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Audible.com changes to titles with multiple download files

One really positive change I’ve seen in more recent titles produced (or perhaps distributed?) by audible.com relates to how they split the audio files into multiple parts.  Often the titles I read are too large for a single file, so they are split into 3-5 parts “to make the download easier”.  I’ve noticed that audible seems to be adding some verbiage at the beginning of the title saying, “And now part two of <insert title here>” which is extremely helpful when I am listening in the car or mobile.

I hate accidentally skipping a part and questioning myself why a character is suddenly dead who was alive a few seconds ago….

Categories: Musings, Product Reviews

Audible iPhone App upgrade to iOS5

November 7, 2011 2 comments

I recently upgraded my iPhone 3GS to iOS5 and wondered if my Audible stats such as badges and total listening time would be copied over when restored. I really like the app and hoped that I could continue to track my reading time.

The answer is: yes, but you must create a backup (or have a current backup) of your iPhone, iPad, or iTouch device first. After iOS5 is installed, you will restore your apps from the backup. All of my statistics and badges returned without any issue.

The only issue I encountered was that some (all?) of my downloaded audio files were corrupted or unavailable. In Audible’s FAQ, there is a message that some customers were receiving an error message, “Error playing title”:

This is because the storage location of downloaded audiobooks has changed in order to fulfill Apple’s iCloud requirements.  To recover from this error, please go to App Settings menu, then tap “Refresh Complete Library”. Once your library has refreshed completely, please re-download the titles you were listening to and playback should work again.”

I did lose my location in my book, but everything else worked correctly.

All in all, this was a minor inconvenience compared to the rather painful upgrade itself.

Categories: Product Reviews

Audible iPhone app

download

— added several screen shots 8/18/2011 from version 1.6.1 —

I started a subscription to Audible.com in August 2004 and have downloaded my 2 audiobooks each month since that time. I usually choose novels or books on history that either (1) I have read before and would likely re-read again and again or (2) books that I’d like to read, but might not have the time to do so.

I’ve now read about 150 books this way while driving between work and home, doing outside chores (mowing the lawn or blowing snow), or other household tasks.

In October 2010, I downloaded Audible’s iPhone/iPod app and having been using it exclusively ever since.  Rather than synching my iPhone via iTunes, I can download audiobooks wirelessly (not over 3G, however, since the app restricts this method over a specific size) and delete them from the device on the fly.

Great Features

  • Wireless download
  • The application maintains statistics of listening time (today, daily over the past week, monthly, and all time).  I really like this feature since it gives me a good sense of magnitude from month-to-month.

    Monthly stats

  • There is a “button-free” option which replaces the normal play screen similar to iTunes with a simpler version. Touch the screen to start and stop play, swipe left to rewind 30 seconds, right to move forward 30 seconds, and down to add a bookmark.  This is a great mode for listening in the car.
  • Early versions did not have a narration speed option, but the current one can change the speed of narration to .5X, 1.5X, 2X and 3X.  Very similar to iTunes audiobook options.

    badges

  • If you are into badges like Foursquare, the app offers those, too.  Examples:  weekend warrior, all nighter, binge listener, and 7-day stretch.

Bugs / Incomplete Features

  • The app is still a little buggy.  On occasion (too often, actually), the audiobook just stops and I have to restart the app.  I think this might occur when notifications are received from other iPhone apps.  Generally, however, the Audible app has saved my place so I only had to repeat 30-60 seconds at most.
  • The app doesn’t have functionality to store statistics on the Audible server, so if you have multiple devices or upgrade a device, you’ll lose your stats.

Since October 2010, I have listened for a total of 13 days, 17 hours, and 38 minutes.  Wow.

My monthly stats here.

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Kindle part 2: dictionary

One of the great features of the Kindle device is the built in dictionary.  How many times as you were reading a book have you found a word you didn’t know or weren’t completely sure of the meaning, but just kept reading because locating a dictionary really wasn’t worth the trouble?

Most recently, I have been reading King Solomon’s Mines by Henry Rider Haggard.  Because it was first published in 1885, written by an Englishman, and set in the southern tip of Africa, unfamiliar words are relatively common:  kloof (steep-sided, wooded ravine), mealie (South African sweet corn), eland (spiral horned antelope), gaiters (leggings to cover the ankle and lower leg), and kraal (traditional African village of huts) to name a few.

The dictionary also has an admittedly rudimentary list of proper names as well, so Natal, Hottentot, and Kafir are also defined.

Using the dictionary while reading a book

On the Kindle 3, you’ll use its 5-way controller to move the cursor to the word in question.  A short pause automatically displays a 2-line definition.  I’ve found these physical buttons to be very quick and accurate, rather than attempting to use other devices’ touch screens, which can be awkward or which may select the wrong word.

