April 2009

Free audiobooks at Barnes & Noble

by Michael Alderete on 4/27/2009 · 11 comments

Barnes & Noble is giving away nine free audiobooks. Most of the selections are short stories, but Tom Sawyer is the full length novel. All are offered in MP3 format, which should be playable on any device. (With iTunes 8 you can change the media type to Audiobook to make tracks in any format behave like “true” audiobooks.)

Free audiobooks at Barnes & Noble

Best-selling, critically acclaimed, and classic authors and stories are represented. The Louis L’Amour story is dramatized (think old time radio), the rest are performed by professional narrators. These are quality products, and a short but complete story in audio format is a great way to try audiobooks, if you’ve never given them a shot before.

Here’s the complete list of what’s available:

  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
  • Merrano of the Dry Country by Louis L’Amour
  • “Ysrael,” an unabridged story from Drown by Junot Diaz
  • “Truth or Dare,” an unabridged story from The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted by Elizabeth Berg
  • “Fathers,” an unabridged story from The View From Castle Rock by Alice Munro
  • “Great Day,” an unabridged story from Armageddon in Retrospect by Kurt Vonnegut
  • “Best New Horror” by Joe Hill, a story from the collection 20th Century Ghosts
  • “Super Goat Man,” an unabridged story from Men and Cartoons by Jonathan Lethem
  • “The Babysitter’s Code,” from the collection Hardly Knew Her by Laura Lippman

The process for downloading them is a little painful, you have to add each one to your shopping cart, and then check out. The check out process requires you to fill in payment information, even though the purchase is free. (I imagine that’s the trade: you create an account with us, and we’ll give you something for free.) After you check out, you’ll receive an email with download instructions, which includes requiring you to install the Overdrive Media Console, a tool to download and manage your electronic purchases from B&N (Amazon has a similar tool), and then going back to the Barnes & Noble site to download the link files, and then opening the link files in Media Console to actually download the tracks. Then if you want them in iTunes, that’s another step. All in all, it’s nowhere near as easy as the iTunes Store, or Audible, or even Amazon. But did I mention the audiobooks are free?

The offer ends on May 16th (at 3am Eastern; call it the 15th for most people), so get there soon.

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Backing Up in an Audiobook

by Michael Alderete on 4/3/2009 · 3 comments

After posting my explanation of Nearly Perfect Audiobooks, I got feedback from a number of readers who preferred to have their audiobooks in lots of short, 1-3 minute tracks. I find many tracks to be incredibly annoying when organizing and managing my books, especially when manually creating a “Listen Now” playlist to compliment the smart playlists I describe in Managing Audiobooks on a Small Capacity iPod or iPhone. The approach I take for my own audiobooks is to condense the books into as few tracks as possible, the exact opposite of the lots of tiny tracks approach.

So why would someone prefer lots of tiny tracks? The common thread seemed to be wanting to have the ability to skip backwards in the book just a couple minutes, if they missed something, got interrupted, or otherwise needed to re-listen to what they had just heard. The easiest way to do this is the iPod’s most obvious track navigation technique, click the Back button once to skip backwards to the beginning of the current track, or click twice to go back to the previous track. While smaller tracks make that reasonable, the hour+ tracks that come out of my audiobook import process make that technique painful. Hence a preference for shorter tracks.

But! The iPod provides at least two other easy-to-use techniques for going backwards in your audiobook, and once mastered, they are at least as useful as the basic clicking, eliminating the need to click backwards through short tracks to re-listen to the last few minutes. And they work best on the long tracks I prefer. Everybody wins!

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