Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Audiobooks GoSpoken on UK cell phones

Interesting news from the UK. A new service called GoSpoken is set to begin in April. It is an audiobook download service that will send audiobooks to cell phones. The business website doesn't have a lot of details, but the UK's Bookseller is reporting that Random House UK will be licencing audiobook titles to GoSpoken.

Remember my Jan 26th prediction that cell phones would become the dominant audiobook player? As a middle school librarian, I can say that it's beginning to seem as though more kids have cell phones than iPods or other MP3 players - and certainly have the cell phone in hand way more often! Looks like I'll need to convince my sister who lives in London to sign up & report in on GoSpoken.
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Setting audiobooks free of Digital Rights Management

Good news for libraries that are weary of trying to explain the intricacies of Digital Rights Management to patrons. DRM is a digital lock that encrypts downloaded files – get more info here from Defective by Design, a group that opposes DRM. Library patrons care about DRM, as it is the reason why they can NOT download audiobooks to an iPod as a free “digital checkout” from their public library – something that, until now, only Windows-based media player owners could do.

OverDrive, the leading online distributor of audiobooks to public libraries, has announced that they are now supplying unlocked MP3 downloads of thousands of titles. Read the good news here. The MP3 titles are currently only about 15% of OverDrive’s total catalog, but the company promises that the numbers will quickly increase, as the rollout is put into place. This means that those DRM-free titles can be loaded onto any type of media player – iPod, cell phone, Creative Zen, whatever. Overdrive will also be providing the downloads through Borders, both online and in free-standing kiosks in the store. I am sure that this news will boost OverDrive’s school-focused digital book collection as well.

Kudos to the move by Random House to remove DRM from their audiobooks, along with Blackstone Audiobooks, Hachette Book Group, Books In Motion, CSA Word, Audio Evolution, Audio Realms, and others. I can’t wait until all audiobooks have been set free!

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Back to the Future!

One of my favorite blogs is Modern Mechanix – Yesterday’s Tomorrow Today. It’s an amazing collection of high-tech stories from the past, culled from Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, and the like. An image of each complete story with illustrations appears, and the plain text is included as well.

This is not a once-in-a-blue-moon blog. Each day can bring multiple entries. Yesterday’s post had an article from a 1968 Mechanix Illustrated on the future world of 2008. Pretty dead-on in some instances: “The world’s information is available to you almost instantaneously.” A bit off in the prediction of “Best-selling books are on TV tape and can be borrowed or rented from tape libraries.” But audiobook digital downloads weren’t on most people’s radar five years ago – let alone forty! But hats off to Leonard Feldman, who predicted the world success of the compact disc over the videodisc in this article from 1981.

You can spend hours browsing through the site. I found something for audiobook directors who despair over the rustling and flapping of over-dressed narrator's clothing. Recording studios would love to have this contraption from 1930. And the picture below is from the Just Weird category – I’ll let you provide the LOL cat comment. Can you tell I’m on Spring Break?

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Monday, March 24, 2008

Potter Puppet Pals win big!

The Harry Potter Puppet pals were the winners of the YouTube 2008 Video Awards Comedy catagory. Warning: contains graphic comedic violence!

Nonfiction Monday: The Journey of the One and Only Declaration of Independence

Judith St. George is a master of short-form nonfiction. Although her titles are illustrated books, I refuse to call them picture books or easy readers. Why? Because every time I read one of her titles, I learn fascinating facts about American History that were left out of my school text books. Her most recent follows the path of our country’s most important document.

The Journey of the One and Only Declaration of Independence, narrated by Jeff Brooks, is a marvelous picture book-plus-CD audiobook from Weston Woods. Will Hillenbrand’s illustrations are brought to life by a soundscape that provides both humor and emotion to the detailed and fact-filled pictures. Brooks tells the tale that follows the oft-time perilous journey of the Declaration through wartime and misplaced conservation, employing his avuncular voice to communicate St. George’s wit and excitement. The combination of audio and book provides a great way for all ages to add to their historical knowledge while enjoying a great story. Weston Woods has also released an animated DVD using the audiobook soundtrack – you can listen & take a look here.

