A couple of posts ago, I mentioned my surprise and amazement on discovering that I had managed to pick Excession, the fourth book in Iain M. Banks’s Culture series, as my new read on Audible in all ignorance of the fact that it had only been released on that medium a mere 20 days earlier. I had chosen the book entirely coincidentally; it was only after I had downloaded it that I noticed Audible were actively promoting it on their website.
It also seemed odd that Excession, which was first published as a print book in 1996, would have taken so long to come out on Audible, particularly bearing in mind that later books in the same series had been available on Audible for years. It was the hoo-ha around the Audible release of Matter, the seventh book in the series, which drew the Culture books to my attention in the first place.
It turns out that Matter was the first Culture book to come out on Audible, on 15 January 2008, I believe at the same time as the launch of the print book. What I imagine happened is that Audible saw the general excitement around the release of Matter as an opportunity to kick off sales of Culture audiobooks with a bit of a bang. I saw the adverts, was intrigued and bought the audiobook on 31 January of that year.
The second Culture book to come out on Audible was the eighth in the series, Surface Detail, on 7 October 2010, again presumably to coincide with the print release. I haven’t read that one yet – having rather liked Matter I decided I would go back to the start of the series with Consider Phlebas which was first published in print in 1987. Although I hadn’t realised at the time, Audible were thinking along similar lines. They clearly decided they should be producing Audible versions of past Culture books, releasing the audiobook of Consider Phlebas on 5 November 2010. It made no difference to me because I read it as an eBook, principally because at the time I was ploughing through the Wheel of Time back catalogue sequentially on Audible.
I later decided I would go on to the second Culture book, The Player of Games, which was first published in print in 1988, and bought the Audible version on 30 January 2012. It had been available in audio form since 2 December 2010, less than a month after Consider Phlebas, so Audible were clearly then making an effort to clear the backlog.
The third Culture book is Use of Weapons, first out in print in 1990. I bought that on Audible on 5 June 2012. The Audible version had only come out on 5 April 2012, that is just 2 months earlier, but that fact had not registered with me at all. You can now see the pattern: my discovery of the Culture books via Audible (who started in the middle of the series for opportunistic reasons) has been followed by both Audible and myself proceeding to work through the series from the beginning, broadly in synchronisation.
The gap between the Audible releases of Use of Weapons and Excession probably has a lot to do with the fact that the ninth Culture book, The Hydrogen Sonata, came out in both audio and print versions on 4 October 2012.
So my reading of the series in the proper order is now very closely in step with the corresponding Audible releases. That means I will be waiting on Audible for the fifth book, Inversions, probably for some months. I could get it as an eBook, but I enjoy the Peter Kenny narration and will just have to be patient. There are other items on my wish list to keep me going.