December 14, 2006

We’re Getting Closer…

Article in today’s Seattle Post-Intelligencer about major labels starting to sell music in unprotected formats

I’m excited to see that the music labels are finally waking up to the fact that DRM makes no sense.

Now we just need to wait until publishing companies figure this out. Given that the publishing industry tends to trail the music industry by at least several years it could be a while. So in the meantime you’ll have to peruse the largest selection of DRM-free audiobooks on the Internet.

By the way, you’ll love all of the new titles that we’re going to make available for you in 2007! 🙂

December 13, 2006

LearnOutLoud Podcasts Garner Best of 2006 Awards on iTunes


Two of LearnOutLoud’s Podcasts received mention in iTunes Best of 2006 Awards. The Philosophy Podcast was awarded both a Best of 2006 People’s Choice Award and a Best of 2006 Staff Favorites Award. The Essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson Podcast generated some of the most subscriptions in the past year of any podcast and was also given a 2006 People’s Choice Award. To check out the best of this year’s podcasts in iTunes click the links below:

iTunes Best of 2006 People’s Choice Awards

iTunes Best of 2006 Staff Favorites Awards

Thanks for all who subscribed! We pledge to release many new podcasts in 2007, so stay tuned!

November 18, 2006

The Top 10 Arguments Against DRM


One question we get a lot here at LearnOutLoud is why we’ve chosen to go DRM-free with our digital downloads. I’ve explained it to a number of people and written a number of posts about it but I’ve never summarized our reasons for going the DRM-free route in one post before. So here goes… (And if you have no idea what I’m talking about or what DRM is please click here.)

1. DRM doesn’t prevent illegal use of files, it just makes it a bit more difficult to access them. A lot of publishers are under the impression that once you put DRM on a file nothing bad will happen to that file ever. It just ain’t so. There are a multitude of tools out there that allow you to strip DRM off of files relatively easily. So while DRM might make illegal sharing a bit more difficult if someone really wants an unprotected/unencrypted version of the file it’s not very hard to do this. This is an important point because…

2. All it takes is one person to crack the file and it can be made available to everyone. Most illegal trading of files happens over P2P networks. The thing with P2P networks is that it only takes one copy of a file to be unencrypted/unprotected to have that file be available to all. Check any P2P search engine and you’ll find a multitude of titles that are supposed to only be available for sale online as protected files. Of course, there is one other possibility…

3. Anyone selling content on CD is already selling unprotected files anyway. With the exception of debacles like the Sony rootkit, 99+% of all CDs sold contain unencrypted files. This means that anyone who sells content on CDs is making unprotected content available and that putting those files online is as easy as ripping them to MP3 files, a pretty simple task these days. What boggles my mind is record companies and publishers who are willing to make content available unprotected on CD but for some reason insist on copy protection for digitally downloaded files. Especially considering that…

4. DRM adds a lot of costs for content producers – Implementing DRM isn’t free of course. The costs to develop and/or license DRM technology, encode media files and deal with a multitude of DRM-related customer service complaints are usually passed on from the retailers to the content producers. What this means is that content producers make significantly less money selling DRM “protected” content than they do selling DRM-free content. Royalty rates offered to many content producers from online retailers are often pitifully low and DRM is typically used as a main reason why this is so. That’s a shame. Of course that’s not the only cost…

5. There’s a huge hidden cost in trying to sell DRM’ed content – In addition to the many costs of implementing DRM for content there’s a cost that is often overlooked: The sales you lose because people don’t want to buy DRM’ed content or have incompatible players. This is huge. There is a growing number of people who won’t buy any content that has DRM. In addition, because there is no universally compatible DRM standard, many people can’t buy your content if they don’t have a compatible player. For instance, if you only sell your content with Apple’s Fairplay DRM all of the people getting Zunes during the holidays won’t buy you content because it won’t play on your player (and vice versa of course). So by implementing DRM you are losing out on a significant (and unknown) amount of revenue.

