Hank Gilette: “I love books on tape, but as you pointed out, they are not cheap. Luckily, my local library has a large number available to borrow, for free. Much of my library’s collection is unabridged. I’m partial to Stephen Jay Gould, myself.”

Bill Baron:“I like walking with a Walkman also. Instead of audio books, I listen to lectures on tape.

Paul Roub:“Check out booksontape.com, which sells or rents Bonfire of the Vanities, among many others. I rented the unabridged version for $26.39 (total, including shipping, for two parts). Only about 6 bucks more after shipping, and it’s the whole thing. You can tell them when to ship the book to you, or (in the case of a two-parter like this) when to ship each part. You have thirty days to listen, then send it back in the included postage-paid mailer.”

Ed Farber: “Check out audible.com. It’s an excellent alternative to books on tape, and much cheaper. The downloads are not too bad for abridged books. I downloaded a six-hour book in about 45 minutes at 6K. However, when I downloaded a 16-hour unabridged book it did take 2.5 to 3 hours. If you have a broadband connection it’s a no-brainer.”

Heather Wells: “The catch with audible.com, of course, is that these aren’t cassette tapes – they’re digital audio files that you download onto your computer. You can play them on your PC, which isn’t very convenient, or on an MP3 player (as long as it supports Audible formats). All audio books that you’ve purchased show up in your ‘library’ on audible.com so you can always download them again at no charge.

“Don’t have an MP3 player that supports Audible formats? Right now, you can get a $250 Rio 500 MP3 player with 64 MB built-in memory (expandable with memory cards) for only $49.95 after rebate. To take advantage of this deal, you sign up for what amounts to an even better deal for audio book listeners: Audible.com’s Light Listener plan. With this plan, you get two audio books – any two audio books they carry (and they carry quite a few) – for $9.95/month.

“I was skeptical about downloading and listening to audio books on an MP3 player (I was skeptical about listening to MP3 players, actually), but one of my housemates – a single mother who can ill-afford the cost of books on tape, but who goes through audio books at a rate of three or four a month – was the first in our house to brave the new technology. It worked out well for her, then for my boyfriend. I was the last to join and I’m hooked. It’s almost as awesome as reading ebooks on my Palm device.

“The Rio 500’s 64MB built-in memory holds up to 28 hours of audio book. It can also hold music (I’ve got 18 songs ranging from 2MB to 6MB each on mine right now instead of an audio book. Last week, I had an audio book and 11 songs on the thing at the same time. I could carry around a book and a CD in the same device!) The Rio 500 requires a USB port on your computer. If yours doesn’t have one (mine didn’t) you can get one cheap ($29 at OfficeMax) and I swear it’s the easiest card you’ll ever install on your computer – no drivers, no IRQ settings, nothing! (I did have a video card conflict that I resolved by swapping the USB card with the video card, but that only took a second.)”

☞ This is very cool, Heather. Thanks to you and Ed, I finally understand. I went and signed up – two books a month for $10 sure beats buying all those cassettes at the store. Plus, they give you some free and almost-free books to start you off.

Laurie: “I know some people jog with Walkmans problem-free but for some of us – and you may not know which you are beforehand– it is dangerous. Some people can’t jog and hear traffic at the same time. Once, caught up in some good music, a car nearly got me. A lady pulled me back. It was completely my fault, as my friend had made me promise not to jog with the Walkman when she lent it to me.”

WARNING: DO NOT WEAR HEADPHONES WHEN, WALKING, JOGGING, OR, ESPECIALLY,DRIVING. Okay, maybe that’s a little extreme, but Laurie makes a very good point. Some warnings are ridiculous –my Helping Hand Precision Screwdriver set, 6 itty-bitty screwdrivers made in China, purchased at Walgreen’s last week, came with this notice, copyright 1988 by The Faucet Queens, Inc., Vernon Hills, Illinois: Use Caution: Wear safety goggles when working with tools. I am guessing that by now they have sold 1 million of these little screwdriver sets. I am also guessing that not a single purchaser has ever donned safety goggles before using one of those screwdrivers. “Bob, wait! Don’t try to remove that sound card from your computer without safety goggles!”) But Laurie’s warning is not ridiculous, and I hereby endorse her caution.


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