Are Podiobooks Kindle’s Killer App?

[I don’t have a Kindle, so somebody tell me if it it already does this.  But what with all the hoohah about text-to-speech, I doubt it.] I prefer to listen to books whenever I can.  Often that’s a book on CD that I’ve ripped to MP3, but more often it’s a “podiobook” that I can have served up to me in chapter sized chunks.  I can listen while driving, on the treadmill, or even in the dark of the bedroom before going to bed, without waking up my wife.  So when the Kindle (and Sony eReader) came out, I wasn’t all that impressed.  Spending that kind of money for a device that makes it easier to do something I don’t really do much of anyway?  No thanks. But the text-to-speech thing caught my attention.  Apparently, people want the option of having their book read to them.  And that’s the first time where I really said, “Well, yeah.  Duh.  I want it read to me so much that I don’t even bother with the paper edition if I don’t have to.” Of course, everybody recognizes that text-to-speech stinks.  The Author’s Guild, however, is trying to make the case that it is copyright infringement.  Of course they are – they want to sell you another audiobook. But you know what?  What if we throw away all those differences and consider just one hybrid style “book that can read itself to you.”  When you download it, you’re also downloading the audio version.  Maybe you pay *a little* extra for this feature.  Maybe.  A little.  This idea of paying more for the book on CD than you do for the hardcover is insane.  Why not a hybrid? Which gets me back to podiobooks.  It’s a fairly common practice for an author to syndicate the audio of his book, and then a value add offer a PDF copy for free, in anticipation of the hopefully soon to be published print version.  This does me no good, I don’t want PDFs in my iTunes feed. But what if those went straight to the Kindle?  What if instead of a PDF it was some sort of open ebook (like ePub format?), and every day when I turned on my kindle I’d have new chapters waiting to be read to me?  Maybe that’s overkill, maybe you forget about syndicated chapters and you just get the whole text and all the audio at once. Maybe not.  Why not bring back serialized fiction?  Now you’re starting to get into cool crossovers like old time radio when every time you turn on your Kindle you just plain don’t know what’s going to happen next.  You seriously have to wait for the next chapter in the story. Where’s the text come in, though?  If the story’s already being read to me via iPod, what value is the Kindle?  Lots.  Maybe I want to read the text for myself.  Maybe I’m not in a place where I can listen, and I prefer to sit down and actually relax by reading.  Maybe the text of each chapter comes out a week before the audio.  And what about pictures?  There’s plenty of things you can express in a real book that you cannot do in audio alone, a limitation that all the great podiobook authors are experimenting with as we speak. And that doesn’t even begin to factor in ideas like switching to video to get your point across (I don’t think the Kindle does video, so I won’t go down that path). Throw in a few social networking features, like the ability to send a free sample to a friend?  And I think you’d have a major win on your hands – a whole revolution in independent ebooks.  Forget about fighting with the Author’s Guild over who has the rights to charge what.  Let podiobooks on the thing and let the best content win.  If you as the author want to give it away, go for it.  If you want to charge, and people want to pay? Why not?

Bluff Called

Last night, while rocking my son (who’s coming up on 3) to sleep: “What song do you want me to sing?”

“Shakespeare.”

Love it.  “One of the sonnets, or maybe something from Hamlet?” I said, to amuse myself as well as Mommy, who was just leaving the room.

“Hamlet.”

Oh, crap.  I was joking.  Oh well.  So I sang him the “What A Piece Of Work Is Man” number, from HAIR.  Good thing I didn’t say Macbeth. :)!

Movie Review : Get Over It

(My apologies to whoever pointed me this movie, I’ve forgotten whether it was here on the blog or Twitter or elsewhere.) Get Over It is, for the most part, your standard high school romantic comedy:  nerdy guy has awesome girl, nerdy guy loses awesome girl to handsome jerk.  Even more awesome girl (Kirsten Dunst) comes along who loves nerdy guy, but he doesn’t see it because he’s too busy trying to win back awesome girl #1.  Blah blah, awesome girl #1 learns what a fool she’s been and wants nerdy guy back, nerdy guy decides that awesome girl #2 is the better choice, happily ever after. Now take that plot and drop it on top of a production of Midsummer Night’s Dream.  Interesting.  Especially when you have handsome jerk playing Lysander, nerdy guy as Demetrius, original awesome girl as Hermia and new and better awesome girl as Helena. Now do it as a musical.  Directed by Martin Short, playing one of those standard “washed up actor who goes on to direct high school theatre” roles (very similar to the Hamlet 2 thing that just came around last year).  Is it me or does Kirsten Dunst try to sing in all her movies?  It’s… cute.  With any movie like this, I typically watch it for the Shakespeare.  While the jokes are pretty standard stuff, there’s some funny bits.  When’s the last time you caught yourself humming a catchy tune from Macbeth?  Shakespeare may have been a great poet but he’s no Burt Bacharach! The ending, truthfully, was a surprise.  I mean, not in the “Nerdy guy gets the right girl” thing, that always happens.  I mean how it all goes down.  Actually it came down to a single word, which I found possibly the funniest part of the whole movie, but I can’t explain it without ruining the joke. If you collect this sort of stuff you might have missed it when it first came around.  I know I’d never heard of it. 

