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What are you reading? Hearing?

I usually have two books going at once, one a work of fiction and the other some kind of history book. With the Kindle I can have three or four going at once. I’ve been nibbling at the Memoirs of Ulysses Grant for more than a year, but that doesn’t count in the two. The basic Kindle has a limitation in history since maps don’t do well and maps are pretty important.

The iPad* does maps better, but it’s not as convenient as the Kindle. The iPad is prettier, but heavier. The iPad is also good in bed if you don’t have a light. My Kindle cover has a light. I can have a downloaded book on both the iPad and the Kindle.

It was time to experiment with audio books. Modern technology make book “reading” as confusing as job hunting. Where to start? The two logical places – technology cannot accept having only one place to start – are and the public library. Oh wait, iTunes. Three places.

Amazon and iTunes offers audio titles of popular books, but these tend to be rather expensive. Creating an audio version is another level of expense beyond that of writing and hard-copy and electronic publishing. An audio book can cost more than a retail hard copy since an actor or the author has to sit down and record the whole book which can take hours and days. One popular non-fiction work is $7.50 for the Kindle, $15.95 hard cover online, and $21.95 audio. I am definitely one to actively support authors and publishers, but I do look for bargains.

The public library, if properly funded, offers thousands of audio titles. The library purchases licenses for a title and lists them online. If all the licensed copies are checked out, you place a hold. When it’s available, you get an email and have a chance to check it out.

Then it gets complicated. There are several formats available to download and read an audio book depending on your device. The Kindle requires that you download to a home computer then transfer to the Kindle. Devices like iPad and smart phones use apps which supposedly make it easier to browse and download titles. When the process works I have a book I can listen to for three weeks.

I do my listening in my pickup and during child care duties. I spend Mondays with my nine-month-old grandson Joshua and I can watch him as he learns to crawl while I listen on my phone and ear buds. My current read is Simon Winchester’s The Men Who United the States: America’s Explorers, Inventors, Eccentrics and Mavericks, and the Creation of One Nation, Indivisible and is read by the author. As Joshua happily explores his world I can stand there and explore the North American continent. Things don’t work so well when I need to get close to Joshua to pick him up or change him. Babies like ear buds and don’t give them up easily. A minor cost of readership.

So far I’ve only listened to history books. Fiction is yet to be explored aurally. I’m the kind of reader who likes to dwell on a beautiful sentence. Stay tooned.

*I inherited this first generation iPad from Lorraine. She left it in the seat pocket of an airplane which gave her an excuse to go buy another. Still, she filed a claim with Alaska Airlines and eight days later they called and offered to send it home. Now I have it.

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