I love reading, and I’m sure a lot of you do too. But one of the drawbacks of picking up a book is that it’s an activity not exactly suited to multi-tasking. It’s fairly easy to watch and listen to the TV as you’re doing dishes or have a chat while shooting some hoops. But reading tends to require more concentration, especially with novels that tend to have no or limited pictures.
And that’s why audiobooks have become an increasingly popular option. Audiobooks are projected to grow significantly over the next few years following several years of double-digit growth. Publishers are speeding up production of new audiobooks, which also helps boost sales.
Several years ago, Vertical, Inc. tried to cash in on the audiobook boom, releasing an Attack on Titan two-part novel and several volumes of NISIOISIN’s Monogatari series in the format. They started in 2016, and a few more were added last year, but that still only totals seven audiobooks.
But now Yen Press’ Yen On imprint is trying to trying their hand at the format.
Today we're happy to announce Yen Audio, our new imprint dedicated to audiobooks! We're starting off strong with an amazing lineup of audiobooks, which includes some of our favorite Yen On titles. pic.twitter.com/6hmq8RzTxg— Yen Press (@yenpress) May 4, 2021
The company is releasing five novels under their new Yen Audio division:OverlordSolo LevelingSword Art OnlineThe Miracles of the Namiya General StoreThe Saga of Tanya the Evil
Solo Leveling volume 1 debuts in July, and after that, one to two audiobooks will come out each month until the end of the year.
Hilariously enough, on the morning of the announcement, I had just thought to myself I wished Unnamed Memory would be turned into an audiobook. But then I dismissed it because nobody does that anymore! I thought Vertical’s releases were all as old as Attack on Titan: The Harsh Mistress of the City, but either way, it’s not something heavily promoted. So while Unnamed Memory didn’t make the list, it was a funny coincidence.
But it is a good time for Yen Press (and maybe other publishers) to release some light novels in audiobook format. Japanese media sales are rising, and like with eBooks, there’s no need to worry about keeping them in-stock. Plus there are the usual benefits like listening to them on the go or allowing individuals with visual impairments to enjoy the text.
One thing Yen Press didn’t announce is who would be doing the reading. Generally, most audiobooks either have the author or a professional actor read the book. Well, it’s almost certain we can eliminate the former. Besides, audiences do tend to prefer professional voice actors for their audiobooks.
But Vertical, Inc. hired several anime voice actors to read the books: Eric Kimerer (Ryuji in Toradora!), Erica Lindbeck (Kaori in Your Lie in April), Erica Mendez (Emma in The Promised Neverland), Keith Silverstein (Mikoto in K), and Cristina Vee (Sailor Mars in VIZ’s Sailor Moon). This gave the releases a more radio drama-like experience versus just a book being read aloud. I’m not saying that a solo reader can’t put out a great performance, but I like how Vertical tried to blend the light novel and anime fandoms. It’d be nice to see Yen Audio also take this approach.
Attack on Titan: The Harsh Mistress of the City featured two actors and is clocked at over three hours and retails for $14.99, so about the price of the light novel. Volumes of Monogatari are in the six to ten hour range, and prices for those audiobooks retail for $19.99 all the way up to $34.99.
Without going into a debate about whether the convenience and production values make those audiobooks worth it, no doubt pricing like that probably causes some sticker shock. Whether all volumes of Yen Audio’s initial audiobooks get adapted likely depends on the success of these first releases, but Sword Art Online alone is over 20 volumes. So I can see why Yen Audio would want to opt for a more straightforward, simpler release as to not make completing the series unaffordable for listeners. But there are ways to bring down the cost, like subscribing to Audible for about $15 a month and using your monthly free credit on a higher-priced title.
But while I don’t see myself becoming a regular audiobook listener (I have several accrued through various deals and haven’t listened to a single one), I am glad to see more light novels heading to audiobook format. Whether for fun, convenience, or a matter of practicality, any reason to get more people into light novels — and perhaps anime or manga as well — is a welcome addition. Plus, with the potential for J-Novel Club series to be released physically through Yen Press, there are a lot of possibilities for future additions to the Yen Audio line.