Friday, December 18, 2009

TechTip: Listen to a Book

Short Answer
Since good English language books are hard to find outside of English speaking countries, and you can’t read anyway when you are on watch, download and listen to an audio book from

Long Story
We on Don Quixote have heard too many horror stories of nit wits who set a course on the autopilot, walking away to read, watch a movie, have sex, or take a nap. So we are very careful. Someone is always sitting the helm watching the instruments and the horizon no matter how benign the conditions. If the seas are fairly large or it is the middle of the night, the primary helm is either DrC or myself. However, if the seas are relatively light, there is no significant traffic, or we’re doing rotating night watches, we’ll put one of the girls on the helm. All three can man the helm for at least a half an hour, and Jaime is capable of a full three hour watch. Even a half hour in the middle of the night can do wonders to rest your crew.

However, I have two problems as a sailor on the helm: I get bored easily, and I have a short attention span and get bored easily. No seriously. It’s horrible. I absolutely can not sit still on the helm, particularly on those fortunate days when Mr. Auto Pilot is ably running the show. My solution is podcasts and audio books.

Now if you listen to podcasts already, the rest of this blog is redundant. is not only the leading provider of spoken word entertainment, but it is the single largest sponsor of podcasts on the Internet. Audible sponsors pretty much all my favorite podcasters including TWiT, Slate, and the Science Channel.

We download so many hours of free podcasts, it’s a wonder we have time to listen to yet more content. But if even the incredible wealth of free material is insufficient... for example if you are sailing to the South Pacific... then I recommend that you join and start downloading books. They are not cheap. I don’t care how many times I hear about how you can get a free book or that it only costs $14.99 per month, that still seems expensive to me. A fifteen dollar book is expensive. On the other hand, an audio book can mean 15 to 30 hours of entertainment which when contrasted with a movie is not a bad price at all. This is also a great way to get best sellers which are otherwise completely inaccessible to a cruiser traveling in distant ports.

To sign up for an Audible account, browse to You can get a code for a free month on sponsored podcasts such as the ones I mentioned above as well as many others. Just check their feeds.

As the sponsored ‘casters so often do when talking about Audible, I shall also include in my endorsement of a recommendation of an Audible book. I am currently listening to David Sedaris read his own collection of essays Me Talk Pretty One Day. There is no question this book is better read by the author. Other books which sound better delivered by the author include Steve Martin’s autobiography Born Standing Up, Jon Stewart’s America: A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction, and John Hodgeman’s great sequel More Information Than You Require.

CChummy Today
Chummy Today
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
Audio books can make a long boring watch pass quickly. They enable a sailor to learn while contemplating the horizon and go a long ways towards easing the difficulty of staying awake through those graveyard shift anchor watches during a strong norther. Hitting a single freighter in the middle of the night would cost far more than a few years’ worth of Audible books. So arguably, it makes Audible a sound economic investment.


judith said...

I'm thinking of audio books so I can 'read' and knit at the same time...

Unknown said...

Podcasts are fantastic. A lot of colleges podcast lectures and some are very interesting (and without the tuition fee!).

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link! I'm usually at my computer so I do a lot of videos and movies, but I'm going to start downloading podcasts and audio books for when I get my active lifestyle back.

hbunny said...

I will second everything you said about audio books. My problem, however, is with Audible. They use a monthly subscription and "point buy" system. The majority of their revenue comes from lapsed subscriptions. It's the health club model - they want you to sign up and never return.

For evidence of this, try canceling. They will give you some free points as an incentive to stay, and then REMOVE THE OPTION TO CANCEL from the web site. You then need to call and navigate a phone tree and spend forever on hold to close your account. Many people will get fed up and just allow Audible to keep sucking money out of their accounts.

This could be a reality of the market - audio books are expensive to produce and to sell profitably requires some creative biz-dev. Regardless, after my last experience with them I will never sign up again.