Saturday, May 31, 2008

Parental Electronics: e-Books and Audiobooks

As a new parent, I find myself reading a lot more with one hand. I spend quite a bit of time each day letting my son suck on my pinky, or holding his bottle, or patting his back as he lies on his side.

Since it is awkward to turn a book's pages using only one hand, I finally put a real e-book reader program on my Palm E2. I downloaded MobiPocket, and it is quite nice. I have a lot more control over fonts, colors, and screen rotation. The Windows half of the software converts other file types to the e-book format, so I can use Project Gutenberg for free reading.

(Is The Burgomeister's Books illegal to use in the U.S. if used as the owner instructs? I do not not know enough about copyright law. From that site I am enjoying e-book copies of five books I do own in paperback, which I think is safe. According to aldoblog, it is legal to check out an audiobook from the public library and make a file copy you listen to once, promptly, then delete.)

I also have been listening to audiobooks more. I now own an iPod shuffle, which is conveniently small and not too expensive. My audiobook chapters are first when it is set to "play items in order" mode, and they are skipped when it is set to "play shuffled" mode.

I did go through the small hassle of changing my audiobook files from MP3 to the iTunes audiobook format. This takes five steps:
  1. Change import format of iTunes to AAC (there is an "optimize for voice" option here too)
  2. Select the MP3 versions of the audiobooks, right click to bring up the context menu, pick "convert to AAC"
  3. Go to windows explorer, rename the .m4a extensions to .m4b
  4. Delete them from iTunes library
  5. Re-add them to your iTunes library
The free utility Rename-It! is handy for quickly replacing a bunch of file extensions in many directories.

Note that this is not necessary to do: in iTunes any MP3 file can have its properties set (in "get info") to "skip when shuffling" and "save bookmark position". An official audiobook file merely has these automatically true, and also allows the audiobooks to be sorted in their own iTunes "browser" of genre/author/book.

Also note, more importantly, that if I were making audiobook files from CD (instead of converting from MP3 files) I could use the handy "join tracks" feature of iTunes.

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