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.

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.

Are we really influencing our audiences?

My stack of new books from Amazon.com had arrived! I am now flipping through Seth Godin’s Meatball Sundae and Brian Solis & Geoff Livingston’s Now is Gone.

Meatball Sundae

Both have some really interesting points about new media and new media marketing. Since I have not finished reading them, I shall reserve any comments for now. Both are definitely worth reading!Recently, I’ve observed that some PR folks have decided to completely ignore / not get involved with the new media, leaving them in the hands of the community managers. I am not saying that’s right or wrong, I am just considering what it means for us, as PR professionals, to only care about getting what our clients or companies want us to say to our “target media”. Do we, at some point consider what our CONSUMERS are thinking, saying, commenting, wanting, needing from our company?

A recent chat with a PR friend made me ponder more as she pointed out that, “UH! It’s so hard to CONTROL bloggers, sometimes, they get their facts all wrong and refused to hear us out..”

Another girlfriend commented, “Why pre-brief bloggers? Why even bother talking to XX business magazine? I just want to get this story out in 3 key dailies and i get my REACH! It’s just too much effort and trouble to talk to XX business magazine and YY trade media because their reach is so much lesser…” 

There are some truths in each comment but something tells me, we are moving backward rather than forward. I realised what happened to many PR people. We are extremely busy folks, sometimes we get so bogged down by work, we become very reactive and we just keep on doing doing doing the same things, hoping for different results. We forget about exploration, learning new tools, new communications strategies as we move on into a new technological era.

At times, we are so narrow-minded. We are given a set of “key communications statements” from our clients or our corporate communciations department and we follow them so strictly, we forgot that our consumers and the media are not stupid to believe a  set of statements that doesn’t make any sense to anyone else but us.

I realised I am trying to make several points here. I guess, what I am trying to think through is, as much as I believe and blogged quite extensively about how PR folks should always go back to basic and get our messaging/ foundation right before we move on to new media. On the other hand, there is frustration with PR people who are too afraid to move on and get too engrossed in trying to make sure that they have coverage in the 1 or 2 newspapers (that might have readership of 200,000) but is that enough?

Some XX company might have a full page coverage in The Sunday Times (Singapore’s most-read broadsheet) last week but I was on the plane, my boyfriend was sick and slept through the day and my brothers were out and not touched the papers. So, even though we might be the target audience of that XX company, we missed it.

So, explain to me… how is the excuse of targeting only 3 key media every time we have news announcements (because they have the most reach) ensure that most, if not all our target audience (consumers) read about our announcements? How is that making an influence? How is that moving the needle, making an impact for the business you are in?

My good friend and a fantastic blogger, Melvin Yuan recently stated in his blog post…

In the same way, PR professionals could never master the craft of Influence because our tools for the task were ineffective (think press releases, articles and events) and our measurement was flawed (think size of news coverage and the ad-dollar equivalent). Both never did translate to direct impact and measurable results that businesses really need.

But today we have the right tools (think blogs, micro-sites, e-mails, search engines etc.), the right knowledge (in search, digital storytelling and social media), and better ways to measure business (not communication) results (think click-throughs, readership and online decisions).

We have what it takes to communicate directly, track and measure results effectively, making Influence as much a science as it is an art.

Information Deficiency

I woke up today, determined to go out and buy that big luggage that I need to use to drag all my stuff to Las Vegas (for the CES 08) in Jan. Jon said, “but don’t you already have a few luggages?”. Yes, I do but I need a bigger one! I have to pack in my clothes, the thick jackets and erm BOOKS and magazines.

Books?

Yes, a few books. Not for work but for reading on the flight.

I found out this morning from my good friend, the brilliant producer and news anchor for Channel News Asia, Timothy Go that this annoying habit is called In-Flight Information Deficiency. Tim wrote,

This is someone who, before and during a flight, has a fear of not having enough to read on board a flight, no matter how short or long.

Although I seldom read on board the plane, because I get motion sickness and the pills I take before the flight makes me drowsy and I fall asleep. BUT, I still worry that I do not have  enough things to do on the plane. The flight to Vegas is at least 16 hours and I am already panicking about which books to drag along.

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But I think, my problem continues even after the flight. I constantly worry about, “What if I finish reading the books i brought along… 😦 and have nothing to do at the hotel?”

It gets worse if I am on holiday, to stop me from worrying, Jon will volunteer to bring more books in his luggage for me.

Ok! Time to go out now to buy luggage.

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.