Archive for the ‘Audiobooks’ Category

Round up #180: free audiobooks, open-minded readers

June 21, 2013

Round up #180: free audiobooks, open-minded readers

The ILMK Round ups are short pieces which may or may not be expanded later.

Reading fiction makes you more open-minded

Science! 😉

No, actually, it is science. I mean, this seems intuitively obvious to me, but I like to see those kinds of things tested. My guess is that people who read a variety of literature are generally more open-minded about the world than people who don’t. I would have a couple of hypotheses about that.

First, when you read, you put yourself into someone else’s shoes…or neurons, perhaps. 🙂 Within the same book, you may see things from the point of view of the hero, the villain, the sidekick…and none of them may be your own. For you to feel the right emotional resonances (which I think is part of why you read), you need to “practice” those perspectives. If you have tried thinking like someone else, that may encourage you to do that again in the future in real life situations.

The second thing is that I think that imagination aids open-mindedness, and reading aids imagination. You can see possible consequences without experiencing them…so you might find out that a lifestyle you would never actually want to experience appears, in the fiction, to have advantages. The plot can actually reward thinking which is different from yours…which might, again, make you consider that IRL (In Real Life).

In this

Pacific Standard article by Tom Jacobs

they talk about a University of Toronto study in which they gave participants either fiction or non-fiction to read, and then tested them on their need for certainty. Fiction readers had a lower need for a definitive answer.

I’m going to have to paraphrase here (I’ll track down the quote at some point…I only have a paperbook version of it, so it’s tougher), but I loved this advice given to somebody who was explaining to a therapist about how they were in a situation which just couldn’t be pinned down. It was stressing the person. The doctor said something like, “Is it possible to get an answer?” The patient said “No.” As I recall, the therapist gave this advice: “Learn to live at a high level of uncertainty.” 😉

Well, many people have a very, very difficult time doing that…but maybe reading more fiction would help them.

I have to say, I was somewhat amused by psychologist Maja Djikic’s quoted comments about the study. In particular, there was this:

“Their results should give people “pause to think about the effect of current cutbacks of education in the arts and humanities,” Djikic and her colleagues add. After all, they note, while success in most fields demands the sort of knowledge gained by reading non-fiction, it also “…requires people to become insightful about others and their perspectives.”

I have to say, I’m unconvinced that the people who are responsible for school funding have much motivation to try to mold people to be more open-minded! It’s much more complex to govern folks who may change their minds…not to mention trying to sell them toothpaste. 😉

“Fanatics are the worst enemies, and the worst friends, as well. We employ a few, for special purposes, but dislike them as a matter of policy.   Any man who cannot be bought cannot be trusted.   He may sell you out on a whim.”
–A T.H.R.U.S.H. Agent
The Man From U.N.C.L.E. #4 The Dagger Affair
written by David McDaniel
collected in The Mind Boggles: A Unique Book of Quotations
by Bufo Calvin

New (Kindle) Worlds to conquer…

When I first wrote about Kindle Worlds, I suggested that we might see a lot more rightsholders license their “worlds” to the program. What happens is that someone with the rights puts a property (a TV show, a book, a movie, a game, a comic book, and so on) into the program, and provides guidelines for writing in it. Authors write stories in the world, and Amazon sells them…and both the author and the rightsholder get royalties.

I thought that could be very attractive, especially for older properties.

Well, in this

press release

Amazon announces the next wave of Kindle Worlds…and says that they are working on more licenses. They expect to launch later this month (so, in the next eleven days) with fifty works.

What got added?

“…leading comic book publisher Valiant Entertainment and best-selling authors Hugh Howey, Barry Eisler, Blake Crouch and Neal Stephenson. Through these licenses, any writer will be able to create and sell fan fiction inspired by the popular Worlds of Valiant superhero comic book series Bloodshot, X-O ManowarArcher & ArmstrongHarbinger, and Shadowman, with more to be added at a later date, as well as Howey’s Silo Saga, Eisler’s John Rain novels, Crouch’s Wayward Pines Series, and the Foreworld Saga.”

