Welcome to the Better Reading podcast. Stories behind the story, brought to you by Bolinda audio. Listen to Bolinda audiobooks. Anywhere, everywhere.
CHERYL: Hi, this is Cheryl Arkle for the Better Reading podcast. Stories behind the story. We talk to authors about how they came to tell us their story. Rebecca Herrmann, welcome to Better Reading.
REBECCA: Thank you, wonderful to be here.
CHERYL: Now I am going to introduce you because our listeners will be very, very familiar with your voice and they’re probably thinking, ‘What’s going on?’ Rebecca does the intro and outro for this podcast and she is the founder of Bolinda audio.
REBECCA: I am. Actually, I completely forgot that I did the intro and outro, you’re so right!
CHERYL: That’s right, so your voice is going to be familiar. We’ve got you in here – this is unusual, ’cause we usually only talk to people that have written a book – but we feel that your story is worth telling and we think that our listeners would love to hear about it. So, I want talk about your career. But I also want to talk about audio and the change that we’ve seen over the years in the way that people take stories in.
REBECCA: Yes, yeah.
CHERYL: OK, so tell me firstly about Bolinda audio.
REBECCA: OK, Bolinda audio. It seems like such a long time ago. I was very fortunate that my grandparents were booksellers, so I grew up in a home of lots of books and opening books from Penguin Books and places like that. So I was exposed to books from a very young age.
CHERYL: I didn’t know that. Where did you grow up?
REBECCA: I was born in Essendon and grew up in Keilor Park and my great grandparents had a bookstore in Collins Street back in the 40s and 50s.
CHERYL: So this is Melbourne, Victoria, we’re talking.
REBECCA: Yeah, this is Melbourne, exactly! I forgot that I was in Sydney. Yes, that was in Melbourne. And then my grandfather joined the business and turned it into, ultimately, a library supply company when libraries took off. I think it was in the 50s or 60s.
CHERYL: So you’ve got a bit of entrepreneurial in your blood, don’t you?
REBECCA: I do. I’m fourth generation, I think my dad was meant to lose it, or whatever! So it’s fourth generation essentially, but all very different businesses. But the passion for books and reading and libraries and bookstores and everything came from being around that.
CHERYL: So there’s a thread. It’s not that you’ve gone off to sell walnuts or anything like that!
REBECCA: No, no, there’s a thread. Loving books and just spending a lot of time in libraries when I was a really young girl. My grandfather used to take me on showroom trips and things like that, and to every library, basically, in Victoria. Then my dad did as well. He joined the business, I think it was for 12 or 18 months, and you know like all family businesses that either works or it doesn’t, and it didn’t. But in that period of time he started distributing audiobooks from the UK into Australian libraries on cassette. So this is back in the late 80s.
CHERYL: Wow, so your dad was working for your grandfather and that didn’t work out so well.
REBECCA: Yes, that didn’t work out so well, no.
CHERYL: OK, so then was it that business that formed into Bolinda audio?
REBECCA: It did, yes. So it actually had another life before that. Phil – who’s my father – is very innovative. He’s a true entrepreneur. He’s always looking for new ideas. And he loves libraries. And he’s a sales person, you know. So, lots of relationships.
CHERYL: I ran into him!
REBECCA: Oh, did you?
CHERYL: In the QANTAS Lounge a long time ago. It would have been at least, I don’t know, eight or nine years ago and we exchanged business cards, two total strangers. He just started talking to me and pitching the business.
REBECCA: Yeah, it doesn’t matter where I am in the world, somebody knows him! So he’s a real people collector and he’s just very proud of the business. And he’s still in the business, which is fantastic.
CHERYL: He’s your little viral marketing tool.
REBECCA: He absolutely is. It’s unbelievable – whether it be debut authors that he meets or self-published authors – there’s always someone. And he calls on libraries for us all over the country. He’s had relationships for 40–50 years with a lot of our customers and he still loves it. I mean, he’s starting to wind down and he always talks about this exit strategy, but I can just see that if he was to stop the sparkle in his eye would fade and we don’t want that to happen.
CHERYL: No, ’cause it’s essentially part of who you are.