“Wrestler” Star Heading To Shakespeare

http://www.usatoday.com/life/theater/news/2009-02-24-evan-rachel-wood_N.htm?csp=34 No, not Mickey Rourke, although the way people talk about his performance you might wonder if he could do Lear. They’re talking about Evan Rachel Wood, who plays the daughter in the movie.  She’s going to be doing some Juliet.   Saw The Wrestler last week.  The acting is very, very good.  The writing is very, very good.  The movie itself, and the directing, are pretty disturbingly violent.  But the  overarching story, this idea of a real life human being who spends his life only knowing how to do one thing, is perhaps the most upsetting.  You get a clear glimpse of how horrible it is to do what he does, but an equally clear look at how he fails at doing everything else, and thus has no choice but to do this other horrible thing over and over again, forever.  It actually reminded me of the scifi classic “Armor”, by John Steakley (I think I have that name right), about the soldier who, every time he thinks he can sit and rest, gets sent off to another battle, because he is a human machine that is just too good at it and not capable of anything else. It’s the kind of thing that makes you walk out of the theatre with your first thought being, “Life is not like that” and your second being, “God, I hope it’s not.”

Free Shakespeare Cards For Everybody

http://bardfilm.blogspot.com/2009/02/shakespeare-author-cards.html Over at Bardfilm they’ve got up a freely downloadable version of the “Authors” card game, naturally with Shakespeare theme. I don’t think I’ve ever played this game, but I expect I’ll give it a try.  Who knows, maybe with the kids?  Looks kind of like Go Fish, only instead of asking for matches (“Got any 3’s?”) you ask for plays (“Got any Richard II / Second Tetralogy?”) The cards are themed like a typical deck – Queen of Hearts, etc… – I think the kids would dig it more if a card for Macbeth actually had Macbeth on it, or at least some sort of graphic indicative of the “High Tragedies”.

Shakespeare, The Entrepreneur

http://lateralaction.com/articles/shakespeare-entrepreneurship/ I like it.  Not just a biography of the business aspects of life, but an actual “Top 7” of lessons to be learned from Mr. Shakespeare, including such items as:

4. Own Your Domain

The Lord Chamberlain’s men owned the Globe Theatre in which they performed for most of their career. Unfortunately, they didn’t own the land in Shoreditch where it originally stood – they leased it from the owner, Giles Allen. When the lease expired, the landlord claimed ownership of the building, forcing the actors to desperate measures: on 28th December 1598, while the landlord was still celebrating Christmas, they armed themselves, and ‘liberated’ the theatre building, dismantling it and hiding it in a warehouse. They later shipped it across the Thames to a new site in Southwark. And because the new site was outside the official limits of the city, it meant they were beyond the jurisdiction of the city fathers, who were often keen to close down the theatres. Takeaway: Establish your business on your own domain – don’t become someone else’s user generated content. Otherwise your enterprise will be ‘Like a fair house built on another man’s ground’ (The Merry Wives of Windsor).

My Mistress’ Eyes …

http://www.mahalo.com/answers/education/explain-a-sonnet I’ve mentioned Mahalo before, the “human powered search engine” that hands out tip money for good answers.  In looking for some topic ideas I started a conversation on the sonnets, and already I’ve learned something.  I don’t know who this Gonzo Joe fellow is (he quite literally just joined, his answer to my question is his first answer on the system).  But check this out regarding Sonnet 130: What I think is most interesting about this sonnet that no one has mentioned yet is the direct irony of the tone compared to sonnet 18. The "Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day" is probably the most well known of Shakespeare’s sonnets among the general population because of its Hallmarkian cheesiness.
It’s important to recognize that the irony is only of tone and not of theme, however. In fact, I would venture to say that 18 and 130 could be viewed as the same poem, written by the same man about the same women, the only difference being one is written in youth and the other is written at a much older age. This is, of course, not literally the case most likely, but thinking of them so does provide a nice framework for their explication. If he’s not already hanging out here with us at Shakespeare Geek, methinks he should be :).

Speaking Shakespeare To The Dog

An new visitor and Anonymous commenter writes, “I’m looking for a word to use when training my new doggie. I need a ‘release’ word to let him know he’s done a good job and may move about freely, or get out of his sit position. Some words other people use include “okay”, "release", "bingo", "that’ll do", or "free". I want a kool Shakespeare-like word. Does the Shakespeare Geek have any suggestions??” Sounds like a fun topic.  There are of course the great exclamations like Forsooth! or Zounds!  but those are just funny words, they don’t really have any context.  What’s a good Shakespearean way to say what the commenter asks for?

Best To Worst

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/daniel_hannan/blog/2008/11/24/shakespeare_my_best_to_worst I seem to have missed this when it was posted back in November, but the man’s got me in his Blog Roll, so it seems only fair that I give it a little credit.  Despite claiming that his “hits fall by 80% whenever he blogs about [Shakespeare]”, the article is a laundry list of best/worst elements you might find at some sort of funky modern awards show, like “Handsomest Line” (The sun doth gild our armour; up, my lords!) versus “Ugliest Line” (leaky as an unstanched wench), or “Line most likely to provoke moronic laughter” (“Put out the light, and then put out the light”). Fascinated by his Best Hamlet, someone I’d never heard of.