Saturday, June 08, 2013


I just  now learned that Flo Gibson died.  Happened two and a half years ago; I wasn't informed, but I wasn't an intimate so I wouldn't have been on the phone tree.  And she was 86, so more a proper cause for a celebratory New York Times obit then for great lamentation.

You know remember Flo?  Chances are you do, even if you had forgotten her name.  Flo was the grande dame of audio books, having recorded more than 1,100 of them, mostly from a specially appointed studio in her basement.  I can't certify to the entire corpus, but I did absorb perhaps as many as 200 or so back in the 90s when I was commuting sometimes 360 miles a week.  Given that the default alternative was The Rev. Harold Camping, the infestation in those days of smalltown radio stations everywhere, I can testify that Flo's tender ministrations probably saved not merely my sanity but my entire professional career.

I never met Flo but I did chat with her once.  I achieved this prodigy by picking up the phone and dialing her number.  She responded with a brisk "hello?"  Or at least I think it was she, though how she could field phone calls while achieving her unmatchable career reading record must leave the matter open to doubt.  She answered some kind of technical/practical question for me, I have long since forgotten just what.  But then somehow I chose to abuse her good nature by engaging in a bit of chat.  Or at any rate, I recall that we talked about Trollope.  I asked her if she had to work for the English accent.  She said she deliberately chose, not precisely English, but the most plausible ersatz English that her audience would tolerate.  She did not say "ersatz."

I remember thinking years ago that her inventory must be a treasure and that  I hoped the executor of her estate would  have the good sense to preserve it, rather than just upending it into the trash.  So I am delighted to find that indeed her website is still alive, continuing to market a good deal of her classic ouevre.

But here's thing: best I can tell, the website offers only CDs and cassettes (!)--the latter at enticing bargain prices.  So, what is missing?  Right: streaming--so far as I can tell, the Gibson website has done nothing to respond to the technology of the time (which, to be fair, virtually did not exist while she was in business).  The site does include a cross-link to the all-embracing  A brief foray suggests that yes, some of the Gibson stuff is up at Audible. But so far as I can tell, it isn't particularly well-marketed--and in any event, there doesn't seem to be nearly as much at Audible as there was/is in the original inventory.

I find this puzzling.   Surely it can't be all that much of a trick to recast the CDs, even the tapes, into the streaming format.  And grant there may not be much of an Audible market.   Grant that there is never going to be much demand for Alice Dugdale--still, with marginal cost close to zero, what's the downside of just putting them all up and taking what comes?  Or better, with a little marketing, flush out all the old guys like me who had thought she had passed from the scene altogether?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i've never listened to a book. i always read them. driving, i listen to the radio. one of my trucks is so old, ('78 chevy 3.4 ton with a 454 engine -- 8 miles to the gallon with that huge block engine) it only has am radio. i dont get a lot of stations, even just am. i think if your eyesight goes and you can't read listening to books is salvation. i just bought The Commanders by bob woodward at the ardmore, tenn library for 25 cents. meant to glance through it and i'm reading it. only thing it does is confirm what a weird flake cheney was and is and what a weak sister bush senior was.