I have to say, though, the negotiations may not have been too tough on some of these…I know the Foreworld Saga and Wayward Pines are both already published by Amazon!

I do think we are going to see a lot more licensors, especially if these do well. I mentioned before, I think a great way to go would be to license older properties: The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Dark Shadows, that kind of thing. I think there is a chance this becomes a solid market slice for Amazon.

Marvel, by the way, has been trying to expand its comics-inspired pop culture media (not through Kindle Worlds)…and one way they’ve made the leap is with The She-Hulk Diaries. How do I want to describe this? Let’s see…Bridget Jones with green skin? No, not really…in her non-Hulk form, Jennifer Walters is a lawyer, but this does have to do with her personal life and relationships.

Free audiobooks from Sync

Thanks to The Artist in the Amazon Kindle forum for the heads-up on this!

You can get two free audiobooks a week during the summer here:

They offer one Young Adult book and one classic each week.

You need to download them with Overdrive, but then I’m not entirely clear if you could transfer them to an audio-enabled non-Fire Kindle to listen to them. You could, though, use them on a Fire with Overdrive on it for sure.

Kindle FreeTime Unlimited gets more popular content…are adults next?

I speculated that, if Kindle FreeTime Unlimited (a pay-by-the-month “all you can eat” program for kids) was successful, we might see similar programs for tweens, teens…and maybe adults.

Well, it appears to have been successful, or at least to have warranted more investment on Amazon’s part.

In this

press release

Amazon announces new content deals (at no additional cost for subscribers), including

“…Disney’s hit Where’s My Mickey?, Warner Brother’s LEGO Harry Potter Years 1-4, Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat Comes Back from Oceanhouse Media, Plants vs. Zombies by EA, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s Curious George at the Zoo.”

Those are not obscure titles…that’s the big time.

I do think it’s possible Amazon could come up with programs like this for adults…pay $14.99 a month (discounted with Prime), and get access to (but not ownership of) content. Amazon could really bolster that with things it publishes (e-books, apps). I think it would attract outside publishers, if the deal was right. They could be themed (science fiction, romance), but wouldn’t need to be.

Let’s say that for $14.99 a month, you could have access to all of Amazon’s traditional publishing imprints…that would give you James Bond and the 87th Precinct, to name a couple of series. Sure, some people would burn through those very quickly…but would those same people have bought them otherwise? There are so many reading options, I’m not sure they would have. It would also give exposure to other, lesser-known Amazon-published titles. They could, of course, move titles into and out of the program, sort of like the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. I think this would feel different for people, although “Prime by the Month” is a similar idea. Amazon flirted with that, but the economics might not have been right. Focusing on content might make the difference…

What do you think? What would you like to see in Kindle Worlds? Star Trek and Doctor Who? Would you like to read more Harry Potter (even if there was the risk that it wasn’t very good)? Do you think if people read the same sorts of things all the time (I’ve known somebody who only read the same two books…over and over, taking turns) that it makes them less open-minded? How much would you pay for an “all you can eat plan”…and what would have to be in it? Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.


Free: The Picture of Dorian Gray audiobook

March 16, 2013

Free: The Picture of Dorian Gray audiobook

Thanks to jjhitt, one of my regular readers and commenters, for the heads up on this!

jjhitt informs me that it is because of St. Patrick’s Day, but I don’t know how long it will actually last. Audible has an unabridged

audiobook of The Picture of Dorian Gray

by Oscar Wilde for free.

The Picture of Dorian Gray, originally published in 1890 (in a shorter form than what came out as Wilde’s only novel), may not be what you expect. I think a lot of people assume it is a simple horror story, but it’s much more than that.

Do check the price before you buy it, because, again, I don’t know how long this will last (and it may not be available in your country).

