We have just got into audiobooks. It’s a great way of getting hold of new reading material without having to wait weeks for it to clear customs. They are great for summer holidays, because audiobooks can be downloaded from the Internet to your MP3 player without taking up any extra baggage space.
We have to give credit to Chaterhouse and Garden Books for improving accessibility to hard copy English language books, although it’s still not so great for native speakers of other languages such as French and Spanish. A French teacher we know said that she gets round this problem by getting visitors from France to import books and magazines whenever they can. It’s not as convenient as downloading books from the Internet.
We’ve been enjoying The Long Tail by Chris Anderson, because it’s the only book we’ve ever read (or listened to) that puts The Gang of Four in the same company as Pareto’s 20/80 rule. We like books that entertain and make us feel cleverer than we really are. They also have the famous Mao book that you are unlikely to see in mainland China for quite some time, but you can download it in just an hour or two. Hopefully, the Net Nanny has not found a way of blocking expensive audiobooks. Would she even try?
We’ve just downloaded The Perfect Thing by Stephen Levy that talks about how wonderful Ipods are, but we’re not sure how much we can trust his book, because he was given an Iphone to play with before anyone could buy one. (See this sycophantic review)
Audible.com is the most well known audiobook supplier. They sell through Itunes, but you can also buy direct from their website. They have French, German, British and American versions of the service, but alternatives exist such as Simply Audiobooks who support a wider range of languages in their catalogue. We’d be interested to know if there are any local providers of Chinese audiobooks.
Audible has a number of payment plans, but it works out cheaper if you subscribe and take part in one of their promotions. We got one free credit by going to www.audible.com/twit and setting up an account. Audible has recently been sponsoring Leo Laporte’s technology podcasts so his listeners have been encouraged to download a free audiobook, although they are banking on getting you to subscribe for longer than the two week free trial. Not all the titles are available on this free promotion outside the US.
Audible’s gold membership plan allows you to download one audiobook a month for $14.95, although the first three months are only $7.95. This might sound pricey, but they are big downloads, which playback upto fifty hours and they are no more expensive than printed books. On the other hand, data is so cheap to store and distribute that they could sell a lot more books if they lowered the price. Audible’s files have lots of digital rights management on them to stop you from making unlawful copies or playing it on Linux. You also need a credit card, although you are not locked in to the subscription.
Audible provides software downloads for Windows and Mac OS allowing you to download books and sync them to any number of MP3 players, not just Ipods. We’ve also got it running on a Windows Smartphone, but not on our Ubuntu Linux computer.
There are free alternatives. We like the Librivox project, which takes out of copyright works and rerecords them as free digital audio files for anyone to download. Podiobooks is another possibility that allows authors to record and distribute their books as free podcasts under a creative commons license. Our favourite Boing Boing digital rights activitist and science fiction author has made Eastern Standard Tribe available on Podiobooks in this way.
If anyone has any recommendations or cheap, legal alternatives then we’d love to know.
Crossposted on catshanghai
You may want to get hold of the famous book we mentioned, Mao: The Unfinished Story by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday as an audiobook from Audible or as a paperback from Amazon. You can always fly over to Hong Kong and buy it at the airport bookshop.