Audio books and content

When I was about 9 I read a science fiction book. I can’t really remember what it was about, but what I do remember is that some guy was reading. Another walked by and wondered what it was he was reading. It was a book. “Wow, it has been ages since I’ve seen one of those. Why don’t you just get one of those audio books?” Audio books, hmm. In the book there was a library with all of those little ear-phone sized audio books, you’d just pick one and the book would be read aloud to you.

I always wondered why such a thing don’t exist as of yet. But apparantly, it does. Actually, it has been quite common, in particular with blind and badly sighted people. I never really saw them in normal retail, but in a bookstore in the UK I saw a section devoted to them. Most major books were for sale on CDs there: “My Life” by Bill Clinton (and actually read by him) and even “The Lord of the Rings” (J.R.R. Tolkien, due to circumstances, not read by himself). Of course especially the LOTR one was a huge box with dozens of CDs.

A couple of days ago I looked around on the internet and found out the iTunes music store sold them aswell. But that’s not available in the Netherlands, yet. “Audible”: did have them available though. I decided to give it a go, and bought “The Da Vinci Code”, which I heard was a good novel. It was priced at like $20, but because it was my first purchase there, I got a $9.99 discount. There was software to download the 88mb (6 hours and 20 minutes or so) file directly into iTunes to load it up my iPod. It was really easy.

The past few days I’ve been listening to the story and I found it really confortable. I listen to it while I cycle to school (which is a 20 minute drive) and back, and sometimes before I go to sleep.

As MP3 players become more common and have bigger memories, I wonder, will audio books become more popular aswell? I mean, if you got a 128mb flash player you can easily load a book on it. It’s important that the player has a resume feature, but most do. Of course, an MP3 player is a hell lot easier than changing CDs every hour or so.

I think there are more applications for digital spoken audio. I mean, we all use the internet, which is mostly textual. Some of us might even load up articles and news from sites onto their PDAs. However there’s not that much stuff available in audio. Why not? There are plenty of moments where listening is more confortable than reading: When you’re driving, when lying in bed. Currently, if you want to listen to speech, you’d just turn on the radio and tune into some talk channel. But what if there’s much more interesting audio available, more targetted to what you’re interested in? That’s the trend in textual information, why not so much with audio?

Imagine this: In the morning, you connect your MP3 player to your PC. All new audio items are downloaded and uploaded to your device. What gets loaded totally depends on, say, channels you’re subscribed to. A little like the new aggregators we use with RSS right now, to subscribe to newssites and weblogs, but for audio. Personally I’d be interested in that. “Audible”: already offers something like this, but it’s just one source.

Some sites that contain interesting audio material:
* “IT Conversations”:, they got interviews with IT industry leaders. Think Paul Graham, Tim O’Reilly, Rasmus Lerdorf and more. All downloadable in Windows, MP3 and some other formats.
* “DotNetRocks”:, a show for .NET developers. Mostly 2 hour shows (the earlier ones are shorter) about different .NET topics. Audio is available in WMA and MP3 formats.

I want more of that stuff.