REBECCA: Yeah. So he started a large print publishing company, essentially, while he was in his father’s business. At the time there was a lot of large print books and audiobooks coming into Australia from overseas markets. But there was really nothing – no one – really advocating for Australian authors and Australian voices which Australians wanted to listen to and read in large print and on audio. So, he really pioneered Australian voices in those two categories in a massive way. Because we were like, ‘We’ve got better authors than just overseas authors and we need to make them available in more accessible formats.’ At the time libraries very much had separate budgets from their book budgets to buy these large print books and to buy audiobooks on cassette.
CHERYL: Isn’t that interesting? You know that a lot of the publishers in this country are owned by multinationals or owned by parent companies that are either in the UK or the US. It hasn’t been until the last 10 years that we really have been concentrating on Australian content and Australian writers.
REBECCA: That’s right.
CHERYL: But he was doing it way back then.
REBECCA: He was, yeah. Every time that I go to the ABIAs and they do this wonderful video of Australian authors over the years, I think, ‘Gee, our business has published in some shape or form – whether it be large print books or audiobooks – one of those authors.’ It’s incredible.
CHERYL: It is incredible.
REBECCA: Our back catalogue of audiobooks are some of the best Australian authors to have ever lived, which is fantastic.
CHERYL: And what’s really interesting, too, is that they were all very different businesses. Bookstore, library suppliers, large print, audio … But it’s all coming to the one point, isn’t it?
REBECCA: It is now.
CHERYL: It’s kind of progress, yeah?
REBECCA: Yeah. Large print hasn’t moved outside of libraries.
CHERYL: No, it’s too bulky.
REBECCA: It is. And it’s shrinking. And now, with eBooks you can increase the size and all of that. So large print has – not that it’s had its day – it’s just got more niche, and smaller than ever. And audiobooks have just defied everything in terms of consumption. When I started out I went to my dad. He basically gave me a job when I was studying at uni, when I used to be an international model.
CHERYL: Oh were you?
REBECCA: Yeah I was. I went from modelling … Again, my dad created all these opportunities for me. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, but I’ve always just loved working. You know, that’s been my number one thing, I’ve always wanted to be busy and be doing something and making a difference. And he always said to me, ‘Just always do what you love.’ So that’s what I really pursued.
CHERYL: Do you know, before you came today, my team was asking about you because we work with you and they hadn’t met you. And I said, ‘OK, I’m going to describe it. She’s beautiful. She’s larger than life and she walks into a room and she has a presence.’
REBECCA: Oh wow, thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much.
CHERYL: And that is you. It really is you. And then you brought that to business. Tell me how that happened.
REBECCA: So again, it goes back to my dad, incredible man. He gave me a job.
I went to school early so I’d finished high school and started university when I was 18. He’s massively into harness racing and he needed somebody to enter this modelling competition, Fashion on the Field. So I rock up, I’m dressed in whatever. He said, ‘You have to go into this competition, but you’re not gonna win it.’ And I said, ‘That’s fine.’ So I was in it, he introduced me to a modelling agent and I started modelling. And in between modelling and studying, he gave me a job. Basically [I was] selling audiobooks from British publishers to public libraries. He gave me the New South Wales territory, so I used to drive. I used to fill the boot of my car with audiobooks.
CHERYL: So you lived in Sydney?
REBECCA: No, I lived in Melbourne! I used to fill the boot in my car with all these audiobooks on cassette. I used to take crates into libraries and they would select them and I would write up by hand, all of the orders. And he gave me the audiobook Time to Kill by John Grisham. He said, ‘It goes for nine hours, you would have finished it by the time you get there,’ and I was absolutely addicted.
CHERYL: Hang on a second, so you commuted?
REBECCA: I commuted, yes. Listening to audiobooks!
CHERYL: From Melbourne to Sydney – a nine-hour drive for those of our listeners who live overseas! You can only do that when you’re young.
REBECCA: I think you can, ’cause I think, ‘Gee would I do that now? No.’ But I think, that’s what made me who I am, you know? And it’s all that time spent out with customers and knowing what they were trying to do for their customers.
CHERYL: How long would you stay here?
REBECCA: Oh, two or three weeks at a time.
CHERYL: Right, OK. And then drive back.
REBECCA: I used to write huge orders. You know, I used to have $200,000 weeks. It was unbelievable, calling on every library throughout Sydney, essentially. It was fantastic. I used to love it ’cause I used to drive around and listen to these audiobooks and I could hand sell them.