So those are five good reasons why content producers shouldn’t implement DRM. Let’s take a look at five good reasons why DRM hurts consumers…

6. Often the costs of the DRM are passed along to the consumer as well. Since DRM isn’t free someone has to pay for it. Sometimes it’s the content producer in the form of reduced royalties. Other times it’s the consumer. Take the example of eMusic and Apple iTunes. iTunes tracks sell for 99 cents while eMusic tracks sell for 25 cents. One of the reasons why eMusic can sell its music for so much cheaper is that it isn’t spending tons of money implementing a DRM system and dealing with customers who are having DRM issues. So it is able to offer a technically superior product for a significantly lower price. Which is good and even better when you consider that…

7. DRM-free content will play on your device of today and your device of tomorrow – It’ll be a little shocker for some people in a few weeks when they get the new Zune device from Microsoft and try to load all of their Rhapsody or MSN Music tunes on it only to find that they won’t work. Why? Because Microsoft’s previous DRM (PlaysForSure) isn’t compatible with the new Zune DRM. And that’s an example of one of the biggest problems with DRM. It locks you into a specific player from a specific company. While that might be good for a hardware manufacturer like Microsoft or Apple it’s not good for you the consumer. Want another reason? Consider that…

8. Your media devices of the future will be significantly different than your media devices of the present. I discussed this point at length in my post The 5 Dangers of Buying DRM’ed Media. There’s a really good chance that your next media player won’t be an iPod and that in the not-too-distant future it’ll probably be your cellphone. If that’s the case then you need to be aware that any DRM-encoded content that you buy probably won’t work for you anymore. While millions of cellphones are currently shipping that play MP3 files, very few of them will play songs from iTunes or audiobooks from Audible.com. So if you’re at all interested in being able to play your content (the stuff you paid hard-earned money for) in the future you should think twice before buying anything infected with DRM. Furthermore…

9. DRM fundamentally changes who is control of your media. This might be the most esoteric of the arguments and is a bit difficult to explain but in a nutshell, when you buy DRM content for the first time in history, someone else is dictating to you what you can do with something that you’ve legally purchased. Watch this short video from the great folks over at DefectiveByDesign which illustrates this point nicely:

Finally, it’s really important to understand that…

10. Whenever you buy DRM’ed content you support the system of DRM – I buy DRM’ed content from time to time like most of you. However, I have realized that with each purchase of DRM’ed content I help to perpetuate a system in which DRM is acceptable. And at the same time, whenever I frequent a site that offers DRM-free content I’m helping to support a system in which DRM is viewed as unacceptable and a bad business practice. There are a ton of good sites out that offer DRM-free content (here’s another great list) and they could use your support. By rallying around these sites we can help to tip the balance and make this a world where the power is in the hands of people who produce content and legally purchase it.

Thanks for taking the time to listen to me ramble and I hope you now have a better understanding of why this issue is important and what you can do to help make this world a better for place for content producer and content consumers.

November 10, 2006

The Philosophy Podcast…More Popular than the Man Show?


I’m in awe at how popular our Philsophy Podcast has become. We just recently launched it and yet it has become one of the most popular podcasts on iTunes (currently sitting at #24). My brother has always said that he would be incredibly stoked when one of our podcasts surpassed the Man Show (Jimmy Kimmel and Adam Corolla’s podcast) in popularity. Well, that has finally happened!!! (Man Show is currently #29 on iTunes)

Let’s compare recent episodes of The Philsophy Podcast vs. The Man Show…

Philosophy Podcast = What is Enlightenment – Now we take a closer look at the world of Immanuel Kant and his essay What is Enlightenment.


The Man Show = Great Moments In Stupidity – Watch a dumbass bash his own head in with a bottle!


Philosophy Podcast = Discourse on Method – This week we showcase a selection from Discourse on Method by Rene Descarte.


The Man Show = Camcorders For Lesbians – CCFL is here to provide young, hot lesbians with camera to film their love. Please, donate now.

