Fifteen Eighty Four

Academic perspectives from Cambridge University Press


What is it like to record your own audiobook?

Mike Berners-Lee

3d Berners-Lee imageAuthor Mike Berners-Lee gives us an insight into what it’s like to record an audiobook version of his book “There Is No Planet B

“ When I write, I am thinking of myself talking, which is why people say my books sound chatty and why, in a way, audio is the most natural format for There Is No Planet B. We had a great time recording it. It was my first audiobook and I didn’t know quite what to expect. I wasn’t sure how much trouble I’d have getting my words out without falling over them. In the end that wasn’t too bad, although the word ‘Statistics’ did get harder every time I said it, and there were plenty of retakes. I don’t think I’ve ever done so much talking over a three day period before. My fabulous producer, Jen, fed me with throat lozenges to keep me going and reassured me that even seasoned professional readers have to say most things twice.

It is great how much more you can convey in sound recording than in the printed word. It is much easier, for example, to get across just how funny or serious or both you are trying to be with each sentence. So I often went back over things a few times to get the intonation just right. Another of the great things about getting to read my own book is that as the author I had a totally free licence to paraphrase and adapt to make it flow as audio. I could even add in the odd stop press or fact that I’d only just discovered.

The final joy was that it gave me a chance to remember what I had actually written. Actually I was a bit fearful that I might find myself thinking ‘what a load of rubbish’ , but was pleasantly relieved most of the time.

We had set aside three days to record the whole thing, and got there just about bang on time. We might have been slightly faster if Jen hadn’t got so sucked into the book that she kept stopping me to ask me questions. But, actually, that kept it interesting for both of us. By the end, we had 25 hours of tape that edited down into just eight hours of unabridged book. That feels like a magic trick because there is no way I could read a book like mine in just eight hours, even though, whilst I’m quite a slow reader, I know I can still read a bit faster than I can talk.  What slows me down, of course, is that if a book is worth reading, I am constantly stopping to think about what is in it. So I do hope listeners will find themselves reaching to the pause button from time to time, because There Is No Planet B is intended to give you plenty to think about.

Happy Listening!”



Mike Berners-Lee is the author of There Is No Planet B, out now in paperback, ebook, on Cambridge Core, or audiobook. Find out more here.

About The Author

Mike Berners-Lee

Mike Berners-Lee consults, thinks, writes and researches on sustainability and responses to 21st century challenges. Mike is the founder of Small World Consulting, an associate co...

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