The Late Age of Print Open Source Audiobook

I’ve been hinting for the last few weeks that I had a big announcement brewing.  Well, at long last, here it is: together we’re going to make a free, Creative Commons-licensed audiobook of The Late Age of Print! First, some background on what inspired the project, and then a word or two on how you can help.

Listening to Chris Anderson’s Free: The Future of a Radical Price on a long car trip got me thinking: why not make an audiobook out of The Late Age of Print? And why not, like Anderson, give the digital recording away for free? The thought had barely crossed my mind when reality started to sink in. “You’re no Chris Anderson,” I told myself. “You don’t have the time or the resources to make an audiobook out of Late Age. Just forget about it.”

Well, I didn’t forget about it. I figured if I couldn’t make an audiobook myself, then I’d do the next best thing: let the computer do it for me, using a text-to-speech (T-T-S) synthesizer. The more I thought about the project, the more convinced I became that it was a good idea. It wouldn’t just be cool to be able to listen to Late Age on an iPod; an audio edition would finally make the book accessible to vision impaired people, too.

And so I got down to work. I extracted all of the text from the free, Creative Commons-licensed PDF of Late Age and proceeded to text-to-speech-ify it, one chapter at a time. I played back my first recording — the Introduction — but it was disaster! The raw text had all sorts of remnants from the original book layout (footnotes, page headers/numbers, words hyphenated due to line breaks, and whole lot more). They seriously messed up the recording, and so I knew they needed to go. I began combing through the text, only to discover that the cleanup would take me, working alone, many more hours than I could spare, especially with a newborn baby in my life. Frustrated, I nearly abandoned the project for a second time.

Then it dawned on me: if I’m planning on giving away the audiobook for free, then why not get people who might be interested in hearing Late Age in on it, too?  Thus was born the Late Age of Print wiki, the host site for The Late Age of Print open source audiobook project.  The plan is for all of us, using the wiki, to create a Creative Commons-licensed text-to-speech version of the book, which will be available for free online.

There’s a good deal of work for us to do, but don’t be daunted! If you choose to donate a large chunk of your time to help out the cause, then that’s just super. But don’t forget that projects like this one also succeed when a large number of people invest tiny amounts of their time as well. Your five or ten minutes of editing, combined with the work of scores of other collaborators, will yield a top-notch product in the end.  I’ve posted some guidelines on the wiki site to help get you started.

I doubt that I have a large enough network of my own to pull off this project, so if your blog, Tweet, contribute to listservs, or otherwise maintain a presence online, please, please, please spread the word!

Thank you in advance for your contributions, whatever they may be.  In the meantime, if you have any questions about The Late Age of Print open source audiobook project, don’t hesitate to email me.  I’d love to hear from you!

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9 comments

  1. Congratulations, Ted!

    Bravo! You’re among the very few scholars I know of courageous enough to present research in both hypertext & hypermedia forms. A culture and communication scholar who’s actually going to practice what he preaches.

    I’ll look at the ‘audiobook’ project and see if I can free up time to participate. How exciting!

  2. [...] more:  The Late Age of Print Open Source Audiobook — The Late Age of Print This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 6th, 2010 at 6:29 am and is filed under News, Tutorials, [...]

  3. Ted Striphas says:

    Thanks for the kind words, Conrad. Needless to say I’m thrilled about the project, and excited to be seeing contributors editing the chapters just hours after the wiki site went live.

    Please help out any way you can. Even donating two spare minutes will help to make a difference. That’s what I love about wikis!

  4. Ted,

    does the Wiki process consist of ‘editing’ the PDF version of the book, making each page look identical to the printed book version?

  5. Ted Striphas says:

    It’s a little different than that. Basically I extracted all of the text from the PDF version of the book and copied/pasted each chapter into a separate page on the wiki. The goal of the project is to make the wiki pages non-identical to the PDF, mainly by removing footnotes and other unnecessary textual bits that get in the way of making a clean text-to-speech recording.

    There are guidelines right on the wiki site that should answer any questions you may have.

    Hope that helps!

  6. [...] Ted Striphas comes news of an exciting project: the crowd-sourced production of a text-to-speech audiobook version of his fantastic book, The Late Age of Print. Ted has opened a wiki for the project, [...]

  7. [...] whole lot more). They seriously messed up the recording, and so they need to go. Here’s his post and here’s the link the the wiki. As a scholar, I would like this book to be widely [...]

  8. Congratulations and good luck on this adventure, Ted! I’ve used your work extensively in my own, and am going to try to lend a hand as a little “thank you”. I’m reading Late Age right now for a chapter I’m working on that is informed by your Oprah work, so I’ll take a stab at doing what I can when I can with Chapter 4. We’re also working on a chapter that covers the NEA, so I will look at the Conclusions chapter, too, when I can. Hope that’s ok.

  9. Ted Striphas says:

    @DeNel: thanks for all the compliments, and thanks especially for helping out on the audiobook project. I look forward to reading your work once it’s out.

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