Adjust Your Ariels! A New Classic Audiobook Collection

A new collection of classic literature and pulp fiction, now available as audiobooks on a monthly subscription.

Sometimes, endless choice is just too much – especially if most of that ‘choice’ is content that you have no interest in and if you are tired of wading through the chaff in search of the wheat. Sometimes, it’s nice to actually have decisions taken away and be given a curated selection – as long as it is curated, rather than simply thrown together. So new ‘classic fiction’ audiobook service Ariel Audio seems just the thing for fans of vintage fiction.

The creation of actor and writer Julian Dutton, Ariel Audio is unashamedly nostalgic, taking classic books of the past and bringing them to new life. Subscribers to sites like Audible will be aware that, much like Amazon Prime and Netflix with movies, the selection is dominated by new and recent titles, with older work not only being thin on the ground but also much harder to find. As Dutton explained to us:

“As an avid listener to audiobooks, I became a bit frustrated with Audible, in that I often wouldn’t find books I wanted to hear. Obscure books, out of print books, classics of humour and adventure that Audible simply didn’t stock. My taste is quite eclectic, and – for obvious reasons – Audible tend to focus on the current bestsellers. This is absolutely fine, but I believe there are two types of book-loving experience. There is going to your High Street Waterstones, and buying the latest shiny paperback from your favourite author: and there is stumbling across a quaint secondhand bookshop in a nearby sidestreet and browsing. You might find an old copy of a book you read years ago, and wish to re-read. You might find a book you’ve been searching for for years. You might find a classic of yesteryear you’ve always meant to read but never got round to. This is Ariel Audiobooks – the Secondhand Bookshop equivalent to Audible’s big shiny High Street Waterstones. This is our raison d’etre – we want to appeal to the eclectic, the quirky, the nostalgic. And yes, Ariel Audio is unashamedly nostalgic, but we firmly believe that a bestseller published in 1910 was a bestseller for a reason. Which is why we are proudly saying we are the ‘Talking Pictures TV’ of the audiobook world. That is our mission – to recreate that wonderful feeling of browsing in a vintage bookshop, and allow our listeners to escape to a ‘Golden Age’ of storytelling.”

Of course, many of these books – particularly public domain titles – are already available through the likes of Librivox, but as any user of that service can attest, it’s a hit and miss affair in terms of quality. Ariel will be using more professional narrators – “Initially I will be narrating the first few issues but a repertory company of fabulous readers will quicky emerge” Dutton explains – but the company’s real USP is its subscription model that sees a new title sent to you each month. I rather like the idea of someone else putting together a collection for us. Of course, individual books are also available to buy for those who just want to dabble.

The real question – and I suspect this is already on your mind – is whether or not the books will be unexpurgated. After all, old fiction – and these days, that seems to be anything written prior to 2015 – has a tendency to use words, descriptions, stories and ideas that are, shall we say ‘difficult’ for modern readers. It’s a tough choice for any business to make – do we censor to placate an audience who might not even be your customers, or do you risk offending the more delicate?

Well, fear not.

“All Ariel Audiobooks will be completely unexpurgated”, Dutton assures us. “We’re fully aware of the changing mores of history, but are of the firm belief in the ‘democracy of the dead.’ We don’t believe present books are somehow magically better morally than books of yesteryear. Human beings, and writers, have always been the same, and will always remain the same – with all their foibles, greatnesses, insights, and narrow-mindedness. Great literature written in 1896 is great literature – it is not somehow rendered ‘invalid’ or ‘incorrect’ because a contemporary commentator may disagree with the author’s worldview. The disagreement is healthy – expurgating, or even banning, the book is not.”

There’s an impressive selection already lined up, from Three Men in a Boat to The Time Machine and Sax Rohmer’s forgotten classic Brood of the Witch Queen. Subscriptions are £5.99 a month and you can find full details and listen to a sample here:

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