I believe you will need to create an Audible account to get it, but you do not to commit to any future purchases (that seems to be a common confusion with Audible).

Thanks again, jjhitt!

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

6 free “listens” from Audible for Valentine’s Day

February 15, 2013

6 free “listens” from Audible for Valentine’s Day

Thanks to “Emily Bronte” in the Amazon Kindle community for the heads up on this!

Through February 21st, you can get up to six Audible “listens” for free:

Definitely make sure it is free for you before you do that final click.

I think they are calling them “listens” because one is only three minutes long…but others are longer, and there is an unabridged Pride and Prejudice that is more than ten hours long!

The listens are:

Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find – and Keep – Love
by Amir Levine, Rachel S. F. Heller
Narrated by Walter Dixon
Length:7 hrs and 9 mins

Undead Sublet: A Free Story from ‘The Undead in My Bed’
by Molly Harper
Narrated by Sophie Eastlake
Length:4 hrs and 29 mins

Romeo and Juliet (Dramatized)
by William Shakespeare
Narrated by Calista Flockhart , Matthew Wolf , Julie White , Alan Mandell , Richard Chamberlain , Nicholas Hormann , Josh Stamberg
Length:2 hrs and 53 mins

Love in the Afternoon
by Alison Packard
Narrated by Gia St. Claire
Length:10 hrs

Pride and Prejudice
by Jane Austen
Narrated by Flo Gibson
Length:11 hrs and 32 mins

Eureka: A Free Story from ‘The Last Girlfriend on Earth’
by Simon Rich
Narrated by Simon Rich
Length:3 mins


This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

A Christmas Carol read by Tim Curry: free today

December 20, 2012

A Christmas Carol read by Tim Curry: free today

Thanks to “Emily Bronte” in the Amazon Kindle forum for the heads up on this!

A Christmas Carol read by Tim Curry

is available for free today from Audible.

You will need to set up an Audible account if you don’t have one. They are free, and you are not obligated to buy any certain number of audiobooks in the future (although it often looks that way to people).

This one is especially good for me for three reasons:

I like the story. 🙂 Regular readers know I did a parody of it, which I’ll repost in the next several days (along with other posts). I am, by the way, writing ahead. Our adult (and now financially independent) kid is coming home for just a few days, and it will be a whirlwind of family events. That doesn’t mean I’ll be completely unresponsive here, but I didn’t figure I’d have time to write full posts every one of those days.

I like Tim Curry. The actor is one of my favorites, and has done lots of voicework. I look forward to hearing it. You can do that on any Kindle with sound, by the way.

It does not have Whispersync for Voice. Yes, I prefer that I have the choice as to whether I listen to text-to-speech, which I tend to prefer, or an audiobook. When Whispersync for Voice is in play on a title, you can no longer listen to the text-to-speech, in my experience. I even asked Amazon about that, and it was confirmed (although it’s been a little while since I checked).

Enjoy the book!

Thanks, Emily Bronte!

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Amazon blocks new audiobooks from public libraries?

January 26, 2012

Amazon blocks new audiobooks from public libraries?

One of my readers, Deborah Meyer, gave me a heads-up on an interesting story.

According to this communication from Overdrive reproduced by Infodocket:

Overdrive document from Infodocket

Brilliance Audio (acquired by Amazon in 2007…Press Release) “…will suspend the availability of all download audiobook titles across all vendors…” on January 31st, 2012.

Licenses for titles already in the system will stay there, but purchasing additional licenses (for the same or different titles) will not be possible, according to that communication.

When the publisher Penguin recently restricted Overdrive access, there was a lot of pushback. People don’t like the idea of books (e-books, audiobooks or other) not being made available to public libraries.

Macmillan and Simon & Schuster don’t license e-books to libraries at all.

HarperCollins restricts the number of check-outs.

Honestly, this just doesn’t feel like an Amazon move to me, but I know that’s just my emotional reaction based on having had a good personal relationship with Amazon as a customer.