Then what happened is (I had done modelling stints overseas) I came back one time and I said, ‘You know Dad, there’s really nobody producing audiobooks by Australian authors. And I think I know how to do it, because I’m in the modelling industry. I’ve spoken to my agents. Booking actors would be the same as booking models. They’ve given me the rundown on it. Let’s do it.’ And he was like, ‘Yeah, OK, let’s do it.’
CHERYL: So being read by Australian voices.
CHERYL: Yeah, that’s a moment isn’t it?
REBECCA: It is, and it was through my relationships with my agent who was Greg Tyshing in Australia. He introduced me to Terence Donovan and he was one of the first people who I hired to narrate an audiobook for us. Which was The Breaker by Kit Denton (which is Andrew Denton’s father).
CHERYL: Wow, it’s extraordinary that a modelling career can have that transferable skill.
REBECCA: It is, absolutely. I think for the first 10 years of my career I just lived in fear, because I was dealing with all these big publishers who had published books, and I felt so out of my depth. I’m like, here I am, I’ve got an arts degree, my family’s entrepreneurial, I’m trying to get this business off the ground and I just need them to have faith in what it is that I’m doing.
At the time the Australian Broadcasting Corporation was massive and unbelievably well-funded. They were doing a lot on audio, but it was all abridged. They were doing a lot of the live reading on radio and they were just hiring some of the best names in the business. So basically, this was mine and my dad’s money, we’d mortgaged everything and we started small and we just chipped away at it. I can’t tell you how many times it was just like a ‘No’ and a ‘No’ because we’re up against the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
CHERYL: What do you mean it was a ‘No’? Talk to me about that, the process of it.
REBECCA: Just in terms of going to publishers and asking them to sell audiobook rights to me – to take a chance on me and what vision I had for the audiobook category for the next ten, twenty, thirty years. So my big break actually came from Bryce Courtenay, believe it or not. So, I had pitched and pitched and pitched to Peg McColl at Penguin. And she said, ‘I’ve got a meeting set up for you with Bryce.’ She said ‘Make sure you wear colour,’ because I always used to wear black because I was a model and all of that. It’s easy, and you know, I think you always look good in black.
CHERYL: Yeah, yeah.
REBECCA: And so I had lunch with him (I think the Melbourne casino had just opened at the time) and he actually did write me a note. He said, ‘You’re really smart. You’ve got heaps of passion. And I know your business is going to go places, and so I’d be really honoured to have you publish all of my books on audio throughout the world, as long as I can be involved in the casting process,’ which he was. And seriously, we discovered one of the most amazing voices in the history of audiobooks, which is Humphrey Bower, who has read all of [them]. We basically published all of Bryce’s books back to back.
CHERYL: Read by him?
REBECCA: Yeah, read by Humphrey Bower, for six months, I think. So Humphrey went in, beautiful like he’d been on holidays, and came out and he was exhausted. He said, ‘I can’t read another book for a while!’ So that was the big break, because at the time (this was in the 90s) Bryce was the number one seller in this market, he was a number one author. He’d written Louie the Fly, advertising and all of that. He was incredible. So he came from it at a completely different angle. He understood storytelling, he understood what it is that I was trying to do. This is when the category really didn’t exist except for selling it to libraries and for it serving a purpose for people who are blind, you know that was it.
CHERYL: I was going to say that. Having him, for one, the books were incredibly popular and still are.
REBECCA: Look, they’re still in our top ten, believe it or not.
CHERYL: But also he did have that agency background. He had that advertising. So he knew marketing. He would have got it. He’s visionary.
REBECCA: He did, he got it straight away. And I’m just so grateful that he saw in me just that spark and that passion because for the first 15–20 years of my career it was a real hard slog. There was no iTunes and there was no digital downloading. There really was only this cassette market and it wasn’t growing anywhere near the rate at which it is now. It’s been a really long churn for many, many years.
I just really think that audiobooks are one of the most democratic forms of reading, because you don’t have to be literate to really experience such a wonderful story. And audiobooks, they get into your soul. You feel them and you experience them and they really change lives. That really kept us going. And just the US market, as well, because it progressed at a higher rate than what Australia did at the time.
