Reading With Your Ears

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I wrote two blog posts (in 2008 and 2011) about my love for audiobooks. At the end of 2015, the global audiobook industry was outselling print. This is such an interesting progress.

According to an article in the good e-reader – “For the first time audiobook and audiobook subscription services are being tracked by Nielsen StatShot.  20 publishers proclaimed that the subscription model for audiobooks are actually proving to be more lucrative than e-Books. Approximately 3.88 million audiobooks were downloaded in 2015.

The Audio Publishers Association (APA)’s recent consumer behaviour study revealed a strong demand for titles for younger listeners and fiction continues to represent the vast majority of audiobooks sold.

If you have never tried an audiobook, it’s not too late to start now! An audiobook is the perfect companion for road trips, daily commute, workout, relaxing in bed, while doing housework, or cooking. My favourite time to listen to an audiobook is when I am painting.

Audiobook services
It is becoming very common for digital book retailers like iTunes, Scribd, multi-entertainment platforms like Playster to sell audiobooks too. Other audio-only retailers also exist, like Audiobooks.com and Downpour.com.  My favourite is still Audible. With more than 150,000 titles, Audible is paradise for bookworms.

There are also free audiobooks (although rather limited titles and mostly classics) on Spotify.

Audiobook Narrators
Good narrators make a world of difference to the audiobooks, breathing life into stories, giving audiobooks a dimension that print lacks. A-list celebrities are often brought in as narrators to increase visibility of the books and broaden consumer base.

Here are a few of my recent favourite famous authors and celebrities narrated books:

THE HANDMAID’S TALE
Written by Margaret Atwood
Narrated by Claire Danes 

THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY
Written by James Thurber
Narrated by Ben Stiller 

THE GRAVEYARD BOOK
Written and Narrated by Neil Gaiman 

YES PLEASE
Written and Narrated by Amy Poehler

The Audacity of Hope
Written and Narrated by Barack Obama 

For all the Harry Potter fans, the whole series by author, J.K Rowling was narrated by ‘audiobook superstar’ Jim Dale.  It was said that he used as many as 134 different voices throughout the course of the seven books, and made him the most awarded audiobook performer in history. He also narrated my all-time favourite book, Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland.

And I was truly surprised to find Johnny Cash reading the New Testament! This has to be one of my all-time favourites.

Other Audiobooks Resources
https://librivox.org
Free public domain recordings of public domain works Read more about it
AudioFile
Reviews and recommends good audiobooks. List new releases

I am currently listening to Neil Gaiman’s Trigger Warning and  H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald. Definitely considering something narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch as well.

If you have any other good recommendation, drop me a note! Happy listening.

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Have you ever bought an audiobook?

Economic Times in India recently reported that Audiobooks are gaining popularity in the Indian markets.

For their ability to reach out to people who cannot read and for those who want to multitask in modern day busy lifestyle, audiobooks in India are slowly getting popular, though the industry is still in its infancy.

Audiobooks have been popular among children but now famous books and novels are being converted into this format for adults too.

Three years ago, I wrote a blog post about audio books. I mentioned that I didn’t think that audiobooks were doing well in Asian markets, now it looks like it is changing. I also wrote about the reasons I love audiobooks.

I love books – in any format. I bought the iPad to try save space on my bookshelves. I got addicted and started buying several titles on Amazon Kindle and via iBooks.

Recently, when I was listening to a podcast , I got a promotional code to get a free audiobook of my choice from Audible.com. Out of curiousity (how could I resist a FREE book?), I tried!

Do you know that Audible.com is a subsidiary of Amazon? I found out that you can listen to audiobooks from Audible.com on different devices, including iPod/ iPad, Android smartphones etc. According to the website, it currently has more than 85,000 titles.

I received my free audiobook and was very happy. The customer service at Audible.com was very quick to respond to questions and was very helpful when I ran into some billing issues later on.

A useful and interesting site –  NextAdvisor.com also came to my attention recently. It allows you to check out audiobook reviews, compares audiobooks subscription plans etc.

My fellow book lovers would often argue that electronic books will never replace the hard copies and I doubt many of them have tried an audiobook. I just loved the fact that I can consume books in different formats at different time. I usually listen to audiobooks when I am running. I do drag my iPad out to read during commute and sometimes, I laze by the pool or on my couch with a nice paperback novel.

However, I noticed that not many of my friends (those who actually read and love books) are into audiobooks. I asked the Rambling Librarian why and he said “short attention lifespan for spoken words …”

So, question – Have you bought an audiobook and why do you think they are not doing as well as other format of books? Price? Reading behavior?

For those of you who want to try one out, here’s a 30-day trial on Amazon/ Audible.com,  iTunes has a good selection and check out Simply Audiobooks too.

For my Singaporean friends, the National Library has a a good selection of audiobook titles too.

Happy Reading!

I Love Audio Books

Most of my friends know that I am a huge bookworm. Both Jon and I are regulars at Kinokuniya bookstore in Singapore and Amazon is our favourite online store. When Kindle was launched, I really wanted to get it but I held back. My handbag is currently filled with all kinds of little gadgets (I tend to carry two ipods and several mobile phones). I don’t think I’ll be able to carry one more device.

