Podcasted novels, recorded novels available for download online, have stirred controversy since they were first made available back in 2004. In his blog, Howard Vincent Hendrix, an American scholar and science fiction writer, lambasted authors posting free podcast novels as “webscabs” responsible for “converting the noble calling of the Writer into the life of the Pixel-stained Technopeasant wretch.”

The less-than-subtle insinuation of Hendrix’s comments—asides from that webcasted books were ruining writing as a profession—was that podcast novels would quickly saturate their niche, and that a flood of “novels written by 15-year-olds” would make it impossible for respectable publishers to sort wheat from chaff on sites like podiobooks.com.

Admittedly, successful podcasting authors like Scott Sigler, who’s featured in articles in The Times and San Francisco Chronicle, are the exception. Most who post on podiobooks.com are likely to remain unpublished pixel-stained scribblers. Nonetheless, podcasted novels still hold advantages over tradition print books for budding authors and for you the listener.

First, podcasts give authors a way to circumvent traditional publishers and directly access an audience. Publishers like Random House have been shedding jobs for years and, as a consequence, crimped the unpublished aspirations for getting their work into print. For some authors—mainly male and mainly science fiction writers like Sigler—podcasts have provided a much-needed venue for publicizing their work and attracting an audience. In Sigler’s case, tens of thousands.

For listeners, podcasted novels have multiple advantages. They’re portable; you can download them onto your iPod, sparing you the need to lug around 300 pages of text. They’re also free and filterable. You’re not bound by the tastes of a publisher or a broadcaster; rather, you can filter them for which authors and genres you prefer—whether that be science fiction, military history, or otherwise—and you can download only what you want to hear. But, most importantly, podcast novels can be enhanced acoustically; authors can add ambient noise, sound effects, and even voice actors for characters. The result can be a highly compelling package reminiscent of 30s radio broadcasts, akin to Orson Welles’s Mercury Theatre on Air, only now recorded in someone’s garage rather than in a company studio.

So, while podcasting novels won’t guarantee you fame, they still provide a quick way to attract readers and offer a portable, entertaining experience for listeners.

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