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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Thoughts on “Thoughts on Music”

On Tuesday, in an open letter Thoughts on Music, Steve Jobs responded (accidentally ;- ) to my prior post calling on Apple to license FairPlay to other device makers. It’s a brilliant piece of writing, as all the best propaganda is, covering a lot of ground concisely and persuasively. Other people have analysed Thoughts on Music in more detail than I care to; I’ll confine myself to three points.

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Five reasons Apple should license FairPlay

I have some very specific, personal reasons why I want to see Apple license their FairPlay Digital Rights Management (DRM) system to other device makers; I’ll publish those later this week. Here I want to lay out a logical argument for why Apple should do this, in their own best interests.

  1. Running into the wall of customers’ other (non-Apple) devices slows sales. Requiring people to give up things they like is more likely to lose sales than to convince them to buy new Apple stuff.

I’ve spent more than $400 on the iTunes Store, but I stopped buying FairPlay protected tracks 10 seconds after I realized they wouldn’t play over my new Sonos music system. And I won’t buy movies or TV shows from the iTunes Store because they can’t be played over the network via my TiVo.

I’m not going to buy an AirPort Express or an Apple TV for the privilege of buying content from the iTunes Store. Those devices do not work as well as my Sonos and TiVo, not even close. Instead, I’ll simply buy CDs, and keep my basic cable and Netflix subscriptions.

  1. Apple is going to have to do it eventually. Too much success means lawsuits and government action, neither of which is good for business.

With the success Apple has had with the iTunes Store, they have or will reach a level that some will consider a monopoly. That in turn will bring consumer lawsuits and government intervention. It’s already happening in Norway, the Netherlands, and other European states. There’s a U.S. iTunes lawsuit, too. This is a headache Apple doesn’t need.

  1. Apple is going to have to do it eventually. Too much success will turn the competitive market into “everyone but Apple.”

This happened to Microsoft. “Everyone but Microsoft” is constantly trying to make effective alliances, and constantly showing up to testify in lawsuits (see the previous item). While it hasn’t lead to Microsoft’s downfall, it has added drag to their momentum.

The efforts of Apple’s competitors have to date been pretty laughable, but when their current partners, the record companies, start saying they might consider selling music without DRM attached, it’s not because they’re happy with the status quo. Apple is so successful at selling music right now that Apple is in the driver’s seat, and that’s not something the recording industry has historically been good at accepting. At some point, “desperate times, desperate measures” will apply. And when your partners start conspiring against you, you’re fucked.

  1. Apple is apparently already doing it.

Apple has apparently already licensed FairPlay to NetGear. A step in the right direction. There is a rumor this is the first of many.

  1. People will like Apple more.

Customers. Partners. The market as a whole. Yeah, this is kind of touchy-feely, but if Apple opens up FairPlay voluntarily, before they are forced to, it will generate goodwill and positive buzz, and in the Internet age, that can spread pretty far and wide. Remember that the iPod didn’t start out as an iconic device, and a large part of its spread and success came from the same people who will be happy to see FairPlay opened up.

“You had me at scrolling”

Two thoughts about today’s Apple keynote given by Steve Jobs, and the introduction of the Apple iPhone.

The Apple iPhone The first is that it’s an absolute grand slam home run. Think about it this way: take away the phone and the Internet connectivity, and it would still be a breakthrough product, a truly amazing next generation for the iPod. It blows even the current iPods away, to say nothing of Zune and other competitors. People would easily pay $499 for it. (The original Newton MessagePad cost more at introduction, IIRC, $799.)

Similarly, take away the iPod and the Internet connectivity, and the phone is amazing. And then look at just the Internet connectivity — the email, web browsing, Google Maps, the connected widgets like weather and stocks — and in a handheld form factor, it’s revolutionary too. Any of these alone, it’s worth $499. Put them all together…

Second thought, can you guess at what time Steve announced the iPhone?

Apple stock price 2006-01-09

Backtracking using the CNET play-by-play of the keynote, it looks like the initial (and foolish) sell off came when Steve said he wasn’t going to talk about new Mac products. I can’t figure that out at all. When Steve said he wasn’t going to talk about the Mac for the rest of the keynote, I got chills down my spine. Something big is coming. What in god’s name inspired people to sell at that point?

