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February 05, 2010


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I didn't have a car for a long time and now that I do I don't often drive long enough to listen to audio books (you can tell how long it's been by the fact that what I'll mention I listened to on cassette tapes) but one thing I really liked was listening to the Iliad and the Odyssey. I'm not saying that to look like a smarty-pants. I've never read them, only listened to them on tape, but I liked to tell myself (rightly!) that they were originally chanted oral presentations anyway, so that was the more authentic experience. And they were fun. But, you need a fairly long drive- they (and most audio books, I think) are not so good in 15-20 minute bits. Or at least that was my experience.

Jacqueline Lipton

Good point re those classics being originally vocal performances - I like it!

Ray Campbell

If you have a V2 Kindle or Kindle DX, it will read to you. I have a longish ride to work, and I listen to the Kindle reading books and law review articles (it's a good way to get a first read of something where you just want to be aware of the arguments). The Kindle has a computer accent, but it's not too bad. The key advantages are that the books are not abridged and you can have it read anything that's in a text/Word/non-PDF format.


Matt's correct--long drives are best for audiobooks. I've listened to a lot of them, from detective novels to history and biography to regular fiction. It does depend on how well they are read. Lord of the Rings was very well read, in my opinion. But I really didn't like the reading of A Beautiful Mind, for example. (Jim Dale does a great job with Harry Potter, IMO.)

L Eaton

Listening to audiobooks is much like reading. It takes you a bit to establish your own rhythm and preferences. We literally have to learn to listen in ways that we had to learn to read but aren't given the lessons to do so. As someone who has listened to some 1500+ audiobooks in the last 15 years and who writers/researches about them, trust me; it's worth it! Try different authors/readers/genres...a lot of it is just learning what appeals to you...

Jacqueline Lipton

From comments and private emails I've received, it sounds like Harry Potter is a big winner here - and I haven't read past the second or third book. So I might have to try those out...

Does it ruin it if you've already seen the movies, though?


The Harry Potter movies ruin the books to the extent a movie trailer ruins the movie. Well, maybe a bit more, especially if you're the kind of person for whom the destination is the whole point, but honestly, there's just so much more to the books, and Jim Dale reads them so well, that you would be well served to give them a try.

As for your question about whether you're not enjoying the book itself or the person reading it - it's almost certainly the reader. I've started listening to a number of books (most recently, the Inkheart series) that I had to stop because the reader was so annoying, but when I picked them up in print, found I loved them.


As I see you teach intellectual property law, allow me to pose a legal/ethical question for you. Imagine I can get all of the Harry Potter audiobooks at my local library on CD. To rip all ~100 CDs (there are at least 15 CDs per book...maybe more) to mp3 format will take me 3-4 hours. Alternatively, I can download all the mp3s from a file-sharing site. Downloading copyrighted material is illegal, no? But, what utility does my going to the library, checking the CDs out for a day, and wasting the time ripping the mp3s for my personal use add?

If you don't see a problem with downloading those audiobooks that are available at the library, what about sharing them? Can I let my 10-year-old son listen to the books I ripped for my personal use? What about my brother-in-law, who lives in the same town and has a library card to the same library? What about with my mother, who lives across the U.S., doesn't have the audiobooks at her local library, but could get them via interlibrary loan?

Essentially, can you help me understand why sharing via public libraries is ok, but sharing via the internet is not? Thanks!

Jacqueline Lipton

If I'm understanding your original question correctly, you seem to be assuming that you have a right to rip mp3s from CDs you have borrowed from the library, while you have no right to download them from a file sharing site. That is not correct. You have no more right to rip mp3s from CDs you have borrowed from the library than you have to download them from a file sharing site, unless you are doing so under an express or implied license by the content holder or you can mount a reasonable fair use defense.

The more challenging question is whether, if you have purchased the CDs yourself, you can rip them to MP3s for your own personal use. In the absence of an express or implied license to do so, you would have to think about whether this kind of use is contemplated by section 107 of the Copyright Act (fair use). Commentators could argue this out either way. You are presumably only taking what you legitimately purchased and converting it to a more user-friendly format, and you are not intending to pirate the mp3s or make them widely available online in a manner that would impinge on the copyright holder's market. This would arguably mitigate in favor of a fair use defense. However, you are making a verbatim copy of the entirety of the work and your use is purely consumptive (ie you are not doing anything productive or transformative for the puropses of the somewhat tortuous judicial fair use analysis that I won't go into here). So it's an open question as to whether or not this would be an infringement of copyright. Of course, copyright holders probably wouldn't be too concerned about this kind of copying unless you did make the mp3 files available online for broader distribution through P2P networks.

Bob T

Hi Jacqueline. This is my first visit to your site. And you're right, one problem you could find in listening to an audio book is you take the chance that the person's voice is not exactly easy to listen to. I don't know how you would get around this, other than send it back (if possible) and get the same title with a different person.

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