One of the things I most like about the Kindle’s dictionary interface is the quick 2-line definition.  This definition will appear either at the bottom of the screen or at the top, depending on where the word in context was located (ie., if the word is at the bottom of the screen, the Kindle displays the definition at the top so that you can review both the definition and the original sentence together).  Most of the time, this short description is enough, so you can immediately go back to reading.  If not, however, merely hit the return carriage arrow key to get a fuller definition, complete with phonetics, special usages, and etymology.  To go back to the text, click the Back button.

While the full definition is displayed, you can also search other databases by hitting the right arrow key.  Search engines include my items, the Kindle store, Google, and Wikipedia (obviously you’ll need a wifi connection or 3G enabled to search the online sources).

Changing which dictionary is used by the Kindle

For the English language on the Kindle 3, two dictionaries are provided by default:  The New Oxford American Dictionary and the Oxford Dictionary of English.

To switch which dictionary that the software uses when looking up a word:

  1. Click on the Home button so that you see the list of books or collections on the Kindle
  2. Next, click on the Menu button and select “Settings” from the dropdown list.  This will open the Settings screen.
  3. Lastly, click on the Menu button again and select “Change Primary Dictionary”.
  4. All of the dictionaries which were loaded with the software or purchased from the Kindle store will be displayed.  Select the one you want and you’re done!

Surprisingly, I’ve found these dictionaries to be complete enough to answer most questions.

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Kindle part 1: What’s the deal with ebooks anyway?

October 27, 2010 2 comments

My plan is to write a series of posts covering my experiences with the Amazon Kindle. Obviously, mileage may vary depending on reading habits and comfort with technology.

This post will focus on my thoughts on ebooks in general.

Needless to say, I read a lot of books and own a lot of books (between my wife and I, we have a library of over 4,800!). I love browsing for them, handling them, the smell of the ink, and cataloging them. Sadly, I’ve purchased second copies of some books just because I like their packaging (omnibuses can quickly become my downfall).

So the question was: would I ever convert to e-books? The answer is a qualified yes.

My first exposure to e-books was via my Palm handheld. Several prominent science-fiction publishers (Baen in particular) began releasing some backlist books in this format to entice readers to purchase later volumes in these series (go to the Baen Free Library to check it out!). When purchasing David Weber’s latest Honor Harrington novel a number of years ago (I think it was War of Honor), the Baen published hardback included a CD containing all of the previous volumes electronically. I quickly found that I enjoyed the portable nature of these books — especially when I had a few moments free at lunch, in a waiting room, or anywhere else where I’d have my Palm device with me. Even the small screen of a Palm or my Treo didn’t bother me.

But the device itself never really disappeared — often when reading a dead-tree work, you can become so engrossed that the physical book doesn’t even register. You don’t even notice turning the page. I never quite felt that with the small devices.

I also didn’t see the ebook as a replacement for the physical book, but rather as a portable extension. I found myself reading the electronic book when I was out and about, but reverted to the physical copy when I got home.

In addition to the portability, I really benefited from having a decent number of books with me. For example, when reading the David Weber Honor Harrington books, I could immediately start on the next one without interruption, or could switch quickly to another genre if I wasn’t in the mood. Certainly, traveling was ideal with my Palm, although I always seemed to pack at least one physical book, partly due to the strain on the battery.

In the advent of the Kindle era, the first year, I honestly read many books on the device which I already owned, but my reading pattern changed:  I generally did not switch to the normal book at home.

It hasn’t been until more recently (last six months or so) where I’ve felt more comfortable buying a book exclusively for the Kindle itself. I think this is especially true for non-fiction books and newer-to-me authors, where I don’t have a collection to keep complete.

Frankly, I’ll likely buy more ebooks as publishers begin embracing it more for all of their new books and their backlists. The inconsistency of the available books is perplexing to me. Some authors and genres are well represented; often specific books are oddly missing.

For me, there is still joy in browsing the shelves at the local bookstores and used bookstores. And, I still buy books there, probably too many — especially if I own the rest of the series. But I’m getting much better at pausing, checking whether a book is available in electronic format. I’ve often thought about the quote from Seinfeld:

“What is this obsession people have with books? They put them in their houses like they’re trophies. What do you need it for after you read it?”
— Jerry Seinfeld

Now, I definitely reread my books, but I have begun to question whether having a physical (and heavy — take it from me who has had to move my boxes 4-5 times between apartments) copy is as important as having the text readily available to me, wherever I am?

I hope bookstores never go out of business.  But it really makes me wonder whether the form of the media itself really matters, or is it the content?  With the caveat that if I think I own the content, there isn’t fine print somewhere that I’m merely renting it.

I’d love to hear what you think!

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