OK, while we’re doing stock graphs, one last thought, courtesy of John Gruber:

Apple stock price vs. PALM and RIMM

And it will be interesting to compare Cingular vs. Verizon over the rest of this year…

Five things about the new iPod nano

Here are five things I’ve noticed about the new iPod nano I picked up yesterday (I bought the new 8 gigabyte nano, available only in black), which I have not seen anyone else write about yet:

  • The packaging is not just smaller, it’s hard, clear plastic instead of cardboard. It’s a really clever design that holds the nano suspended in the front of the box. There’s a small label on the back of the bracket that holds the nano tightly, which illustrates how to flex the bracket to release the nano. Very clever design…but it took me a few tugs and pulls and a bit of frustration, before I turned the piece over, and saw the illustration.

  • The new nano looks and feels substantially smaller than the old nano, until you line them up right next to each other. The new nano is a teensy bit thinner, but virtually identical in the other two dimensions. The size difference is mostly optical illusion caused by the new rounded edges.

  • Speaking of rounded edges, the new nano comes with a new dock connector fit bracket. The new nano fits into the nano bracket of my Logitech mm50 portable speakers, but my old nano will not fit into the new Apple bracket. It’s a bit too thick, and doesn’t have the rounded edges. I suspect that the new nano will work with most products which fit the old nano form factor, but the reverse will be hit and miss. Products that support a perfect fit for the new nano will not work with the old one.

  • The new nano requires iTunes 7 to sync with a computer. Normally I like to wait a week or two before trying new versions of iTunes, but in this case, I had to install it. (Working wonderfully so far, knock wood.) A very nice set of improvements, including a few things of use to audiobook aficionados like me; more on those in another post.

  • The center select button, the “dot” in the middle of the click wheel, is very slightly concave (the button on the old nano is perfectly flat). It seems like such a tiny difference, and I’m sure by measurements it’s a small fraction of a millimeter, but it’s both quite visible as a real-world gradient, and a really wonderful tactile difference. You instantly know when your thumb is on or touching the button. Just another one of those aesthetic touches that only Apple seems to think of and consider worthwhile. They seem small, but they add up.

All in all, I think the new 8 gig nano is a terrific refinement to a device which I already thought was nearly perfect. And now that it’s sync’ed up with my audiobooks, I am looking forward to road testing it later today during my commute.

How to Improve Audiobooks

Kirk McElhearn, a noted author on topics like the iPod, iTunes, podcasting and the Mac, has written a short article Digital Audiobooks: Taking Them to the Next Generation, musing about what should be done to audiobooks to take advantage of the possibilities offered by the iPod and other digital players. In particular, he calls out the need for better chapter markers, and better handling of material which cannot be read, or is often skipped, like illustrations and endnotes.

I’ve had similar frustrations.

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Microsoft Packaging Parody Video

OK, lots of people are pointing to this “parody” video, Microsoft Redesigns the iPod Package, but since it involves the iPod, I thought I’d call a little more attention to it.

OK, lots of people are pointing to this “parody” video, Microsoft Redesigns the iPod Package, but since it involves the iPod, I thought I’d call a little more attention to it.

!/images/ipod/ms-ipod-pro-packaging.png(Microsoft Redesigns the iPod Package)!:http://youtube.com/watch?v=UADizYtTrAI

It’s funny because it’s true, and because the music is perfect. But it’s also interesting because it perfectly illustrates the differences between the Apple and Microsoft design aesthetics — and I’m not talking about packaging. The iPod is so well done not because it’s had so many features added to it, but because it has had so many taken away. The saying “Less is more” is no less true for being cliché.

Which iPod for Audiobooks?

I’ve just published a ridiculously long explanation of why the iPod Nano is the best playback device for audiobooks. If you’re interested, here’s the article:

“Which iPod Should I Buy?”:/audiobooks/ipod-recommendations/

I’ve just published in Aldo on Audiobooks a ridiculously long explanation of why the iPod Nano is the best playback device for audiobooks. If you’re interested, here’s the article:

Which iPod Should I Buy?

I am frequently asked, “Which audio player should I buy to use with my audiobooks?” At first I would reply with a great deal of information, most of which is completely irrelevant to the question. I’ve come to realize that the answer is quite simple. You only have to make one decision…

How Do You Take iPod Screenshots?