So, the last couple of months, I have started buying audio books. It all started with me being really busy with work and traveling a lot. Reading a book on the plane gives me headache. I can’t really read when I am in a cab too. I used to read 2-3 hours per night but lately, I am so tired after work, the moment my head hits the bed, I go into dreamland. Audio books became the “solution!” I convert all the tracks to MP3 and save them onto my iPods. Easy! No need to drag a pile of books with me when I travel or go for holiday and no need to bring additional “reading gadget.” I can now pack 10 “books” or more with me everyday and listen to them while I am commuting or when I wait for hours at airports.

In my last post on Social Media books, a lot of those books are also available in audio cds. I did a quick check on Wikinomics and The Cluetrain Manifesto and they have the audio version!

What I also like about audio books is, it reminds me of childhood – when Mum and Dad used to read to us (my younger brother and I) before bed time. And then, they tend to stop half way into the story and insisted that we should be sleeping. I love having people read to me. Oh! I have an audio version of the NKJV Bible too. Being a church-goer and a fan of a female preacher, Joyce Meyer, I have been stocking up her audio books recently, as well as C.S Lewis’s.

Maybe I am wrong, but I don’t think audio books are really popular in Asia, specifically in Singapore (where I am based now). I can hardly find any audio books at the retail stores. The only few i found are from BORDERS and they are really expensive. The good thing is, iTunes has a really good selection and there is always the wonderful Amazon.

I am not saying I am giving up books (in print) or magazines (that are not available in cds), I am glad that I am enjoying the alternative to reading books!

Interesting read:-

Last year, New York Times reported on a budding author who recorded a short audiobook for her unfinished print. The audiobook climbed to the top of iTunes’ best-selling books after she appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show.

I think all new books from now on should have the unabridged audio version!

Bookshelf: Social and New Media

I was just looking at some of the searches that landed in one of the top posts in this blog – Social Networking Book Sites. I wrote that post quite a long while back and it constantly came up as top. Some of the common searches that ended at my blog includes “social media books, new media and social networking”


That post is not exactly about books on social networking but more of online cataloging sites (such as Shelfari and the Library Thing) that allow users to catalog their books, connecting with other book lovers and share reviews/book lists.

I did a quick Google search on the keywords “social networking books” and true enough, that blog post came up third in the first page of results. I have received a couple of emails from a few folks who surfed in and asked if i could recommend any books on social networking/ social media. I replied two of them and then I got really busy and didn’t manage to get to the rest. So, I thought, I might as well list down a couple of books that I personally thought are pretty cool. Walter Lim recommended a few too (via Facebook).

Naked Conversations: How Blogs are Changing the way businesses Talk with Customers – by Robert Scoble

Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything – by Don Tapscott & Anthony D. Williams

The New Influencers: A Marketer’s guide to the new social media – by Paul Gillin

Now is Gone: a primer on new media for executives and entrepreneurs – by Geoff Livingston and Brian Solis

Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies – by Charlene Li & Josh Bernoff

Join the Conversation: How to engage marketing -weary consumers … – by Joseph Jaffe

Connected Marketing: The Viral, Buzz and Word of Mouth Revolution – by Justin Kirby & Paul Marsde

I am sure there are alot of other good books out there. I am currently reading Seth Godin’s Meatball Sundae that Walter gave quite a good review on.

The book that I am trying to get my hands on now is – Presentation Zen – by Garr Reynolds.

Book Description
FOREWORD BY GUY KAWASAKI — Presentation designer and internationally acclaimed communications expert Garr Reynolds, creator of the most popular Web site on presentation design and delivery on the net — presentationzen.com — shares his experience in a provocative mix of illumination, inspiration, education, and guidance that will change the way you think about making presentations with PowerPoint or Keynote. Presentation Zen challenges the conventional wisdom of making “slide presentations” in today’s world and encourages you to think differently and more creatively about the preparation, design, and delivery of your presentations. Garr shares lessons and perspectives that draw upon practical advice from the fields of communication and business. Combining solid principles of design with the tenets of Zen simplicity, this book will help you along the path to simpler, more effective presentations.

Interesting reads about PR

My recent favourite picks/ reads about Public Relations:-

100 PR blog links
Brendan Cooper who was formally a “ghost blogger” has recently changed his blog link and told us his name (but not the company he works in). Brendan puts together a nice list of PR blogs. I have randomly read a few and I am still browsing through the rest. There are some really good PR blogs out there.

How to manage your clients
Spun off from my last post about ridiculous clients, Walter wrote a useful post (from a client’s point of view) on how PR agencies should manage their clients.

Community Managers VS PR Managers
I have been reading about what community managers are doing for their products/ companies. I am interested to find the differences/ similarities between the community managers and the PR/ communications managers, especially now that PR people are expected to be savvy with the communities and the new media etc. Jeremiah Owyang wrote an informative post about The Four Tenets of the Community manager. He also led me to one of his older post for reference.

