Podcasts can make YOU famous

I’m not a fan of podcasts in general. I’ve always thought they’re kind of niche and a stunningly large number of them are atrocious.

What I can’t figure out is why so many people create podcasts. It’s not like writing blogs, which apparently any idiot can do – now you have to create some listenable content and produce it too. Maybe podcasts are just providing easy production for people who think they’re talented and have no ability to judge artistic merit. Everyone wants to be a star, and the fact that the odds are soooo incredibly stacked against them doesn’t deter them.Must be the same as why otherwise sane people buy lottery tickets.

For now, I’m going to continue to ignore podcasts for personal use, but watch carefully to see if anything interesting emerges. I hear that single-celled amoebas eventually turned into Sophia Loren, so anything’s possible.…

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Writing Reviews is Hard

I just realized I hadn’t done any reviews on the Audiobook site in months, and feeling guilty, I went through the process of finding my rental history and looking aghast at the 50 or so titles that were unrated.

I quickly went through and put in star ratings for all of them, then felt guilty about taking the easy path – so I went back in and picked some of my favorite titles to write real reviews for.

Then after writing some glowing reviews, I felt guilty again. I feel like I’m leaving the potential for bad books to be listened to because I was too lazy to go downgrade them. So I went back in again and wrote some scathing reviews. Used adjectives like “bad”, and “very”, and “really”. I let ‘em have it.

Then I felt that if I’m going to do a good job, I really should take my ratings more seriously, so I felt I had to go back and review all of my numerical ratings for accuracy. Halfway through this process, I thought, “Am I taking myself too seriously here?” After all, what do people care about what I think anyway?

After doing some stats checking, it seems that our reviews are one of the most viewed sections of the site, and some random sample surveying has revealed that many of our subscribers depend on reviews to select the books they listen to. So I’m going to be diligent from now on. And if you don’t mind, I’d love to read your reviews too.

I need to get back in the habit as well…in particular, I want to counter cases like the book that has a 1-star ranking because the single reviewer was annoyed that the second selection of CDs hadn’t arrived in their mailbox yet. Way to tank a book, dude.

Or the low rating of Olympia Dukakis’ autobiography because she sounds angry…in a book which is about the history of anger in her life, especially at her mother.

I will reiterate a request I think I emailed a while back — the star ratings should indicate the number of rankings that make up the average. They are meaningless, otherwise (and, hey, Amazon shows the numbers!)…

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Traffic? What traffic?

Driving in to work this morning, I was a bit miffed because I’d gotten a late start and I dreaded the drive in at the height of rush hour. But my goodness, a faster drive in at 8:30am I have never seen! I was actually upset that I didn’t have more time to listen to “Deception Point” by Dan Brown (I downloaded it for free from this new website).

deception pointI opened the mailer with a tinge of disappointment when I first received the book – I hadn’t been pleased with Digital Fortress and I was starting to think Brown is a two-hit wonder (Angels and Demons wasn’t bad). But this one’s got me double-checking the timer on my iPhone to make sure I have lots of battery left (I’m enjoying it that much).

But what’s up with this traffic? Traffic is usually lighter during any holiday week, but this is even better than usual. Two of my closest friends are on holidays this week. Perhaps this is the last chance for most of us to get away from it all before the return of the “work” season, and it’s being taken advantage of by more people than I’d think. Huh.

Well I for one won’t be lulled. If I start enjoying the next couple of days, then I just know the return to normal next week will feel even worse. So I’m going to drive extra slow tomorrow. If you’re behind me, no need to say thank you, I know you appreciate it.…

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Wait For The Audiobook

You know how some people review movies by saying, “Enh, rent it on video, not worth going to the theater.” I just discovered the inverse.

Because of the way movies are released, first to theaters, then to DVD, you’d almost never hear someone review a DVD and say, “Wow, it’s great, you should watch it at the theater” because it’s not at the theater anymore. Doh. You just missed the boat.

I recently finished reading (not listening to) “The Long Tail” by Chris Anderson.

The book is getting a lot of press (good and bad). I was quite excited to get a pre-release version of the print book at the recent book expo in Washington DC, and at the time, there was no audiobook available (or imminent I thought).

Now as I’m in the final throes of enjoying the print version immensely, our CEO sticks his head in my office and says, “Hey, this Long Tail audiobook is great, you should listen to it!”

Much like Ted Danson’s character says in “Cheers” when he realizes there was a War and Peace movie, so his reading of the book was unnecessary, my reaction was “THERE’S AN AUDIOBOOK?” Aagh.