Could it be that thoughtful, intelligent content is actually starting to win out over all the mindless drivel that’s out there?
Well, let’s not get carried away…after all, we’re not #1 yet but it is encouraging that in the world of podcasting consisting of a lot of stupid and inane stuff, high-quality podcasts from people like NPR, National Geographic and of course LearnOutLoud are starting to shine through.


October 26, 2006

The Economics of Abundance and Why Most People Don’t Get It

Chris Anderson (author of the Long Tail and editor of Wired Magazine) recently spoke at PopTech on the subject of The Economics of Abundance. I’ll let you click the link for more information but to make a long story short, the economics of abundance are directly opposed to the economics of scarity. You remember scarcity right? After all it is in the basic definition of economics itself:

Economics, as a social science, studies human choice behavior and how it affects the production, distribution, and consumption of scarce resources.


But here’s the problem…in a digital world resources are no longer necessarily scarce. A file can be replicated an unlimited number of times at virtually no cost. So in a world in which resources are increasingly abundant rather than scarce everything changes. (For a further elaboration on what is changing, check out this *excellent* series of posts on Media 2.Uh-Oh.)

Yet, most people don’t understand what is shifting. Which is why you see Tower Records shutting its doors. It’s why you see NBC laying off 700+ employees. Because too many people are blind to the economics of abundance and have no clue how to operate in world that is no longer defined solely by scarce resources. And so rather than change they’d prefer to stick to existing business models that worked in the past.

It’s sad to me. Because I have conversations with people in the media world (like one I had this very morning) who want to keep their businesses closed off to the rest of the world. Who don’t want to embrace the new channels of distribution that are available. Who’d rather spend their time and energy protecting their existing turf rather than going out and innovating and taking advantage of all of the new markets that are opening up.

And it’s a shame because for most of these businesses they won’t realize it until it’s too late. By the time it becomes painfully obvious what the answer is they are filing for Chapter 11 and laying off the majority of their staff. Because they forgot to read The Long Tail or The Wealth of Networks.

Or more likely, because they didn’t know those books existed in the first place.

October 20, 2006

LearnOutLoud at the Portable Media Expo

Last month at the Portable Media Expo, David and I had the pleasure of sitting down with Jeff McQuillan from the ESL Podcast and Douglas Welch from over at Career Opportunities to talk about podcasting and education. The portable media expo is getting bigger and better every year and more people from the academic community are catching on to the potential posed with the advent of the ipod. For a half hour we discussed how mainstream education has tested the waters recently with podcasts in the classroom, the pros and cons of making a show for free, and what the future may hold for ongoing education as technology becomes more and more advanced.

We’ve made this recording available to you in two ways; first you can go to this page and download it for free, or you can retrieve via the Audio Learning Revolution Podcast here. I have to give a special thanks to Lance Anderson and everyone involved with the LA Podcasters for providing the booth space and timeslot for this illuminating panel. Feel free to drop us a line and offer your impressions of what we talked about here. Everything we touch on is a definite work in progress!

October 15, 2006

Contemporary Literature Audio Books

We’ve decided to add a new category to LearnOutLoud.com. Under Literature we now have the subcategory Contemporary Literature. We’re going to pull together all the literature on audio that we feel can be deemed educational, and that was roughly published post-1960.


We’re not contemporary literature scholars here, so please feel free to give us suggestions at suggestions@learnoutloud.com, if you feel there’s particular authors we’ve left off. Keep in mind their works must be on audio book, and also that we haven’t added a lot of contemporary literature titles yet as it’s a new category.