CHERYL: Talk to me about the change in technology in that time, because you’ve seen cassettes, CDs …
REBECCA: Cassettes, CDs, then MP3 CDs and now downloading. So, cassettes no longer exist – even though it’s only been probably the last five years that some libraries in the UK have stopped buying them.
CHERYL: Oh, only as recently as five [years]?
REBECCA: Yeah, well I know a lot of people think that it’s all going [towards] download and it certainly is, but the tangibility of the physical disc is still very, very popular. It’s not huge, but it’s holding steady, which is fantastic.
CHERYL: And I would imagine it would be popular amongst a certain age group that find it hard to navigate technologies, yeah?
REBECCA: It is exactly so, and that’s why libraries continue to stock it. CDs are going really well. But we created the MP3 CD even before downloading. So it’s an MP3 file, which is the same as a download file, but distributed on a disc. It’s a tangible download file that you could play on a DVD player or in your computer or whatever. I guess what we’re up against now is computers don’t have CD drives, so it’s now come to apps, essentially. And the biggest thing that technology has done, going from cassettes to CD to MP3 CD (and you know we’re really exploring USB sticks and things like that) but download is kind of where it is: it broke down every single geographic, physical barrier to distributing and getting this content to consumers for audiobooks. That’s what it did.
So, it opened up this whole world of possibility and it was massive. Absolutely massive. But what we found was this world of possibility but not many people knew about the category. I think it’s only up until five years ago that people really, truly understood. I say I’m an audiobook publisher and they go, ‘Oh, so do you work for the blind associations and all of that?’ I’m like, ‘No. Actually, people listen to them while they do other things because people are either time poor or they’re time rich.’ So its been this massive education process of making people aware of the format and where you get it.
CHERYL: So tell me about the surge. It has been unbelievable in the last couple of years, but there are still only very few players in the market.
REBECCA: In terms of where you can buy them digitally?
REBECCA: Yeah there is. Look, Audible started their business – Don Katz started his business – when I started publishing audiobooks. So over 35 years ago it would be now.
CHERYL: Oh wow, is that how long you’ve been in it?
REBECCA: Yeah. So I published my first audiobook when I was 21, so it’s been a long a long haul in terms of the category and seeing the changes. But every year the opportunities get bigger. We obviously need to learn as a business how to navigate this digital shift, which we are, because we created BorrowBox for libraries (which is absolutely fantastic). But the dominant player is Audible and the thing is, they’ve been there the longest. They’ve been navigating this the longest, and they’re obviously Amazon-owned. And iTunes. The big game changer was music. Music has really forged the way for audiobooks, but people consume it differently, that’s the only thing.
CHERYL: And how do they consume it?
REBECCA: Listening to music – it’s like a one or two minute song. Whereas listening to an audiobook – it can be a 10-hour commitment. I think that audiobooks are growing and their popularity is growing because people can digitally access music. And, in the iTunes store, for example, audiobooks have sat alongside music. So you’ve exposed all these music listeners to audiobooks, which has been terrific. But getting them to go from listening to an album to a 10-hour listen is the biggest challenge for us.
Getting them to consume books [is a challenge] because what we find is people who listen to audiobooks, don’t read. There are avid readers who are avid listeners, but our market has very much been people who have never listened to or read a book before.
CHERYL: So you’re tapping into –
REBECCA: A completely new market altogether.
CHERYL: It’s fantastic. Another way to get story.
REBECCA: Absolutely, yeah. A big part of our business has been selling CDs through truck stops. [Selling to] truck drivers and grey nomads and people driving distances and the stories that we get back are unbelievable. What I love most about it is the families’ exposure to books. Storytelling is so important ’cause everyone’s got their story. And so when you have a truck driver who now is encouraging his children to listen to audiobooks, whereas probably naturally before they wouldn’t even pick up a book because they don’t see it, I think that’s a real game changer, full stop. [It is a game changer] for the whole business of audiobooks and content, storytelling. exposure to language, words … All of that, which is crucial for literacy.
CHERYL: Absolutely. I mean, people often ask me just through Facebook comments and through our community whether audiobooks have the same literacy value as reading books for their children. And I say to them, ‘Always, as long as they’re getting the story.’ However they consume it, really that’s just format.
