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Books on CD

March 1, 2004

We try to stay up on things at the library, although we’re usually not riding the crest of a wave. We were the first wireless Internet customer in town four years ago, but we had merely jumped at an opportunity. No credit there.

We use some open source software at the library, thanks to Vic’s savvy. This is a little ahead of the curve in libraries, but I think it’s good practice. It can save us money. We’ll likely use more.

In general, we’re willing to try things, such as the online genealogy conference we offered last summer. We have some good modern technology now, so we can do such things.

One obvious choice is a marketing database, called ReferenceUSA, that can help local businesses with research and marketing. We’ve had it since Fall, but we need to market it better.

We’re still catching up, too. Consider a well-established technology: books on CD. Our slow response has been a matter of demand. I hope. Until recently, most of our demand has been for books on tape. But then again, we only offered books on tape. Hmm.

Many audio book “readers” listen while driving. Within the last couple of years, the majority of new cars produced have had only CD players.

Last year, we started buying abridged books on CD, and now we’ve seeded the collection with 50 unabridged classics.

Imagine beginning a long drive south. You’ve just gone over the top of Poncha Pass. You’re done squirming, fidgeting, and drinking your first cup of tea. The marvelous expanse of the San Luis Valley is spread before you.

As you descend at speeds exceeding the speed limit, you push in disc number one of “Moby Dick” and hear Frank Muller’s excellent voice.

“Call me Ishmael.”

Goosebumps. Soon, your drive is over. But the book isn’t. “Moby Dick” is 21 hours. If you haven’t read “Moby Dick” yet, you probably never will. The recorded book is now your best shot.

Perhaps you’ll remember the opening of “Lord Jim”:

“He was an inch, perhaps two, under six feet, powerfully built, and he advanced straight at you with a slight stoop of the shoulders, head forward, and a fixed from-under stare which made you think of a charging bull.”

Or the start of “Great Expectations”:

“My father’s family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip …” You could have been prejudiced immediately against Pip’s parents for even considering such a combination, much less applying it to a helpless infant.

I have no doubt that students will use these on occasion. I know that some young people, and perhaps more than I would guess, when holding in one hand the book of 469 gray pages that is “Great Expectations,” and in the other the box of 11 CDs with 16 hours of voice, will not hesitate to choose the spoken word.

Literature teachers may feel free to volunteer their opinions, but I reluctantly accept that there’s no great loss in this. “But the skill of reading!” you cry. “The lost art of listening!” I reply.

If the classics don’t get you, other things will. Such as “The Frumious Bandersnatch” by Ed McBain. You were thinking Lewis Carroll, of course, but that would be from the “Jabberwocky,” which is in “Through the Looking Glass,” which we currently have only on tape.
“What is the use of a book,” thought Alice, “without pictures or conversations?”
I’ll leave the answer to you.

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