Here’s a laundry list of authors we’re going to feature in Contemporary Literature to start out with (in no particular order):

Amy Tan
Margaret Atwood
Toni Morrison
Umberto Eco
Salman Rushdie
Alice Walker
Gore Vidal
Thomas Pynchon
John Irving
Chuck Palahniuk
Philip Roth
Michael Ondaatje
Harold Pinter
William Golding
Gabriel García Márquez
Isaac Bashevis Singer
Saul Bellow
Arthur Miller
Norman Mailer
E. L. Doctorow
John Updike
Joyce Carol Oates
Don DeLillo
David Foster Wallace
Dave Eggers
Jonathan Safran Foer
Samuel Beckett
Vladimir Nabokov
Neal Stephenson
William Gibson
Bruce Sterling
J. G. Ballard
Philip K. Dick
Harlan Ellison
William Burroughs
Kurt Vonnegut
Joseph Heller
Allen Ginsberg
Jack Kerouac
Hunter S. Thompson
Truman Capote
Bret Easton Ellis
Michael Chabon
Jeffrey Eugenides
John Cheever
Tom Wolfe
John Kennedy Toole
Tom Robbins
James Baldwin
Ralph Ellison
Alex Haley
Bernard Malamud
Grace Paley
Oscar Hijuelos
Isaac Asimov
Ray Bradbury
Edmund White
Leslie Marmon Silko
Arthur C. Clarke
Harper Lee
Neil Gaiman
Carl Sagan
Walter Miller
Sylvia Plath
Frank Herbert
Robert A. Heinlein
Eudora Welty
Henry Miller
William Styron
William Kennedy
Larry McMurtry
Anne Tyler
Annie Proulx
Michael Cunningham
Marilynne Robinson
Kazuo Ishiguro
Milan Kundera
V.S. Naipaul
Doris Lessing
John Fowles
Jorge Luis Borges
Richard Bach
Iris Murdoch
Samuel R. Delany
Alfred Bester
Thomas Bernhard
Peter Carey
W.G. Sebald
Rohinton Mistry
Carol Shields
James Redfield
José Saramago
Frank McCourt
Yann Martel
John Barth
Cormac McCarthy
Susan Sontag
Jonathan Franzen
Irvine Welsh
Douglas Coupland
Ira Levin
Anthony Burgess
Russell Banks
Evelyn Waugh
Seamus Heaney
Tom Stoppard
Mordecai Richler
Alice Munro
Robertson Davies
Leonard Cohen
Charles Bukowski
Khaled Hosseini

October 9, 2006

GoogTube is Official – Who will be YouTube 2?


So the Google-You Tube deal is official. Only time will tell whether this deal will be a good one or not. Perhaps this will be another MySpace-type deal where a year from now everyone will marvel at how much Google underpaid. Or maybe it’ll be another Broadcast.com where the big winners will end up being Chad Hurley and the rest of the YouTube founders.

But here’s one thing that’s interesting. I’m pretty sure that we’ll start to see an eradication of a big chunk of the copyrighted content on YouTube. And this is really important because it opens up the door for something that is all about inevitable…YouTube 2. Part of the beauty of YouTube is the Web 2.0-nature of the site. Miss the Daily Show yesterday? Find it on YouTube (for free) tomorrow. I’m guessing those days are numbered…at least for YouTube 1.

So I decided to put together a list of the companies that have a chance to become YouTube 2. It’s tough to say who this will be and of course it’s impossible to gauge whether this will end up becoming just like the P2P systems where these sites end up having to face the choice of going legit or shutting down (a la Napster-Grokster-Kazaa). But I think a few things will decide who the next YouTube will be:

1. The company will need to be relatively independent.
It can be venture-funded but can’t already be in bed with a big media/tech company. This disqualifies Netscape, Grouper, iFilm, etc.

2. The company will have to have some funding and a good foundation already in place. The race to be YT2 will happen quickly. It’s unlikely that a company that is under-capitalized or that is just getting going will have a chance to win this race.

3. The company will have to have an interface at least somewhat simliar to YouTube.
When the teenage crew finds they can’t post their copyrighted stuff on YouTube anymore they are going to look for an alternative and if the next best thing seems pretty much like the last best thing it’ll have a good shot of getting their content.

