Complete set of Harry Potter audiobooks at Amazon.com

Harry Potter audiobooks set

I’m still waiting for a deluxe boxed set of all the audiobooks, like the ::amazon(“0545044251”, deluxe print books set)::, but if you’re just looking for a great deal on a complete set, packaging be damned, here’s ::amazon(“0739352245”, all seven Harry Potter audiobooks at Amazon.com)::, at a 40% discount from full retail.

It’s still $275, but considering what they cost individually, if you want to own all seven, this is the way to go. The total running time is almost five days — at under $2.50/hour, it’s hard to imagine a better value for your entertainment dollar. Enjoy!

How to join multiple tracks into a single audiobook file

If you follow the instructions I offer for importing audiobooks on audio or MP3 CDs into iTunes, you end up with a single album with the title of the book, that is composed of sequentially numbered tracks, which make up the chapters or discs of the book. These separate tracks are kind of painful to manage on an iPod (the iPhone and iPod Touch make it a little easier), and are definitely not aesthetically pleasing when viewed in lists in iTunes. One of the most common questions I get from readers is how to merge all of the tracks into a single file, ideally with chapter marks at the right places.

This post isn’t a thorough tutorial on how to accomplish this, merely an expansion of the existing FAQ on the subject. There are all kinds of extra details you might want to consider if you’re as anal retentive as I am about getting all those details “right.” Still, this should give you most of what you would want to know.

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The Amazon Kindle does audiobooks too

The Amazon Kindle If you pay much attention to the technology industry or consumer electronics, you may be aware of a new “e-book” reader from Amazon.com, called the Amazon Kindle. An ebook reader is an electronic device that can display the text of books or magazines onscreen, more crisply than a standard computer, and with the benefit of being able to “fit” more books into one package. That is, an ebook reader can store hundreds of books in a form factor similar to (or smaller than) a single hardback book.

The Amazon Kindle has a bunch of innovative features that are new in an ebook device, the two most important being an always-on wireless connection to the Internet, and the services provided by the (always connected) Amazon Kindle Store. You can learn more about the device’s specific features at the Kindle Store.

There has been a wide range of opinions expressed about the Kindle, from violent dislike to sighs of bliss. Probably the two best, most reasoned opinions come from Andy Ihnatko at the Chicago Sun-Times, who likes the Kindle a lot, and John Gruber of Daring Fireball, who hopes and believes it will fail. (And here are two more that also bring intelligent perspectives.)

Kindle In Hand Since I don’t own and haven’t even held a Kindle, I hesitate to express an opinion about it. On the one hand, looking at the features list, the device gets a lot of things right. But having a feature is not the same as doing it well; just look at the iPod vs. its competition. The devil’s in the details, and without using one, I can’t say if the feature list is a bunch of checked off boxes, or capabilities that are a delight to use (these reviews make me think the former). And there are also some small-but-serious omissions; for me the number one issue is no backlight, which means I can’t use it in bed without turning on a reading light, which wakes Rochelle up if she’s sleeping — a big no-no.

So I think it’s too early to tell. I would predict success for it, if it was not so relentlessly unstylish, trapped in a case designed for the 1980s. It’s not that style is the most important thing, but it is important.

In the end, the only reason I’m bothering to post about the Kindle at all is because among its many features, it can play audiobooks from Audible.com. As I wrote above, I have no idea if this feature is well-implemented, and I have a hard time imagining it as a good fit for audiobooks in a car while commuting (the form factor is all wrong). But if you’re the sort of person who “goes both ways” with their books (print and audio), you might find the Kindle very interesting.

Disclosure: If you buy a Kindle through the links above, I’ll get a kickback from Amazon. I’m not particularly recommending you do that, but just so you know.

Free this week: The Millionaires by Brad Meltzer

The unabridged version of The Millionaires by Brad Meltzer is currently free at the iTunes Store. Freebie audiobooks usually last about a week, so get this while you can. (Requires a valid iTunes Store account.)

Here’s the book’s description (from the iTunes Store):

What would you steal if you couldn’t get caught? It started as the perfect crime. Then it took a turn for the worse. Charlie and Oliver Caruso are brothers who work at Green & Greene, a private bank so exclusive you need two million dollars just to be a client. But when the door of success slams in their faces, they’re faced with an offer they can’t refuse: three million dollars in an abandoned account. No one knows it exists, and even better, it doesn’t belong to anyone. It’s a foolproof crime. More important, for Charlie and Oliver, it’s a way out of debt and the key to a new life. All they have to do is take the money. But when they do, they quickly discover they’ve got a lot more on their hands than the prize. Before they can blink, a friend is dead – and the bank, the Secret Service, and a female private investigator are suddenly closing in. Trapped in a breakneck race to stay alive, Charlie and Oliver are bout to discover a secret that will test their trust and forever change their lives.

