Monday, December 28, 2009

Audiobooks and the Nintendo DSi

Perhaps this is what getting old feels like, when the people you idolized in college end up holding the mike on Morning Edition.

I went through my standard morning routine: breakfast, cleanliness, then the drive in to work listening to whatever I've DLed on to my flashcard and jammed in the DSi.  This time it was a Neil Gaiman NPR piece on audiobooks.  "Ho ho," I thought.  "If only our dear Mr. Gaiman knew I was listening to his story in the same way I listen to audiobooks!". 

Podiobooks, to be precisely correct.  Over the last few months I've been... ripping?  burning?  let's just say "moving" Nathan Lowell's solar clipper series to my DSi.  Podiobooks breaks their content up into roughly 30-minute segments, which makes for very easy file management.

There are a few complexities involved in moving audio to the DSi.  My process is as follows:

1 - Download the desired audio files to my laptop.
2 - Convert them to the required mp4 format using Foobar.  (Vive la open source!)
3 - Drag and drop on to the flash card.
4 - Pop it (out of the lappy) and lock it (into the DSi).
5 -  Plug a male-to-male headphone cable into the "Aux In" port in the car.
6 - Enjoy some space-faring adventure. 

This is my first experience with audiobooks, and I have to confess to being completely hooked.  Lowell's story, a melange of the high seas (think Master and Commander) and deep space, is pocked with memorable characters and is heavy on the dialogue, which makes for a listening experience somewhere between an old radio drama and a campfire story.  Reading it as a novel would be a very different experience; I would expect more detailed descriptions of the environments, and perhaps some of the more often repeated phrases (e.g. in Double Share, the protagonist shrugs.  A lot.) would fly past without notice like the ubiquitous "he said" does.  This begs a question as to whether or not the accessibility of the spoken word due to more developed technology is bringing about something akin to a revival of a near-dying art (which is addressed in Gaiman's piece).  The listener certainly feels more of a connection to the author than seems likely via the page, at least not until PhD-levels of repeated readings. 

As for the DSi's sound function, I call it a win.  I have had no issues with the sound quality, though admittedly spoken word doesn't necessarily require hi-fi-phononess.  The interface is easy and seems made for episodic content.  So give it a go.


  1. Wow! Thanks for the plug.

    I go thru "shrug" and "nods" a lot. I'm fighting it. :)

    People do it. A lot. But I need to come up with some better indicators.

    And this is a very interesting way to use the DSi as an mp3 player for podcasting. Very cool.

  2. When you listen to audiobooks on your DSi, do you use any particular software or just the Sound icon that you listen to MP3's through? If so how do you keep your books separate from your music? Thanks.