Of course, Amazon wasn’t in the Overdrive system for e-books for quite a while after people with NOOKs and Sony Readers were able to get them.

This does seem like a dramatic change. Brilliance has promoted its connection to libraries in the past:

BrillianceAudio for Libraries

However, when I look at the

Most Downloaded Books at Overdrive

I’m not seeing anything from Brilliance in any of the categories they list.

I see a few possibilities here:

  • Amazon is doing something substantial to Brilliance overall, and this is just part of that
  • Amazon is doing something dramatic with its relationship with Overdrive…maybe setting up some distribution of its own with public libraries? Overdrive really dominates that market right now
  • Amazon is going to add Brilliance audiobooks to the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL). Amazon has indicated that Prime members were going to get additional benefits. This might make a lot of sense: It could introduce people to audiobooks. It takes a long time to go through an audiobook…which would reduce the number of “borrows” from the KOLL, which improves the profitability for Amazon. It makes the KOLL more attractive, which sells more Kindles (people with Kindle apps can’t use the KOLL, currently), and gets more Prime members, which sells more “diapers and windshield wipers”. Of course, it wouldn’t automatically mean that the books couldn’t also be available to public libraries, so this might be it. I can imagine there having been a negotiation with rightsholders…”We’ll put you in the KOLL and drop you from public libraries.”
  • This could just be temporary while some contract negotiation with Overdrive is worked out

I have written to Brilliance this morning, asking for a statement.

I’m also interested in your thoughts on this, especially if you work for a public library…or if you use one for audiobooks. If this Amazon/Brilliance simply withdrawing from Overdrive, how would that affect your perception of the company? Would you use audiobooks as part of the KOLL? Are audiobooks a significant part of your book experience? Feel free to comment on this post and let me know.

Update: One of my readers, Mary, made the good point that this apparently doesn’t impact audiobooks on CD, just digital downloads. Interestingly, those presumably work outside the Overdrive ecosystem…

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Free audiobook: Dead or Alive by Tom Clancy & Grant Blackwood, read by Lou Diamond Phillips

December 1, 2011

Free audiobook: Dead or Alive by Tom Clancy & Grant Blackwood, read by Lou Diamond Phillips

Thanks, S. Rudder in this

Amazon Kindle community thread

for giving me a heads-up on a free audiobook from (owned by Amazon).

You can get Dead or Alive by Tom Clancy & Grant Blackwood, read by Lou Diamond Phillips, for free by going to this

Audible link

Note: check the price. It was free for me, and I have Special Offers activated on my Kindles. I don’t know if that matters or not. It did show with a zero price for me. It also may not be free outside the USA…just check that it is free for you before buying.

I’m not crazy about audiobooks, but without an easy text-to-speech option on my Kindle Fire, I’m having to do different audio in the car. Yes, I know my car has a radio 🙂 , but I prefer literature, given a choice…even if some of what I read wouldn’t be considered literature by a lot of people.

I’m using my Fire at work a lot now, so I’m bringing it. That means I’ve been using it in the car, rather than text-to-speech on my reflective screen Kindles. I don’t like that as well, and I might switch back.

Getting this on the Fire wasn’t as easy as it could be, in my opinion.

There was a choice to send it wirelessly from the Audible site…but neither of my Fires* were listed. That’s probably because I hadn’t accessed Audible from them before.

I checked on the Books tab (under Cloud) and didn’t find it.

On the Apps tab, there was an Audible app.

I tried that…for some reason, logging in was a bit glitchy. I had to enter my credentials several times, and got dropped back to the homescreen at least once.

Once I got in, it was pretty easy to download one of the sections (it comes in three parts).

When I wanted to listen to it, though, it wasn’t in Books. On the reflective screen Kindles, we don’t have these content silos…everything is on the homescreen. That makes them busier, but does make it easier to find things.

