David Byrne’s successful book, Bicycle Diaries, probably would have sold just fine as a traditional audiobook, as well. However, never one for the status quo, Byrne wanted to do something a little more interesting than simply reading the book in silence and releasing it as a download or cd. Instead, he looked to other successful audio formats for inspiration, namely NPR shows that incorporate scene sounds and podcasts.
Starting with the chapter on New York, Byrne experimented with the sounds of the city to bring his book to life. He liked the results so much that he decided to make the whole book a fuller experience, with sounds working in tandem with the author’s essays about his experience viewing the world from his bike. Chapters are also available separately, similar to a podcast model.
Technology had, it seemed, created an opportunity for a whole new format to come into being. I’m not sure anything exactly like this has ever been done before. Sure, there are NPR radio shows with sound effects (Joe Frank comes to mind) as well as ye olde radio dramas (The Shadow was one), but if there’s anything similar out there I’m unaware of it. And yes, there are loads of downloadable audiobooks—but you have to listen to the chapters in the prescribed order, unless you are into self created meta fiction.
You can listen to and download the introduction, and pre-order the rest, which will be released on September 28.