REBECCA: Absolutely, and I think that reading is decoding. Listening is something completely different. The reason why audiobooks are becoming so huge is that we’re spoken to for the first five years of our life and listening comprehension precedes reading comprehension. So it just makes sense that everybody is loving listening to stories and books and ideas. And you can listen to a book that is like three or four reading levels higher than what your current reading level is as well. So it exposes all of this new language and ideas.
CHERYL: Oh, is that right?
REBECCA: So, a six year old can listen to Harry Potter. How amazing is that? And [a six year old can] understand it, but maybe wouldn’t be able to decode the words through reading. And because we produce audiobooks that are all complete and unabridged, you can actually read along, so you’ve got the book and the audio together if you like. I know my daughter, Sienna, she’s just read Animal Farm by George Orwell, which we published. I’m like, ‘You should do the book and audio together. It’s going to help you understand it so much more.’ She says it’s the best thing she ever did because she’s still got that sound of the narrator, in the voice of the old pig, or the horse or the crow or whatever in the story, and it just resonates with her brain and her thinking about the story.
CHERYL: How old is she?
REBECCA: She’s 13.
CHERYL: 13. I want to talk about that generation because they are listening more.
REBECCA: They are.
CHERYL: And so I hear – I don’t have any stats around this, it’s just the bits and pieces that I read – that people are for instance, deciding not to drive because they want to listen to music or podcasts or listen to a book. So young people more and more are becoming listeners, aren’t they? Do you have stats around that?
REBECCA: They are, they are. I’ve got my own personal experience from my kids. My eldest daughter, she’s turning 21 this year, she’s even using the robotic voice on her computer to read her study notes rather than reading them. She said, ‘I just understand it so much more.’ They’re always on the go. They get this freedom associated with listening while they do other things. It’s just a new way, I guess. There’s audible learners and there’s learners who learn from reading and writing. And I think that there are more [people] on the audible side – and visual side – then there is any other way. It’s just exposing them to so much more than they ever have before.
CHERYL: OK. Do you think it will change books as we know it? Well, books is the format, but let’s say [will it change] the story style as well?
REBECCA: Yeah. Whenever we have an author come into the studio, they’re always like, ‘Gee, I wish I had to read it first aloud, because I would have written it differently.’
CHERYL: Yeah wow.
REBECCA: So I think from the perspective of authors narrating their own books, there are potential changes, if that was your question. In terms of how authors think about how their book will be read out aloud and what it would mean to the listener listening to somebody read it to them.
CHERYL: Yeah, that was my question. That’s so interesting.
REBECCA: That’s changing a lot. Morris Gleitzman always says to me, ‘The book’s not getting shipped to the printer until I’ve read it out aloud and been in the studio to record it,’ because he makes changes, and he sees the work in a completely different light than what he would just reading it back to himself. And we’ve had a lot of authors who say, ‘Gee, I wish I had have read this out loud before I actually submitted the final to the publisher to print it.’ So, I think there will be changes, there’s no doubt. I think that audiobooks are going to be in themselves their own ecosystem. I think there will be books that get created into audiobooks and there will just be audiobooks – so there will be books that maybe don’t get picked up to be made into books or whatever, they will be audiobooks.
CHERYL: Like eBooks?
REBECCA: Yeah, but in a different way. I think that if I’m getting a book that is only for audio we will work alongside the author to make sure that it can be brought to life audibly rather than it being correct grammar or whatever may be [important] in terms of a physical book. So we’re actually editing it for an audio experience rather than for a physical reading experience.
CHERYL: I want to talk about that process ’cause I’m having trouble getting my head around it. OK, so describe to me how that happens … So, you’ve chosen a story that you’re going to read…
REBECCA: Yeah, yes.
CHERYL: Firstly, finding a reader?
REBECCA: So the first thing we have to do is, obviously, read the book and speak to the author. We always want to know from the author the voices of the different characters in their head, how they visualize them, what they would be like, what their personality traits would be.
What’s interesting about what we do is having a single voice read an entire book. In some instances for example, the Kate Morton book that we just produced The Clockmaker’s Daughter, there were 16 characters. Joanne Froggatt had to have a different voice, tone of voice, personality for all of them, and it had to be a real seamless experience. So who we cast, how we do it has to do with: How much dialogue is there? Is it a female protagonist? What country is the book set in? What other characters have voices from other countries? That might be, you know –
CHERYL: Accents, yeah?