To listen to it, I had to launch the Audible app again…no big deal, I guess, but when I talk to people about “usability” in software design, I try to divorce them from counting clicks. Usability isn’t about clicks…it’s about decision points. It’s hard to use software every time you have to think about what you are doing…every time you have to make a choice.

In this case, I have to think: is this a sight-reading book, or an audiobook? Obviously, I can decide that pretty quickly, but then I have to go to a different app to launch it.

When I train people, I may find somebody using ten clicks to do something they could do in two. If they don’t switch to the two, it’s usually because of decision points…or just because they are very used to it the other way.

The Audible app seems a bit strange to me, but again, I’m not used to using audiobooks. On my reflective screen Kindles, there are simple jump ahead and back buttons.

In this one, there are four tabs across the top: Now Playing, Details, Chapters, and Bookmarks. We can’t bookmark a spot on the reflective screen Kindles, so that’s nice. I can slide the progress bar to change where I am…I guess that will work. I couldn’t tap it, by the way. Oh, wait…there is a “go back 30 seconds” button…I just didn’t recognize it at first.

One weird thing: there is an instruction to remove it from the device…on the Details tab.

The file size for part 1 is 95MB. It runs for six hours, 53 minutes, and thirty-four seconds. 🙂

The menu button (horizontal lines in a square that you evoke by tapping the bottom of the screen) has some good things. You can share it via Facebook (which I don’t use). It also allowed me to share it via ColorNote Notepad Notes, a free app I’m finding very useful. That allowed me to see what it would say…it’s just says that I’m listening to the book and how to get the audible app.

The Menu button also lets me set the sleep mode…big improvement over the reflective screen Kindles (I’m going to start calling those RSKs, but I’ll explain it often enough when I do). I can set it for no sleep mode, 15 minutes, thirty minutes, 60 minutes, end of the chapter, or end of the Book Part.

There’s a button free option…nice! It shows me how to jump chapters, and go forward or backward thirty seconds by using the touch screen. That lets me do the following:

  • Swipe (slide your finger on the screen) down to to the next chapter
  • Swipe up to go the previous chapter
  • Swipe left to go back thirty seconds
  • Swipe right to go forward thirty seconds
  • Tap to play or pause
  • Long press (hold you fingertip on the screen for about a second) to add a bookmark

My library lets you get to your library…that included free books I had gotten previously.

There was also a Narrator Speed option, and a way to quit. With the speed button, I could up to three times speed…I probably would. It can also slow down to half speed.

I’ll probably try it out. For those of you who like listening to audiobooks, I think the interface seems pretty good…I’ll be happy to hear your feedback. Well, not like microphone feedback…that’s so annoying. 😉

* Yes, I’m on my second Kindle Fire. The first one got scratched (it might have come scratched, not sure). I contacted Kindle Customer Service on Sunday via live chat…and had the replacement on Tuesday. I didn’t switch things until last night, because I had already loaded things for work that I needed on Wednesday. Reloading was easy, though…I probably could have switched it Tuesday night. As is usually the case, Amazon gave me a return label to print. By the way, it was a bit funny to see it come labeled as “Bufo’s 10th Kindle”. 🙂  I’m in the double digits! Those Kindles haven’t all been for me (my Significant Other and offspring have Kindles), but I have been through a few. Since I write about these, I keep one of each model as a reference. The only model I haven’t had is a Kindle DX. My main reading model at this point is a Kindle Touch, Wi-Fi only. I’m preferring the experience as a reader to my Kindle Keyboard 3G, Free 3G + Wi-Fi. Since I have a SmartPhone, the 3G browsing on the Kindle Keyboard is less important to me than it once was. Oh, and I did like the name “Wheeler” for the first Fire…that’s from the Fire member of Captain Planet’s team. I almost kept it…but I’ve never migrated a name in my head from one Kindle to another. So, the new one is Schwinn…because it is a “Two Wheeler”. 😉

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

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