The new marketplace
Jon just ordered a new book (Now is gone) for me from Amazon. Written by Geoff Livingston & Brian Solis, the book aims to help businesses embrace Social Media intelligently. Check out Geoff’s latest post about The Public Relations Long Tail.

Like Geoff, I am not convinced that social media will replace traditional media completely. As I mentioned in some of my earlier posts, I believe that the two should be working hand in hand, complementing each other in an integrated environment to meet the communications/ marketing objectives.

Finally, an irrelevant and rather funny sign board Jon and I saw outside our hotel (near a construction site) few days ago when we were in Bali.

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Final chapter of the library@orchard

This is my last post about the library@orchard. Tomorrow, the library will be officially closed after the Moving On party. Unfortunately, I will not be in Singapore to attend the event. Hopefully, the other citizen bloggers will take some memorable pictures of the last hours of the library.

Here are some images that Jon and I took last couple of weeks:-

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It is definitely a really cool, boutique-styled library that I will miss.

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I was checking out the talented group – The Novelties that had a gig at the library@orchard two weeks ago. They are a group of friends, currently studying at the Singapore Management University (SMU). Cheryl, the cute lead singer could do a real good rendition of Cranberries and she commented that it is very sad that the library@orchard will be gone. The group was pleasantly surprised at the crowd that gathered to cheer them on during the performance at the library.

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I had to include this interesting picture of this group of girls who gathered at the library not to study or read but they sat at a little corner, enjoying the performance and folding little paper cranes. I was intrigued!

When asked what the girls think about the closing of the library, they were all teary … (ok, I am joking). They all thought, “it was unfortunate that such a nice library has to go very soon.”

“It has a great set-up, especially a special center stage for nice and free performances. This library also stocked up great selection of books and has nice librarians!” they added.

Another person I spoke with was a French gentleman who requested not to mention his name or include his photo. He stays near Orchard Road and is a big fan of the library. He has the following comments, “This is a really stylishly designed and 95% of the time, I can find the books I came to look for. It is definitely sad that it’ll be gone. Where & when is the new library opening?”

The library will re-open in 2010 in two re-incarnations – as library@*scape, a youth community space and as library@orchard at a redeveloped site along Orchard Road, according to the official press release.

So, there! I guess, this is Bye bye library@orchard.

Jon and my “final words” — “It is a shame to see you go. We wish we had known you better…”

Take a break from blogs. Back to the books

I have been spending way too much time online – reading mails, clicking off “ignore” to all Facebook invites to become vampires and werewolves, reading endless RSS feeds etc. I tried to stay offline as much as I can the last one week and spend more time reading books that I have been buying and not started reading.

Here are three books that I am reading now and they have been great so far. For those who are clearing leaves or thinking of bringing a book to your holiday trip, here are my picks:-

(Since I am going away for a one-week beach holiday next week and have plenty of time to read while sitting by the sea. I am most happy to hear any recommendation to interesting books, so drop me a note if you have any in mind).

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(left): Notice the library tag on the book? I just picked it up from the library@Orchard (the one that is going to be closed down next week). Written by Peter Shankman, (the CEO of Geek Factory), the book has a rather long title, “Can We Do That?! :Outrageous PR Stunts That Work – and Why Your Company Needs Them”

Everytime I hear clients say “come up with some stunts!” I cringed. I wrote about my thoughts in a previous post “PR, back to basics”. However, I am all for a great idea that get communications messages across to the right target audience. Shankman has a great writing style and he even included a section on “Peter’s top six rules for allowing yourself to be creative and come up with off-the-wall ideas.” It reminded me of days when I was doing creatives and design work – when we were encouraged to do something different each day (ie: change our seats so that we see different things from our work station) to help the mind think differently! Shankman included a picture of himself at the Portland zoo, in order to be / think like a child and get some new ideas. I thought that was pretty cool for a busy CEO to do.

(middle): Carly Fiorina – Tough Choices, A Memoir – I must say, I just bought this book today and the last couple of hours was stuck flipping this book. I picked it up, partly because I’ve always loved biographies and the other reason was because Businessweek wrote “…Women will find this particularly interesting.”

Just in case you are living in some La La land and have never heard of Fiorina – She was recruited to be CEO of Hewlett Packard – the first female CEO of Fortune 20 company. Read more

I love the part (am at Chapter 6 now) that she wrote, “….don’t think about the next job; focus on doing the very best you can with the job you have. Learn everything you can from everyone you can. Focus on the possibilities of each job, not the limitations. Look for the people who will take a chance on you.”

(right): Some people might call this a self-help book, some call it a Christian/ religious book. It is one of my recent favourite books. “The Search for Satisfaction, looking for something new under the sun.” is inspiring.

Excerpts from the book:

…. No generation in history has witnessed the explosion of knowledge and technology we experience today….

…. Yet knowledge, information, awareness, and our sense of “connectedness” have not issued a glorious age of peace.

It brings me back to thinking of all the connectivity we raved about – the social networking, the new media, the endless amount of information we have to read online, process them each day with the hope to turn them into some satisfactory results. To me, those attempts usually ended up with hours in front of the computer, letting time slipped away and not getting much out of it.