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July 26, 2004

Un mot au les...er...wise.

Okay, okay, so as people might have worked out things are scary busy here. Child is now in nursery, wife is back at work - both heroically - and I've been up to my neck in cack while trying to work out how to survive now I need to get up at 5:45am.

But enough of this. On to the reason for this post.

As I believe I've said before, on of the things I was most looking forward to from the iTunes music store was the 'language learning' section. I've recently been learning a drop of written Chinese for a site I'm building - so I'm not cutting and pasting content completely blindly - and it's made me remember how much I loved the languages I could speak (and largely think in). I resolved to Get Back On Track.

As I had a trip to Germany coming up (in the week herself returns to work - classic timing) it seemed sensible to go for a refresher in that to start off with. A quick trot around iTunes store and "Learn in your car German" seemed to be the one most suited to a heavily commuiting businessperson. A few attempts to get iTunes to take the bloody £7.99 later and I have it - and this is where the problems really start.

I have one long two-and-a-half-hour mp3 file. No chapter breaks, nothing.

It's like the very worst days of when web content was print blindly repurposed. Absolutely no thought appears to have gone into how this would work in its medium whatsoever.

I lose the persistent random access nature of cassettes, where pressing 'eject' means my position is held.
I lose the chapter and index nature of CDs.
And after the deafening "audible.com" promo at the beginning, the audio is encoded at such a low level that I can barely hear it when I'm on the tube.

(There's also the editorial problem that it's just a huge vocabularly list - the Pimsleur Mandarin CDs I've got out of the library do a much better job of getting you to *learn* the language.)

Anyway, what a waste of the potential of new technology. Caveat emptor - from here on in I buy physical media instead. And they say the mp3 market wouldn't drive CD sales...

Posted by Tom Dolan at July 26, 2004 01:41 PM

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Umm... dim recollection from reading the manual...

I /think/ itunes treats audible content as ebooks. And remembers where you left off last time. And that there are two volume settings for audiobooks.

But that might be the new ipods.

Posted by: kim at July 27, 2004 11:28 AM

That's true, but this isn't used like an ordinary ebook. You want to keep going back to the chapter beginning to revise it. And unfortunately the scale on the menu doesn't really help - the screen and UI was never designed for seeking through a 2.5hr file.

Posted by: Tom Dolan at July 28, 2004 10:12 PM

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