I want to take screenshots of an iPod screen, to add more documentation and information to “Aldo on Audiobooks”:/audiobooks/, but I can’t figure out how to take them. Apple includes “terrific screen captures from iPods”:http://www.apple.com/support/ipod101/anatomy/2/#1 — both old and new — in their iPod 101 site. How do you do it? Do you just take photos of the screen using a normal camera? The quality of Apple’s screens is too high for that…

Anyone know? Please tell me!

I want to take screenshots of an iPod screen, to add more documentation and information to Aldo on Audiobooks, but I can’t figure out how to take them. Apple includes terrific screen captures from iPods — both old and new — in their iPod 101 site. How do you do it? Do you just take photos of the screen using a normal camera? The quality of Apple’s screens is too high for that…

I tried Googling around, but came up with nothing. Anyone know? Please tell me!

Update: The iPhone and iPod Touch both allow you to take screenshots without any special hacks; just press both the top Sleep button and the bottom Home button at the same time and, after the screen flashes, the screenshot goes into the Photos application. What I was interested in was how to take screenshots of the “classic” iPod user interface, which seems to not be possible unless you are Apple.

iPod 101

There’s not much about audiobooks (except how to buy them in the iTMS), but Apple’s new “iPod 101”:http://www.apple.com/support/ipod101/ is likely to be an extremely useful resource to all the many visitors who are coming here after getting an iPod for Xmas.

There’s not much about audiobooks (except how to buy them in the iTMS), but Apple’s new iPod 101 is likely to be an extremely useful resource to all the many visitors who are coming here after getting an iPod for Xmas.

Do check it out, and then come back to Aldo on Audiobooks to start on iPod 102, all audiobooks, all the time.

Announcing Aldo on Audiobooks

When I posted my instructions for importing audiobooks into iTunes and the iPod, it quickly became the single most popular post on this site, both in page views and in comments. I followed it up with a companion piece, covering the differences for MP3 CD audiobooks, and that quickly became the 2nd most popular page on the site. After weeks of on-and-off-again writing, I am replacing those posts with a whole new section of Aldoblog: Aldo on Audiobooks. Please check it out.

When I posted my instructions for importing audiobooks into iTunes and the iPod, it quickly became the single most popular post on this site, both in page views and in comments. I followed it up with a companion piece, covering the differences for MP3 CD audiobooks, and that quickly became the 2nd most popular page on the site.

I also ended up answering a lot of questions in the comments to those two posts, trying to make the instructions more clear, as well as covering special cases which occurred for some people. From the number of questions, it was clear to me that there are a lot of people looking for help in getting their audiobooks onto their iPod. But my answers, while useful, were hard to find, because there was no organization except chronological in the comments. I decided it was time to rethink keeping that information in a weblog format.

Well, after weeks of on-and-off-again writing, I am finally ready to launch a whole new section of Aldoblog, Aldo on Audiobooks. This collection of information represents a complete reorganization and rewrite of all of the information I’ve posted here previously covering audiobooks on iTunes and the iPod, along with all-new information covering recommendations for what audiobooks to get, and where you can find the best places to get them.

This new section entirely replaces the earlier posts; I’ll be going back and amending them to note that fact. I’m also planning a number of additions to the section, which I hope to post in the run-up to the holidays, in time to help folks who get brand new ipods as gifts.

So, please, go on in and give the new stuff a look. Currently there’s no way to comment on the pages themselves, but I’d love feedback, either as comments on this post, or via email — my contact information is in the sidebar of every page on this site.

Why the iPod nano is Brilliant

OK, so Apple will sell a lot of them — I predict that if Apple can make enough of them, they will *crush* the competition this holiday selling season. *Crush.* They’re going to sell 10-12 million iPods between now and the end of the year (nearly twice their current sell rate).

But that just makes the nano a great _product._ I believe the nano is much more than a great product. It’s a brilliant _platform._

OK, so Apple will sell a lot of them — I predict that if Apple can make enough of them, they will crush the competition this holiday selling season. Crush. They’re going to sell 10-12 million iPods between now and the end of the year (nearly twice their current sell rate).

!/images/ipod/nano-twirl_sm.jpg(The iPod nano)!

But that just makes the iPod nano a great product. I believe the nano is much more than a great product. It’s a brilliant platform.

Continue reading “Why the iPod nano is Brilliant”