We’ve just finished another yoga retreat in Pandavas Paradise (more on that in a later post!). I judge the success of a retreat on the interest the participants show in delving deeper into Krishna consciousness and taking the practice home. I always make it clear to our guests that practice (sadhana) means, above all, japa and study of KC books. So, when the guest buys his own japa beads and books at the end of the retreat, this indicates to me the message got through, by the grace of guru and Gauranga. Gladly, this happens in the great majority of the cases!
Interestingly (and rather obviously to me), the best sellers are audiobooks! BBT Brazil has currently three books in audio: 1) the entire 1st Canto of the Srimad Bhagavatam (translations and purports), 2) the entire Sri Isopanishad (Sanskrit, translation and puports) and 3) the entire Krishna Book. They were all recorded by me in Pandavas Paradise. Currently, I’m working on “The Pastimes of Sri Nrsimhadeva”, a reading of Chapters 2-10 of the 7th Canto of the Srimad Bhagavatam (translation and purports).
There are several advantages to audiobooks.
First, they are cheap to reproduce! Once the work has been done, you can give them away for free as downloads (which we do in Brazil) or you can sell them in CD-roms. In Brazil we chose the DVD box format, with two CD-roms per case. The first one is the SB 1st Canto and Sri Isopanishad and the second just the Krishna Book. Two CDs packed with MP3 files, in a nice DVD box, pretty cover and nice artwork on the CD itself. Even producing them on a small scale (we do on demand printing as it is), they come out to about US$3 each! So we resell them for about US$10. The customer gets a 1000 pages worth of amazing literature, for US$10! And we still get a big profit. Generally, audiobooks are much more expensive than printed books, but of course there is no actual reason for this, given that printed books are the ones that require so much paper, ink, trucks to move them around in, shelves to put them on, etc.
Secondly, audiobooks are becoming increasingly popular because they are so convenient! Every car these days has MP3 enabled CD players, and just about everyone has their MP3 player, iPhone, etc. So, while we’re walking around, driving to work, catching a bus, exercising, etc. we can be listening to a book. In these days where no one seems to have any free time, busily running from one place to another, from one task to the next, the audiobook fits neatly into this multitasking lifestyle. (Even temple pujaris tell me they love the books, because it allows them to listen to Krishna’s pastimes and instructions while they are busy making garlands, cooking for the Deities, etc.!)
Thirdly, and this may sound strange unless you’ve experienced it yourself, there is an extra potency in hearing these texts. This is the original “format” of the scriptures. Sure, reading is like hearing – but it’s not entirely. Hearing is slightly different – it seems to penetrate further, deeper into our consciousness.
Because of these advantages I’m much more convinced someone will actually listen to an entire 1000 pages of Srimad Bhagavatam then I am that they will read it if they were to buy the printed book.
BBT should push more for audiobooks and should recognize them by including them in the sankirtan newsletter. It’s a bit dissapointing to sell several Srimad Bhagavatams and Krishna Books in a weekend and not be able to share this glory by sending in results to the sankirtan newsletter! The time has come for us to realize that sankirtan will come in the format of e-books and audiobooks more and more. This should be encouraged and officially recognized.