I can listen to an audiobook in 1/3rd the time it takes me to read the paper version. And I enjoy it more.

I can’t believe I was so impatient to read the darn thing that I didn’t wait for the (superior) version on audiobook.

So if you’re thinking about reading the Long Tail, take my advice.

Wait for the audiobook.…

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Maximum Ride – Maximum Volatility

I loved James Patterson’s first Angel Experiment book, “When the Wind Blows”. And although the sequels deteriorated a bit in quality, there were all enjoyable books.

maximum rideSo seeing a new book by Patterson based on the lead character from When the Wind Blows, I rented the first of the “Maximum Ride” books, which I discovered is only loosely based on the same characters in the original series.

Here’s the interesting part (to me at least).

I was captivated, absolutely captivated by the narrator and recording technique used in the first 5 minutes of the audiobook.

Then in the sixth minute, doubt began to set in as something stupid happened. Over the next 30 minutes, about 5 more stupid things happened, as implausible.

Now, here I am listening to a book about humans with wings and I’m calling other plot elements implausible.

Ironic.

Anyway, the plot was sill enough, especially with Max’s constant unwarranted lamentations about her situation, that I pulled out my return box to eject all the CDs and return it 1 disc in.

Then I reconsidered since I didn’t have another audiobook in the car. And lo, my brain went into a kind of post-traumatic stress mode where I just stopped taking the book seriously.

And I’m kind of enjoying it now. I must say, the narration helps a LOT. I’ll probably give it a 3 of 5 when I’m done.…

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100 Great Science Fiction Short Short Stories

100 great short short storiesI just discovered that over on one of audiobook discussion forums, they’re running a contest for the best one-paragraph love story.

I’m more the epic romance kind of guy, especially if it involves galaxy-spanning civilizations and/or time travel.

But I was also a HUGE fan of a couple of book anthologies by Isaac Asimov and Martin Greenberg, the first of which was called “100 Great Science Fiction Short Short Stories” (No audiobook version).

It was a collection of sci-fi short stories under 3 pages each. Great fun.

The requirement to develop a plot, characters, atmosphere… all in 3 pages, resulted in some great stories.

I don’t know what kind of stuff our customers and staff are going to come up with. But I’m sure there will be some gems.

By the way, there’s a gift certificate for free service/books at stake, in case an incentive is needed. Here’s my entry:

Anamemdron gripped his portal gun tightly, only a slight trembling revealing his inexperience. His mission to steal in and out of the capital exposed, he clung to hope of escape as tightly as his young charge clung to his tunic. Barely 16, the princess understood all too well the fate that awaited her should the daring rescue fail. His focus went from the Count to the portal site and back to the Count. With a fully deployed temporal shield, the Count was immune to the one weapon at Anamemdron’s disposal, and he was advancing steadily. The princess began to cry softly, murmuring “I’d rather die than go back…” With a flash of insight, Anamemdron turned his gun on himself, pulling the trigger before the Count’s leap of sudden desperation. And just like that, or rather, five years later, he found himself again with the princess clinging to him. But now very much of age, and VERY grateful for her rescue.

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How Do You Decide Which Books to Hear?

A writer for a major national newspaper called me today; he’s working on a story about how couples now negotiate which audiobooks to listen to in the car the same way they negotiate (argue?) which movies to rent from the local video store.

It’s an interesting concept, and I’ve had my own experiences with my wife when we go on road trips. We usually agree on taking one book each that is “ours” and a few that we can listen to together when we’re both awake. What I remember is that we could only listen for 20 minutes or so before we’d get into an argument about what we were hearing (mostly self-help type books).

If you have stories on how you select books in the face of competition from another listener, I’d love to hear them. And I’ll put you in touch with the writer so you can get quoted in the paper.

Here’s my father’s opinion on this matter:

After 47 years of marriage, I find that arguing in a marriage is best avoided. We have been listening to audiobooks for many years.

Tapes and CDs. However, we have different interests. Last year I purchased 2 inexpensive mp3 players (512 MB). I now rip a few audiobooks at the lowest bit rate in mp3 format to “hers and mine”.

For audiobooks, a higher bit rate is really not necessary. We are now both listening simultaneously to our own mp3 players. My wife uses two headphones. I (always the driver) use only the right ear pod. Instead of an earpiece connected to my cell phone, I use an earpiece of my mp3 player.

Same scenario when traveling with grandchildren. They are listening to their expensive Ipods. We are listening to our audiobooks on our mp3 players. Everyone is happy.

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