Note: I haven’t listened to this, so I have no idea if it’s any good. The reviews on the iTunes Store are mixed. But what the heck, it’s free, right?

Holy afterburners, Batman!

Today Apple announced a whole series of changes to its lineup of iPods, including improvements and a price reduction for the iPod I recommend for audiobooks, the 4 GB iPod nano.

But the most interesting news, to me, was about the iPhone, at the end of the event. From Steve’s lips to our ears (via Macworld):

“We’re on track to ship our millionth iPhone by the end of this month, and so to get ready for the holiday season, here’s what we’re going to do: The vast majority of customers want the 8GB iPhone. So today, we’re going to focus on just the 8GB model. [And] the 8GB isn’t going to sell for $599, it’s going to sell starting today for $399. We want to put iPhones in a lot of stockings this holiday season.”

So (a) the iPhone is selling incredibly well, getting to a million units in under three months. And (b) if they were selling well before, how well are they going to sell at $200 less? I predict 4-5 million iPhones sold by the end of the holiday season.

Deathly Hallows not coming to iTunes Store

I’m a bit late to have stumbled across this information, but it would appear that the final novel in the Harry Potter series will not be coming to the iTunes Store:

*HEARING HARRY*
You may have the seen the avalanche of press coverage about the new “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” hardcover selling 8.3 million U.S. copies in its first 24 hours of release. […] More than 225,000 audiobook cassette or compact disc copies were [also] sold the first weekend. Those were the best two-day results in audiobook history, according to Random House. […] What’s not available is an iTunes download for your iPod. The first six Potter books are available through iTunes at prices ranging from $33 to $50. But a Random House spokeswoman said no iTunes date has been announced for “Deathly Hallows” and that she has no other information about download plans.

So if you’re still waiting, I suggest running out to Costco and getting the CD version, which had the lowest price I’ve seen by $10, and then buying a copy of Audiobook Builder to make importing it into iTunes more pleasurable. The two together will still cost less than Deathly Hallows would have cost through the iTunes Store, and you’ll be able to use Audiobook Builder on other books in the future.

One week with an iPhone

Last Friday I bought an 8 gigabyte iPhone at an Apple store. I’ve been using the phone for a week now, and overall, while there are certainly flaws and omissions, it is a spectacular synthesis of hardware and software excellence. No other handheld device I’ve used even comes close, including the seven previous iPods I’ve owned. It’s a major advance in mobile phones, and in computing generally, and while I certainly look forward to getting the 2nd generation product, I’m going to love this 1st generation device all on its own.

Beyond that general impression, I have a few specific things I thought would be worth writing about.

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The Overlook by Michael Connelly

The Overlook, by Michael ConnellyThe latest Harry Bosch novel was released in print and audiobook formats earlier this week. The Overlook was originally published as a serial in the New York Times Sunday Magazine, but the novel has been expanded and revised. It’s still a lot shorter than most of Connelly’s works; the audiobook version clocks in at just over six hours, instead of the usual 10+.

Michael Connelly and Harry Bosch are who introduced me to the amazing pleasure that is listening to audiobooks. Rochelle and I began listening to Lost Light, the ninth Harry Bosch novel, on a drive back from LA. When we got home we parked the car, threw our stuff in the house, and climbed into bed to continue listening. It remains my favorite audiobook so far.

One of the truly terrific things about the Harry Bosch books is that the entire series is available in unabridged form. The Overlook is the thirteenth book so far, and all told there is more than 125 hours of listening pleasure. If you want to start at the beginning, here’s the full series to date:

