Audible.com, ”Yahoo! Broadcast,” and MP3lit.com
Admit it: as much as you’d like to brag that you read all 523 pages of Stephen King’s Hearts in Atlantis the old-fashioned, ass-numbing, hard-copy way, sometimes the short-attention-spanned, gizmo-loving part of you would rather download the audiobook. The advantages? You can have the melodious tones of both King and Oscar-winning actor William Hurt voicing the tale, for one. And if you download the 1960s coming-of-age story onto a portable player, you can listen to the narrative wherever you want. Ain’t technology grand?
With several downloadable audiobook sites to choose from — even the formerly all-music Liquid Audio has gotten into the action by excerpting a sneak preview of The Sopranos’ Michael Imperioli reading Mario Puzo’s Omerta — the first stop for literary lazybones should be PC-based www.audible.com . Besides being one of the few sites where you can download full-length audiobooks, it’s perfect if you’re looking for something specific — like, say, the Spanish version of King’s Dolores Claiborne (”Durante treinta anos, los habitantes de la isla Little Tall…”). With more than 12,000 titles in the database, breadth of selection is Audible.com’s biggest selling point — though notable omissions include works by Anne Rice and Tom Clancy. Also, the audiobooks can only be downloaded to a specific MP3 portable, the Diamond Rio 500, which can be ordered at a discounted rate through the site. In addition to the latest installments from mega-sellers John Grisham and Patricia Cornwell, the site provides audio digests from The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, and original programming featuring Robin Williams chatting up the likes of George Lucas and Eric Idle. Audible.com divulges a scant, 30- to 60-second preview before making listeners shell out cash for the full text (from as little as a promotional $1.95 for Angela’s Ashes to $90.95 for a year’s subscription to the Los Angeles Times).
Moola isn’t needed at the audiobooks section at Yahoo! Broadcast (www.broadcast.com/audio books). In a few minutes you can hear free RealPlayer and Windows Media Player versions of classics like Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park and Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities after listening to a short advertisement from Yahoo! and background info on the author. But don’t look for contemporary works: While there is the occasional Christopher Buckley selection, this is more English lit than best-seller territory. Celebrity readers are scarce, too — unless you consider Larry King blustering through his latest memoir a star-studded event.
Finally, there’s MP3lit.com (www.mp3lit.com), a hip, easy-to-navigate compilation of the latest (and edgiest) in spoken-word performances. While the site has an eclectic (and fast-loading) mix of offerings — from excerpts from Nerve.com’s collection of steamy tales breathily murmured by Parker Posey and Ione Skye to original 1972 recordings of Anais Nin reading from her diaries — it offers only snippets: For the full text, you have to buy the audiobook on tape or CD (links are provided). Still, any medium that lets Posey-voiced soft porn rub shoulders with Jane Austen has to be considered technological progress. Audible.com: A Yahoo! Broadcast: B+ MP3lit.com: B