Lend Me Your Ears

November 29, 2008 at 12:48 pm 4 comments


After our video Thing, we come to our audio Thing: Podcasts.

I don’t know why, but for some reason podcasts make more sense to me than video blogging. Maybe it’s because I was raised on NPR, so audio broadcast of information just clicks with me. I’m also used to listening to NPR while I’m doing other things, and podcasts let me do that as well. So I’m a big fan of podcasts, even though I’ve never used them in the truest sense of the term– that is, automatically downloading them onto my iPod. Usually, I just stream them as I need them.

Naturally, being raised on NPR, my most common source of podcasts is NPR. Not only can I hear articles that I missed and share articles that I especially enjoyed, NPR also offers other streams that I really like, especially their “Song of the Day.” This has helped me discover all sorts of new music that I might not have checked out otherwise. The other musical feature that I really enjoy is the full-length streaming concerts that they have archived on their site. I wasn’t going to spend $80 and drive to Cleveland to see Radiohead this past year, but lo and behold I can listen to the entire concert on NRP for free!

In addition to this, I’m also a podcaster myself. A year or so ago, the rector of my church asked me about podcasting the sermons from the church, since I’m the resident audio guru. I only knew how to record and edit the audio, but the church’s webmanager could take care of uploading the MP3 once I had put it together. Initially this involved me taking my laptop to church every week and plugging it into the PA, but eventually we obtained a digital recorder, making my life much easier. The whole editing process takes me less than hour every week, and that even includes introductions and the occasional musical offering edited into the podcast as well. My favorite so far was a special sermon delivered by Mike Harden of the Columbus Dispatch on the Diocese’s Appalachian Ministries Sunday.

Finally, no post on digital audio would be complete without mentioning the library’s forays into the medium. For some time now, CML has participated in the unfortunately acronymed Mid-Ohio Digital Library Initiative, or MOLDI. MOLDI makes use of a service called Overdrive, which is used by libraries all over the country for delivering digital content. Not only can you get audio books and music through this service, there’s also a selection of digital movies available as well.

I’ve used MOLDI once before, when my stepdaughter had to read “Frankenstein” for summer homework a few years back and was having trouble actually reading it. She was about to leave to visit her father for the summer, and we didn’t have enough time to get an audio book from the library, so MOLDI to the rescue. We downloaded and burned the audio book that night, and she was good to go.

My only problem with Overdrive is the ongoing issue of digital rights management. Once again, the legal mess over these issues only winds up hurting everybody. The books people really want aren’t available through Overdrive because the publishers want tons of money for them. And on top of that, only recently did the publishers decide to play nice and let Overdrive put up audio books in MP3 format despite that being the industry standard at this point. Essentially, they’d much prefer you pay for your audio books through iTunes. But once again, all this fighting over cash is only hurting the industry. The more difficult they make it for customers to get what they want, the more customers are going to seek other outlets, even if those outlets involve copyright violations. The only reason there isn’t a “black market” in audio books like there is in music is because there’s not enough demand for the audio books. But it’s still a symptom of the larger problem.

So a final word on all this before we end our 23 Things: the world isn’t changing, it has changed. Self-generated and free digital content is already here, and producers of content who don’t realize this and get on board are going to die out.

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Entry filed under: Internet, Library.

Tubing The End

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Alderete  |  November 30, 2008 at 4:33 pm

    Only recently did Apple decide to play nice and let Overdrive put up audio books in MP3 format despite that being the industry standard at this point.

    While it is true that Overdrive recently began using the MP3 format in some circumstances, it is not correct that Apple was involved; Apple has no more control over the use of the MP3 standard than any other organization that licenses the MP3 format for use.

    The MP3 standard is controlled by a variety of corporations, none of which are Apple; there’s a great deal of information available on the Wikipedia MP3 page.

    The only way that Apple and Overdrive were “involved” is that Overdrive used the Microsoft-proprietary WMA format for their DRM control, and Apple didn’t support WMA on iPods. This was seriously hurting Overdrive, because people couldn’t borrow materials and use them on the #1 digital player.

    DRM hurts everyone, but in general, it’s the content producers who decide if DRM is required. Apple is ready to drop DRM from all music sold, as soon as the record labels will allow them (rumors are that this is coming very soon). Likewise for audiobooks. Overdrive is now able to use the MP3 format because the book publishers have allowed them to use the less restrictive format. Apple had nothing to do with it.

    Reply
  • 2. CychoLibrarian  |  December 1, 2008 at 11:10 am

    Thanks for the clarification. I guess this just underscores my larger point that the publishers need to realize that the boat’s already sailed on digital content, and start looking for other ways to make money than desperately trying to control every instance of the work.

    Reply
  • 3. 5p34k1ng1nt0ngu3z  |  December 4, 2008 at 6:44 pm

    I really like podcasts, including those on NPR, but I’ve recently started to get into vodcasts via Miro. HD channels that I can play on my HDtv via a laptop HDMI cable…yum!

    MOLDI is okay. I find videos I like occasionally, but I don’t do audiobooks or PDF books…and the limited music offerings–I don’t think so. One of my friends likes CML’s physical holdings in this area, but always finds a lot more audiobooks to his liking via the sharity world. Plus, he can do so late at night and burn the files to disc or quickly transfer to his ipod in the morning.

    I’m not convinced that Apple is ready to drop the .m4a format yet, regardless of the content producers’ decisions. Even though you can convert to another format easily using free utilities like BonkEnc, just give me something that’s more easily transportable, already.

    Actually, I’ve been a proponent of doing away with mp3 altogether and going with wav files only because paying for an album’s worth of 256kbps mp3s from Amazon without liner notes and cover art is not worth the money to me. Give me the highest quality possible and I’ll be happy to transcode my own mp3s onto my portable player while I’m burning a cd-r for archival purposes. Memory and broadband access are getting cheaper so why not provide these files for paying customers?

    That’s cool what you’re doing for your church. Hopefully, in the near future, our customers will be able to easily produce these types of things on our in-branch computers.

    Reply
    • 4. CychoLibrarian  |  December 5, 2008 at 9:56 am

      The problem with .WAV is always going to be compression. There’s no way I could store my entire iTunes library in .WAV without getting more storage.

      And theoretically, our customers could already do what I do on the library computers, they’d just have to install Audacity and a WMA-MP3 converter every time.

      Reply

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