tigger Comes to the Forest. His narration skills are quite good.

Other Celebrity Readers:

I began wondering about other celebrity book narrators. Essentially, narrating of this type is creating an audio performance. Who better than an actor to provide it? I found some very interesting performances…

Imagine The Edgar Allan Poe Audio Collection read in part by Vincent Price. Could there be a better match? Perhaps James Earl Jones Reads the Bible? How about John Lithgow and Ted Danson narrating Dr. Seuss’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go? Jamie Lee Curtis lent her voice to Little Women. Winona Ryder has read Anne Frank and Ben Kingsley has performed Schindler’s List. All of these and many more are available.

Does a Celebrity Reading Always Appeal?

In the cases listed above, I have to say yes. I would love to hear Vincent Price read Poe. But not all celebrity readings are matches made in heaven. Brad Pitt’s reading of All the Pretty Horses is not as heartfelt as it should be… and he obviously does not speak Spanish. But Brad Pitt fans will surely enjoy listening to his voice.

Sean Penn reading Bob Dylan’s autobiography lacks emotion is not clearly voiced. Again, it is subjective. Penn’s fans may value his reading. Joan Rivers reading Mary Higgins Clark’s Murder on the Aisle is… well, I didn’t listen. I suppose if you are a fan of Joan it would work. For me, no appeal.

Celebrity Campaigns:

The ALA has a celebrity poster campaign. Various personalities from movies, TV, and music are featured reading books. These photos are plastered on walls of libraries across the US. So why not do the same for audiobooks? If Stephen Fry can increase sales with a mere mention, think what might happen if a poster of Hugh Laurie listening to P.G. Wodehouse showed up in libraries…

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