Audio book options

Uploaded from Flickr by Colleen AF Venable

Audio books are becoming more important/useful in many ways. It does not have to be sight-impaired students that benefit from audio books. We have students who have trouble with reading for a variety of reasons but who are perfectly capable of understanding and assimilating the spoken word. Many students enjoy listening to a book being read or there are those who have long journeys to get to school or who have training runs. Many use their portable device (be it iPod or others) already to break up the boredom so why not still listen to a podcast of a book reading.  It is a way of using otherwise “down-time” as reading time.

There was an interesting article in the Age Greenguide last Thursday about Bolinda Audio Books. Entitled “Telling stories to the world” the history of this company was outlined in terms of their development into a thriving audiobook company.

I remember buying a number of the Large Print titles for a vision impaired student from the earlier version of the company. In some respects it does not seem all that long ago but I must admit that I have become a much bigger fan as they have developed the audio book business, especially when I drive out into the country areas and I am faced with 3-6 hour drives.

Bolinda has become a large audio book publisher with a great  line up of authors and titles, especially Australian, and they are also beginning to offer simultaneous releases of audio books. This has been a boon to me as I want to “read” the new titles as I introduce them into our library. I am always trying to keep on top of the current literature and this is a great way for me to “read” a number of titles. I have also tried a few audiobooks for my iPod and it is very easy it is to download/use their MP3CD’s.

I have yet to investigate Bolinda digital which is a fairly recently decided to offer an option that will enable libraries to offer eAudiobooks to its library customers from its Library’s website. This will enable users to download time-limited version of the novel. How and if I can make use of this in a school library is yet to be seen, but I am interested.

There are also options for free books as well. If a teacher decides to study a book that is in the public domain, they can access the text from the ManyBooks.net site. ManyBooks has public domain books already formatted for various handheld devices.

Another advantage is that if you download a book for an iPod, for instance, Manybooks can provide it in iPod notes format. The text is divided into various files and each file is linked to the file that comes before it and the file that follows it. This is done because there is a limit to the number of characters allowed in one iPod notes file but no limit to the number of “notes” files than can be uploaded to an iPod. The user can then  access the text and audio of a book at the same time from the same device whenever they want to. I do not like reading from small screens but the iPad will change this.

Mp3 files can be downloaded and uploaded to handheld devices just like music is uploaded. If we want free books another option is LibriVox. This site hosts free public domain audiobooks that are read by volunteers. The quality of voice varies but it is still a good option.

From Fiction Focus there comes another audio option – in the form of podcasts. Entitled “Listen Up”, this sounds like an interesting idea and I plan to check it out tonight.

Audiobook Community is a US-based ning. The largest of its groups (104 members) is called Sync: YA Listening. During the months of July and August, the group is offering two free audio downloads each week to support the summer reading programs held by many school and public libraries in the US. Administrator Kirsten Cappy is still fine tuning the list, but here’s a glimpse. She is playing with pairing modern and classic books.

We are fortunate to have many options to enable us to give our students a gateways into literature. The above options only scratch the surface.

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