09 Oct 2013

life on overdrive

Many, many moons ago, my mother recommended that I check out the public library’s new downloadable media service.

“You can download audiobooks right to your computer,” she said. “But maybe not with iPods. Unless you download them and then burn them to a CD and then I don’t know, that’s what somebody told me. But you should check out Overdrive.”

Alas, alack, I was never able to transfer an audiobook to my bulky little iPod mini with any success. Years passed, I ripped audiobooks onto a number of computers and transferred disc after disc to iPod after iPod. Meanwhile, despite maintaining a fairly atrocious public interface (and, I now know all too well, a blood-curdlingly awful acquisitions side), Overdrive caught the tidal wave of eBook lending and has become the primary vendor for public library eBook and digital audio lending.

Judging by their success,  I’m guessing they solved that “we don’t play with Apple” problem years back, but there was still the whole process that turned me off. Put the book in a cart. Check out the book. Enter your library card number AGAIN. Download file. Open file in special Overdrive program. Gack. Ripping discs was obnoxious, but still preferable, especially when your Overdrive audiobooks would expire after a mere fourteen days.

This a really long set-up to tell you this:

  • The Boy got an iPhone a few months ago
  • The Boy said: “Man, you can just use this Overdrive app to get audiobooks and it’s super easy!”
  • I tried it out and said: “Eh, I don’t know, I’m still stuck in 2005, I like burning all these CDs…”
  • A week later, I was completely obsessed

Since my audiobook rampage began, I’ve listened to 2.9 audiobooks. In less than three weeks. And that .9 is significant because it is .9 of Libba Bray’s The Diviners which in its paper form be used to stop heavy doors or used as a blunt weapon. Also, in this three weeks, Janssen over at Everyday Reading posted a HOW TO GUIDE for downloading audiobooks directly through your phone. Can you believe that? Leave it to Janssen, I say… once a librarian, always a librarian.

I should also mention that if you are disappointed in your library’s Overdrive collection, every public library worth its salt will be happy to try to get you more stuff you’d like – downloadable audio, too. Talk to your librarian. Make suggestions. Also, publishers are more friendly about selling digital audio than eBooks – you’ll likely find more popular audio titles on Overdrive than ebooks.

And that app is the key. The app eliminates all of the hold-rip-load, the hold-checkout-download-transfer-load – browse in the app, check out in the app, download in the app, and listen. I still don’t have any problem downloading disc after disc to my computer, conceptually, but without all that crap in the way, listening to audiobooks is just more fun. The selection isn’t always the best, but it pushes me to listen to books I’d like to read but know I will never otherwise actually take the time to read. The 14-day limit is still daunting for longer books, but I’ll take that as a challenge.

And maybe that’s the secret reason for my obsession – I’m sickeningly competitive. If I download a book I want to listen to it AS QUICKLY AS HUMANLY POSSIBLE. For no apparent reason, other than to beat that deadline!! !!! !! My podcast listening has dwindled to nothing, but that’s probably okay – it’s not really necessary to listen to an entire year’s worth of This American Life over the course of a week. I guess it’s not really necessary to muscle through 2.9 audiobooks in three weeks, either, but here we are.

All freakish obsessions aside, I think keeping a steady stream of audio will be a great way to get my fiction fix while my print reading time is devoted to nonfiction.

I would say that I would keep this obsessive book downloading spree going for awhile longer, but Storm of Swords just came in on audio for me downstairs… so… back to the old rip and transfer, for the next 30 discs or so anyway.

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