An explanation of what Metadata is and why it’s important
There is huge need in the audiobook industry for better cover art and metadata. I wanted a more immersive experience, not just the pop your headphones in for 2 hours and zone into an audiobook (… Yes I am guilty of this) The kind of audiobook that makes you want to dig deeper — listen longer, and potentially start your own fan club for the book? Yep. This is exactly what I was wanting. What if there was a way for us to add more detail, facts, timelines, etc into an audiobook without altering voices? Hello Metadata.
Metadata is your new best friend
What even is Metadata? When I first heard it I slumped in my chair. The truth is Metadata is really cool. To put it simply, it is data about data. Can you imagine buying an audiobook with no description? I can’t. Metadata helps you understand more information about other data!
First thing’s first, I had to pick a book for my project. I chose The Subtle Art of not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson — highly recommend reading or listening to if you have not. The difficult thing about choosing this book for me was I already love the cover art. The bold letters, the splatter — it already feels like Mark Manson was yelling at me through the cover telling me to stop over-thinking life, thanks Mark you genius.
Commence Mood Board
When I first started brain storming my initial thought was natural disasters, because they truly do not care. Volcanoes, boom. They happen for a reason sure, but when lava erupts it’s not like it’s deeply concerned about your personal feelings. I started layering lava over a picture, and then I really started hating it. I knew deep down if someone saw this cover art, they would think it was a book about volcanoes. So I did some research about Mark and found my way to his blog. One of his top read articles on his website is The Subtle Art of not giving a F*ck. In the article he has this image ( If you look closely above I pinned it as well )
First, I laughed. Then I fell in love with the idea of some hand drawn images. I searched scenarios of when people reminded me of Tim. I thought of myself specifically and how I could include a piece of me into this cover art, and then I found it. Black hair, bangs (my current hair cut )— someone not giving a f*ck like Tim. I decided to hand draw the bottom piece of the image and came up with this.
Cover Art goes South
After I turned in my first cover I realized two things. One being these girls look like they are all severely depressed. Second the title blends horribly. I tested it on Audiobook Builder and I could barely read the authors name. I took after Mark’s cover with orange and decided to brighten everything up a bit.
I have been very drawn to pastel colors lately, and found this color palette art. I pulled colors and shapes to layer underneath the background and decided to leave the girls transparent to break up their bodies and leave more space for the title. I think it captures that teen angsty feeling I was trying to get originally in my first draft.
Engaging the Audience
My next step in the design process was to create unique chapter art. When I was deciding on some different options, I came across this quote below.
“ Your purpose is to make your audience see what you saw, hear what you heard, feel what you felt. Relevant detail, couched in concrete, colorful language, is the best way to recreate the incident as it happened and to picture it for the audience.”
- Dale Carnegie
I was considering some simple drawings to tie in the chapter art, but then decided to go another route by pulling my personal favorite quotes from each chapter of the book and adding some abstract shapes and designs.
Although these are my favorites, they could also be another listener or readers favorite piece. Since I am working specifically with an audiobook I thought it would make it easier for the reader to screenshot and save these quotes without having to write down something while listening.
Down to the details
My last piece of the audiobook was figuring out how I wanted to lay out my metadata.
Placing my metadata in audiobook builder was fairly easy. It wasn’t until I got to placing comments in my chapter on iTunes that I got really frustrated. Mark Manson has a few key points in some of his chapter that I loved so much, and I knew they would tie everything in perfectly. Of course iTunes only allows very short chapter comments for audiobooks (cue eye roll). In the end I finished off my metadata with a question on almost every chapter. I wanted the audience to ponder about the chapter, and apply it to things in there own lives. I think it helps break up all the knowledge and advice in this book.
The Finale: Testing
Now after I had gotten all the pieces together I wanted to see how it would look and lay out on multiple devices.
The audiobook was only accessible through the app iBooks. There wasn’t a lot of metadata visible which was disappointing for me. Part of the experience was to see the chapter comments on an iPhone and I was never able to locate them. Another problem I ran into was my single audiobook exported into one single chapter, and then eight other chapters. I had to delete the audiobook and upload for a second time for this issue to be fixed. I’m still not sure how or why it split one chapter away from the rest of the book.
Luckily my friend has an Android phone and was able to help me a little bit on this. My favorite advantage of using an Android to listen to an audiobook is seeing the comments! There is also definitely more detail on an Android for metadata purposes, compared to what I found on iBooks. Somethings an Android device didn’t show were the chapter set and also the full description of the book.
Honestly, I was the most surprised by this one. I’ve had some serious problems with my car touch screen, and I expected no metadata to show. On the left image you can see it shows the cover art and a little bit of data. I was unable to find a way to have it show the chapter art, even though it was showing on my iPhone while playing. On the right you can see the chapter set list. It automatically ads numbers on my car screen, but it was still helpful to be able to scroll through all chapters.
Although we can enhance the experience with metadata and thoughtful immersive experiences, there still is a need for a better way to display metadata across devices. I think adding good design elements and authentic metadata can enhance the listener’s user experience. Overall I really enjoyed working on this project and expanding my knowledge of metadata.
Cassidy Bouse is a student in the Digital Media program at Utah Valley University, Orem Utah studying Web Design with an emphasis in Interaction & Design. This article relates to the DGM 2260 Immersive Authoring course and is representative of skills learned in the Metadata Project.