REBECCA: Whatever it may be. A lot of people call them actors but really they’re narrators. They’re bringing this story to life. They’re taking on all of these characters, and they’re doing dialogue between the British, the Russian, the Chinese, all of that all together. And you wouldn’t know it could be a single voice. So it really is a complete art.
CHERYL: That is. It seems like a very difficult job.
REBECCA: It is absolutely a difficult job. So what our narrators or actors do: they use a highlighter and go through the book, a lot of the time. And give every character a different colour, essentially, so then they know who the character is, and so on. There has been a lot of trial and error. We have done some books where we, you know, maybe didn’t pay enough attention to detail and we’ve got to the end of the book and it said, ‘she said in her Scottish accent,’ and we made her English. So we had to go through and re-record everything. I’m like, ‘OK, this is just to keep us on our toes. It’s all fine.’ We can do that. We can fix it.
CHERYL: So, how long does it take? It’s months of preparation isn’t it?
REBECCA: It is, yeah. The actors normally read the book a couple of times, prepare, get it ready. There are some who, you know, it’s their craft. The ones who are just doing narration day in day out are absolute experts. And it’s like the 10,000 hour rule, right? The more they do it, the better they get at it. It’s their art. It’s their craft.
Usually to record and make the audiobook … If it takes 10 hours to listen to from a consumer’s point of view, it’ll take maybe 40 hours to record and produce and master so it’s beautiful. For children, it’s actually a lot higher ’cause we like to score all of our audiobooks with music and sound effects and fun stuff, essentially, for children. So it’s really a pure entertainment experience. That can take, it might be one hour, but it might take us 10 to 20 hours to produce it. So it just really depends. We put a lot more vigour into the whole kids’ experience because of the amount of entertainment materials that we’re competing with for kids. Kids are very visual these days, you know. So to have this only audio experience, it’s gotta be unique and amazing.
CHERYL: So the types of people that you have in the team would be … So it’s going to be narrators. But it’s also going to be –
REBECCA: Producers and sound engineers.
CHERYL: Yeah, wow.
REBECCA: And what we try to do is make it as a collaborative process as what we possibly can. So we like the authors to be involved every step of the way. They were always on speed dial with us. If there’s something we’re not sure about, we always go back to them. Say, ‘What do you think? We wanna do it this way.’ Or you know, ‘We’re having trouble researching this name. Can you give us some insight or help us out?’ Our goal, ultimately, is to remain as true as we possibly can to the written work, and bring it to life in a way that’s just true and as authentic to that as we possibly can – which I think we’re generally successful at doing because our ratings on Audible and iTunes are very high.
CHERYL: You’ve got a great reputation, yeah?
REBECCA: We’re normally in the four or five star reviews, but it’s the quality of what we do. I think that we just go above and beyond because nothing’s worse than having the opportunity to pitch your audiobook to a listener, and it’s a horrible experience. They’ll never listen again!
CHERYL: You don’t and really, if it’s not good to start with, you don’t stay with it, do you?
REBECCA: No, you don’t.
CHERYL: Now talk to me about BorrowBox because, again, I think that is a really unique idea.
REBECCA: It is, and it wasn’t only our idea, I think the amazing part about BorrowBox …
Look, it’s such a great story and I love that product so much. Unabridged audiobooks are really long. So, to download them can be quite a slow process, so we had a lot of a lot of stuff that we had to figure out. We were born out of a library supply business, essentially, and what we wanted to do was help libraries throughout the world navigate this digital shift from physical CDs to digital audiobooks and we wanted to make the user experience unbelievable.
So basically my husband, who owns the business along with me – so my father is not retired, but [my husband and I] wanted to keep investing in the business and my parents said, ‘Yeah, we love what you do and we want to watch you grow. But we’re kind of done in terms of where we’re at. We want to still help you,’ – and you know my parents have been an incredible help with my daughters. And my dad [has helped] in terms of bringing in sales and all of that so it is a family affair. But they get to enjoy their life and –
CHERYL: It’s next generation.
REBECCA: It’s next generation and my husband is incredible because he came into the business and you know, incredible guy, unbelievably smart. He’s the CEO and I’ve always been very creative and love content and love books. And he’s been the complete opposite of that. So you know, running the business, running the finances, great in terms of developing new products, technologically.