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Nonfiction Monday: When Marian Sang

When Marian Sang: The True Recital of Marian Anderson from Live Oak Media is an example of a marvelous nonfiction book that comes completely to life as an audiobook readalong. Gail Nelson’s narration is the perfect accompaniment to Pam Munoz Ryan’s carefully researched writing and Brian Selznick’s evocative illustrations. But the crowning touch is the inclusion of recordings of Anderson’s actual performance of the songs & lyrics included in the book, along with an atmospheric soundscape that sets the stage. A treat for the eyes and ears of all ages. Listen to a clip here. Inspired to use this title in your library or classroom? Check out the wonderful activities, including a Reader’s Theater script, on Pam Munoz Ryan’s website.
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Saturday, March 15, 2008

New Chapter or Last Page? Publishing Books in a Digital Age: Gail Rebuck's Stationers' Company Annual Lecture

Digitization is changing the world of literature daily. Each day I add another bookmark to a growing file of articles on topics ranging from Japan’s love of cell phone novels (in the London Times & and the NY Times) to the removal of piracy protection on audiobooks (in the NY Times & Cory Doctorow’s take on Boing-Boing.) Authors & publishers are embracing change by posting free content online, such as Neil Gaiman’s story “A Study in Emerald” available as both eBook & audiobook (read by Gaiman) on HarperCollins’ website.
These changes have prompted many to ponder the future of the book. Random House UK’s C.E.O. Gail Rebuck presented a brilliant essay as the Stationers' Company Annual Lecture on the evening of March10th. The address, titled “New Chapter or Last Page? Publishing Books in a Digital Age,” was made to the members of a Guild formed in 1403 for the publishing industry, a fitting group to contemplate the message. Read the whole speech here. I believe this to be a must-read for all who value the literary past and who look to the future of publishing.

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Friday, March 14, 2008

Poetry Friday: Poetry Speaks to Children

Poetry Speaks for Children, edited by Elise Paschen, combines an illustrated poetry book with an audio CD that includes poets & performers reciting many of the titles. One fascinating fact is reflected in the introduction: when a poet recites their own poem, they often make small changes - on the fly - of their work. Young listeners gain an appreciation that even the famous may publish writing that the author might continue to improve through revision – and can compare the written text with the spoken modification. Listen to a clip of Billy Collin’s Wolf.

Older listeners will want to read & listen to Poetry Speaks Expanded : Hear Poets Read their Own Works from Tennyson to Plath, edited by Elise Paschen, Rebekah Presson Mosby and Dominique Raccah, a longer 3-CD title that includes the voices of Tennyson, Browning, and Whitman. Both titles are from Sourcebooks.
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Monday, March 10, 2008

Nonfiction Monday: Revenge of the Whale

If you want to try your first non-fiction audiobook, here’s a great title to choose: Revenge of The Whale: The True Story of the Whaleship Essex from Audio Bookshelf. This gripping book by Nathaniel Philbrick was named a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor, and was adapted for young readers by Philbrick from his 2000 National Book Award Winner, In the Heart of the Sea. Survival stories don’t get any better than this: monster whale sinking ship, twenty men in small boats trying for the coast 3,000 miles away, and horrific desperation. This actual event was the inspiration for Moby-Dick. Fantastic narration by Taylor Mali and mood-setting sea shanties will have listeners of all ages riveted. Want to sell this title the next time you book talk audiobooks? One word: cannibalism.

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Sunday, March 9, 2008

Podibooks: Self-published Audiobooks

Do you know what a podibook is? Think of it as a 21-century version of Dickens’s serialized novels – for free. Tech-savvy writers have by-passed print publishing entirely, posting chapter-by-chapter audio versions of their books online. But here is an interesting twist: Scott Stigler recently received a Publisher’s Weekly starred review for his novel Infected, published in print by Crown. But he’s been posting the podiobook for free on, the primary podibook distributor. Stigler is not the first to make the jump from podibook to print. If you’d like to learn more about the phenomenon, subscribe to the Podiobooks blog, where I first read about Stigler. Or read this New York Times article about Stigler & podiobooks. Currently, there are only four teen titles listed on the site, and just two original children’s titles on But this is a trend to watch…

Image by Heidi Schumann for The New York Times

Friday, March 7, 2008

Naomi Shihab Nye on

A marvelous resource for poetry out loud is, the website of the Academy of American Poets. The site has an unbelievable bounty of resources for poetry lovers: lesson plans, biographies, essays, an online store, poem-a-day service, searchable & thematic poetry lists, Poetry Month support, and more.

On this Poetry Friday, lend your ears to a selection from the Listening Booth:
Making a Fist

by Naomi Shihab Nye
From Words Under the Words: Selected Poems
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Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Live Oak's Jazz - read the interview

I had the great good fortune to interview Arnie Cardillo, the producer of this year's Odyssey Award-winning audiobook Jazz. If you've ever wondered what goes into creating an audiobook, read Arnie's comments in this month's Booklist Magazine. You'll learn how fifteen people worked for five months to produce a 43 minute audiobook. Walter Dean Myers' Jazz, named a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor book for Christopher Myers' dazzling art, received the perfect audio treatment, bring the poetry and music alive. Thanks, Arnie & Live Oak crew, for your gift!