Sunday, February 18, 2007

I first encountered when I purchased a Zire-72 back in 2003. The Palm M100 that I carried to Afghanistan didn't survive the dust. With the Zire, came a subscription to Audible. I fell in love. I've been lucky never to have longer than about a 20-minute commute to work each day, but that 20 minutes flies by listening to a book. On average, I can get through a book a month, though tomes like Master of the Senate, or Don Quixote, take a while longer. (I don't do abridgements.) In addition to books, they offer subscriptions (periodicals, TV & radio shows, daily newspapers). I found that, in addition to listening to a book during the drive each day, I could get through the weekly Science News during my runs.

What spawned this post was that this morning's paper contained an article titled, "MP3 Revolution: Teaching Tools Adjust to the Times." It's topic is the growing trend for students to put their MP3 players to work to help them learn. Books have long been available, but get this:

Schools including Stanford University and University of Wisconsin-Madison now belong to iTunes U, a service launched a year ago by Apple Inc. that lets professors post lectures and students download them for free.
In response, new products have been popping up.
Audible Inc., the biggest audio book seller, and Pearson Education, the biggest textbook publisher, teamed up last summer to launch Vango-Notes, textbook chapter summaries and reviews in MP3 form.
The companies declined to give specific sales figures. But they said thousands of students have downloaded the more than 100 titles, which should grow to 200 titles by fall.

Right on.

Last spring, I used something similar in my own class. I was teaching Shakespeare's As You Like It, in my lit survey class, and recommended to my students that, especially if they were having trouble grasping the Elizabethan English, they listen to the play. That's what I did nearly 30 years ago as an undergrad. I still have a box of cassette tapes made from the library's LPs of the BBC series. You can grasp the nuances far better if you can hear the lines read. You can tell what's funny, what's insulting, what has lewd second meanings far better when you can hear emotion in the lines--something you can't do, just reading them, at least not as a newcomer to Shakespeare's tongue.

Happily, Audible had the full play. I sent all my students an invitation for a free trial. (Here's Audible's spiel for that trial: "They'll let you try a free 14-day trial of the Audible Listener Platinum plan, which includes two free digital audio downloads. You'll also get other benefits like free audio samplers and a 30% discount off the non-member price on all digital audio purchases. You can cancel anytime and keep your free downloads.That's a $22.95 value-free.") That may be available to anyone, or you may need an invite. If you need an invite, drop me a line, and I'll send you one.

My point: Anyone who loves books, has a computer, iPod, or Palm, and spends time commuting or working out every day, by vehicle or by foot, will love this service. And if you need somewhere to start, ask me for a recommendation in any category (non-fiction, classics, science-fiction, biography, self-help) and I'll be happy to make a recommendation. If you're curious where my own listening has gone, there'll be a new frame in the sidebar shortly dedicated to the books I've listened to, vice read.

Happy listening. Doc.