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Archive for February 15th, 2009

The poor suckers at Jonestown, who got convinced to do everything for Jim Jones including kill themselves, apparently left behind audio testimonies to what was going on in their minds, or at least what they thought they were supposed to say was going on in their minds.

NPR made a 90 minute audio documentary from this material and other stuff. You can listen to it at their webpage in its entirety, or you can listen to it in three chunks over here.

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Columbia Workshop

There are a lot of old radio dramas which have fallen into the public domain, and a good chunk of them are available on the Internet Archive. Here’s an arty one I haven’t listened to, but which seems to be chock full of goodness: Columbia Workshop.

It’s a mix of adaptations of classic plays and stories (Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, Hamlet) and contemporary ones by new writers. CBS (the Columbia Broadcasting System, remember?) wanted to show that they cared about educating the public and advancing excellence in radio. Composer Bernard Herrman and many notable directors and actors were involved in the series. You can learn all about it over on Wikipedia.

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Audiobooks on Zipidee

Apparently there’s some site called Zipidee which the Boing Boing people like. It has the virtue of simplicity. If you want to buy an audiobook or whatever, you just pays your money and downloads your files. No subscription needed.

I guess the big idea of the site is that you can “embed” the information in an item sales page on their site, into your site. Or something like that.

Bah. I hate getting sick. It is making me squirrelly to stay inside and rest. You can see how desperate I am, that I’m even posting this sort of boring thing.

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Madeleine L’Engle herself, back when she was still alive and spry, reading The Wrinkle in Time and the other books in that series. In the sample, she has one of those interesting New York voices.

The Lincoln/Douglas Debates, read by David Strathairn as Lincoln and Richard Dreyfus as Stephen Douglas. This is a brilliant idea for an audiobook, and a must-listen if you have any interest in American history. Needless to say, it’s probably not the most comfy listen; it’s not fun to hear Douglas talking about slaves as if they weren’t people, and Lincoln saying only what he thought Illinois voters would be able to take. (IIRC, Illinois had no legal black residents at all, slave or free.)

Caedmon’s Edgar Allan Poe Audio Collection. Well, I know I had you at “Caedmon” if you’re an old school audiobook listener. If not, you should learn that Caedmon did extremely high quality literary audio recordings, often of deservedly famous writers reading their own works. This collection gathers together various old recordings of Poe material done by Vincent Price (!) and Basil Rathbone (!!). So yeah, that definitely is a keeper.

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Audiobooks on EMusic

I’ve mentioned Audible before, and I guess iTunes has audiobooks on their store. (Not that I’ll ever be able to tell for myself, since they still make you download software just to see the selection.)  Anyway, I guess some of the other music stores also sell audiobooks, and some of them (unlike Audible) are in DRM-free formats.

EMusic has apparently been selling Random House and other audiobooks this way since 2007. If you sign up for their free trial subscription, you get 25 songs and one free audiobook as your sample. Since they’re all DRM-free mp3s, this is a good deal.  So if you really are jonesing for something and are too cheap to pay full price, this seems like a decent way to manage it.

However, eMusic is surprisingly coy about pricing. You can read the current prices of their music subscription plans in the FAQ, but if you want to find out what the audiobook subscriptions cost, you have to go to an “Upgrade” page which can only be reached by registered members. It seems to be similar to Audible’s book/credit pricing scheme.

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Still A Little Bit Hoarse

I’m almost well, but not quite. The problem is that my poor vocal cords are getting drippage enough from my head that they’re still a bit wobbly. We’ll see how they’re feeling later today.

In other news, the Authors’ Guild has suddenly discovered the existence of automated text-to-speech readers.

What, it took them until Kindle 2 came out? Now they worry about this, when it’s been a standard feature on almost every computer since the Nineties? Oh, yeah, what a grave threat to audiobook sales.

The Wall Street Journal goes on to point out that Amazon owns Audible, an online audiobook company. It bought Audible for 300 million dollars in 2008, when Kindle and Kindle 2 were already on the front burner. So obviously Amazon’s not too worried about audiobook sales going downhill. :)

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