  1. ::amazon(“1593352549”, “The Black Echo”):: [Formats: ::amazon(“1593352549”, “MP3 CD”)::, ::amazon(“1593356307”, “Audio CD”)::]
  2. ::amazon(“159335259X”, “The Black Ice”):: [Formats: ::amazon(“159335259X”, “MP3 CD”)::, ::amazon(“1593356390”, “Audio CD”)::]
  3. ::amazon(“1596009225”, “The Concrete Blonde”):: [Formats: ::amazon(“1596009225”, “MP3 CD”)::, ::amazon(“1596009209”, “Audio CD”)::]
  4. ::amazon(“1596009292”, “The Last Coyote”):: [Formats: ::amazon(“1596009292”, “MP3 CD”)::, ::amazon(“1596009276”, “Audio CD”)::]
  5. ::amazon(“159335312X”, “Trunk Music”):: [Formats: ::amazon(“159335312X”, “MP3 CD”)::]
  6. ::amazon(“1597376876”, “Angels Flight”):: [Formats: ::amazon(“1597376876”, “MP3 CD”)::, ::amazon(“159737685X”, “Audio CD”)::]
  7. A Darkness More Than Night
  8. City of Bones
  9. Lost Light
  10. The Narrows
  11. The Closers
  12. Echo Park
  13. The Overlook

Relic by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child

Relic Relic, by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, is not a new book. It’s the first in a connected series of novels that features or involves Special Agent Pendergast, and was originally published in 1994. As an audiobook, it was only published on cassette, and has long been out of “print.” This new MP3 CD edition, released in March, is what I hope is the first of the authors’ back catalog being re-issued in modern formats.

You can read the synopsis at Amazon.com; my summary: it’s a terrific novel, and a great spoken performance. I especially enjoy the character of Agent Pendergast, who seems to be the authors’ favorite character. He is a delight. Rochelle and I listened to The Cabinet of Curiosities, which also features Pendergast, before we realized that the book had others that came prior, and was abridged. In spite of that, we were gripped the entire time we were listening, and didn’t mind the traffic we were in much at all.

To date there are seven published novels featuring Agent Pendergast, with an eighth on the way later this year:

  1. Relic
  2. Reliquery (print only)
  3. The Cabinet of Curiosities (abridged)
  4. Still Life with Crows (abridged)
  5. Brimstone (abridged)
  6. Dance of Death
  7. The Book of the Dead
  8. The Wheel of Darkness

Preston and Child are a great writing team. The later novels by the duo have been best sellers, and have also done extremely well in audiobook format. I believe that’s why Relic is being re-released at this time. If Relic’s publication is an indication that the other books will be issued in digital and unabridged formats also, then I’m very, very excited.

Recommended: Sonos Digital Music System

Sonos SystemWe bought a Sonos Digital Music System back in September 2006, and I’ve been meaning to write about it for a while. It’s a terrific product that has us listening to music far more regularly than we ever did. What’s more, it works pretty well with audiobooks that we’ve imported into iTunes or purchased from Audible.com, which is nice for listening to them when we’re moving around (e.g., in the kitchen), when an iPod and headphones might get in the way.

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Review: Audiobook Builder 1.0

Audiobook BuilderOver the course of importing dozens of audiobooks, I’ve used a variety of techniques and different tools to try to improve my workflow and the final product. And in the course of answering hundreds of reader questions, I’ve mentioned and even recommended a few of those tools. This is my first full on software review, and I’m inspired to do so by the quality of the tool: Audiobook Builder is awesome, and at $10 it’s also a bargain.

Audiobook Builder gets my rave review for three reasons:

  1. It’s easy to use
  2. It saves a lot of time
  3. The final product is superior

The only real “problem” with it is that it is for Mac OS X only.

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The Bloomsday Dead by Adrian McKinty

The Bloomsday DeadThe Bloomsday Dead, the latest novel by Adrian McKinty, has just been released in audiobook format. This is McKinty’s third novel to feature Michael Forsythe. Michael is a surviver, an angel of destruction, and a lyrical narrator; I intensely enjoy the character. Gerard Doyle has read all four of McKinty’s books, and has a lovely Irish accent that’s distinct enough for atmosphere, but not so strong as to be distracting. I greatly enjoyed the first two Forsythe novels, and have been looking forward to this one for almost six months.

The first two books are (in order) Dead I Well May Be and The Dead Yard, and they’re available from Audible.com via the links, as well as Amazon.com and other online stores. Both are highly recommended, and judging from the early reviewer comments, so is this latest.

Note: I’ve only been able to get The Bloomsday Dead via Audible.com, though it’s ::amazon(“0786160780”, “listed on Amazon.com”)::, as well a few of the specialized audiobook retailers. When I tried ordering it from Amazon.com, they sent me a follow-up email saying there was a delay of up to a month before they could ship it, so I cancelled the order. Audible.com released it the next day, and that was that.