CHERYL: I was going to ask you that, do you have a technical brain?
REBECCA: Well I do to a point. I’m really detailed even though I don’t give myself credit for it. And you know, I’ve had to do stuff and teach myself things. When I was growing the business, I had to do all the finance and accounts and all of that kind of stuff, because there was no one else to do it and I couldn’t afford to pay anybody, right? I keep saying to everybody in my business, ‘You know I used to pack the audiobooks,’ and all of that. It’s good to do those things. It’s wonderful now that I don’t have to and I’ve got this great team of people who do.
Being an Australian publisher, I think that our isolation often works against us, but also gives us this opportunity. No one is ever going to take our books, our audiobooks, and sell them the way that we do with the passion and the love and the care.
So there’s been a number of American companies who have a similar download solution that are aggregators, but we’ve always been about the content. The Australian content and really serving the needs of individual communities, so we created BorrowBox.
CHERYL: Someone is at the door guys. [Pause]. Go on.
REBECCA: So we created BorrowBox. Essentially it’s like an iTunes or an Audible that you can basically get in your public library and you can authenticate it with your public library membership. And it enables you to borrow eBooks and audiobooks by way of digital loans. So, that’s two-week loan periods at a time. It’s available online on a website but you can also get it via an app. So you’ve basically got your public library in your pocket 24/7.
CHERYL: So how does that technology work?
REBECCA: So how it works … Look, we built it. Essentially, that’s what we did. So first of all, what we had to do was make sure that the user experience with getting audiobooks digitally was super easy. We had to make it completely interoperable. And what that means is we wanted it to work on any operating system, whether it be a Windows-based operating system or an iOS. And then we were just fortunate enough for apps to come into play. So with BorrowBox basically everything happens within the app. You authenticate, similar to online banking.
CHERYL: It’s fantastic, yeah.
REBECCA: You know with your local library and you’ve got your library shelf there on your phone, iPad, you name it. You can just borrow the digital books. And inside the app is an eBook reader and also an audiobook player. We had to remaster all of our audiobooks so you could download them in half an hour segments at a time. So you could start listening instantly because the files were so big. And it’s available now in every public library in Australia except for a few. And we opened in the United Kingdom, I think it was maybe seven years ago, so the whole country of Ireland runs it, you know, and 75% of libraries in Great Britain. We’re in the Netherlands and forging into Europe, and it’s amazing.
CHERYL: So do you sleep much?
REBECCA: Well I try to. It’s a 24/7 thing you know. Even for my kids, the business is who we are. I often say to people, I spend time with myself in the morning. I get up at 5:00 AM and do my morning routine. My mentor, Robin Sharma, helps me keep my head right, so I feel like I can do what I do, and then my kids. Then, obviously the business and obviously my marriage and relationship and family is all in that …
CHERYL: Yeah, yeah, it’s a lot of work.
REBECCA: And then I have this incredible book group as well. We read books together, and it’s all these amazing entrepreneurial women, which is fantastic. And then I travel. My husband’s German. His family lives in Germany. We do a lot of travel and we’ve got this amazing team of you know, 15 people in the UK who are doing their thing with all of our content over there.
So we’ve kind of gone from publishing every major Australian author to expanding on that now. So we have a UK market editorial strategy and Australia, New Zealand, US, you name it. So we’re publishing everything which is fantastic.
CHERYL: There’s no stopping you, Rebecca. We love being associated with you. I have always – way before I met you and way before I even met your dad – I loved the brand and I love the idea of it. So, it’s such a privilege to work with you. Thank you.
REBECCA: Thank you.
If you’d like more information about Better Reading, follow us on Facebook or visit betterreading.com.au.
This podcast is proudly sponsored by Bolinda audio. Bolinda audiobooks are available on CD and MP3 from online booksellers and book shops everywhere. Or you can download from Audible, Google Play or the iBook store.
We’ve also created our own app called BorrowBox that’s available from both the App Store and Google Play. All you need to do to get it working is to download the app, join your local public library and you’ll gain access to the world’s best collection of eBooks and eAudiobooks available for you to loan on your phone or your personal device.
Bolinda, we’re here to enable you to escape, imagine, grow and be inspired through the power of storytelling. Bolinda audiobooks. Anywhere, everywhere.
Lean more about Better Reading – https://www.betterreading.com.au/