So here are the candidates (in alphabetical order) along with Vegas-style odds that they’ll become YouTube 2:

blip.tv – Blip just closed an angel funding round and has a lot of similarities to YouTube. While they haven’t generated a lot of traction yet their position as a relative independent gives them a shot. Plus they have Amanda Congdon! (Alexa ranking = 10,685)

Likelihood of becoming YouTube 2 – 9:1

Clipshack – Clipshack hasn’t gotten a ton of traction but recently raised $2 million and has a site that could best be described as a “poor man’s YouTube.” They don’t seem to have a lot of copyrighted material (a search on “Jon Stewart” yielded almost nothing) so they might be actively policing that. Possible that they try to become YT2 but unlikely. (Alexa ranking = 23,389)

Likelihood of becoming YouTube 2 – 30:1

Metacafe – This will be an interesting one to watch. They’ve received $15 million in funding and have a lot of traction. While their tune is only to serve the world’s “best videos” I wonder if that might change post-GoogTube given the opportunity that’s out there for them to be a fast follower in this race. (Alexa ranking = 143)

Likelihood of becoming YouTube 2 – 3:1

motionbox – While they seem to focusing much more on their toolset than on becoming a portal since Arrington thinks they’re the best video sharing site maybe they’ve got a chance. Seriously though it’s highly unlikely given their focus. (Alexa ranking = 62,721)

Likelihood of becoming YouTube 2 – 100:1

Revver – When it became apparent that they weren’t going to win the video portal game Revver shifted gears to focus on video distribution. It’s a smart move on their part but shifting back to becoming a portal so quickly is probably not going to happen. (Alexa ranking = 2,853)

Likelihood of becoming YouTube 2 – 40:1

Veoh – Veoh has raised a lot of money ($12.5 million) but given who they’ve raised it from (Eisner, Time Warner, etc.) it’s unlikely they’ll be the next YouTube despite the fact that their site is a virtual clone. If it wasn’t for their investors I’d say they’d be the ones to be YT2. (Alexa ranking = 3,877)

Likelihood of becoming YouTube 2 – 50:1

vSocial – vSocial has raised some money and doesn’t seem gun-shy about featuring copyrighted videos on their homepage. They don’t have quite as much traction as Metacafe but could become “the deuce” if Metacafe doesn’t take the throne. (Alexa ranking = 3,611)

Likelihood of becoming YouTube 2 – 6:1

Vimeo – Another possible contender although their layot is decidedly un-YouTube-like, not all their videos are Flash and I couldn’t seem to find anything on their funding situation. A long shot at best. (Alexa ranking = 8,895)

Likelihood of becoming YouTube 2 – 75:1

It’ll be an interesting race to watch. If YouTube was worth $1.6 billion then what is YT2 going to be worth? Probably not nearly as much because there will be increasing pressure on them to go legit and they won’t be able to fly under the radar (relatively speaking) as long as YouTube did while building up an audience. Still, if they can manage to pull a lot of YouTubers over much the same way MySpace did to Friendster and much the same as what happened with the P2P networks then it’s quite possible they could build up a huge audience very quickly.

YouTube wanna-bes start your engines…the race has begun!

October 8, 2006

CA Governor’s Debate on Audio


So I missed the one & only California Governor’s Debate between Phil Angelides & Gov. Schwarzenegger, which was broadcast at 6PM this Saturday during the L.A. Dodgers playoff game. Now I’m trying to find it on audio so I can hopefully get it on my iPod or at least listen to it on streaming audio. But I can’t find it anywhere!

I don’t know anything about the legality of putting it out there, but this stuff demands to be on audio. I would like to learn more about Phil Angelides, but in the downloads section of his site he’s just got a bunch of PDFs (where’s the podcast Phil?!). Schwarzenegger’s got a podcast which consists of his weekly radio address, but the feed has been dead in iTunes for months now:

(don’t bother clicking, it’s a 404!)

I go to all the public radio affiliates in CA: KCRW, KPCC, KQED, and none of them have it. They’re doing some rebroadcasting at certain times, but I want it right now on my iPod! I even check Google Video & You Tube to see if anyone put it up on streaming video. Nothing. I went to the chinsy California Broadcasters Association website which was responsible for the debate. No luck.

Update: The Angelides campaign has directed me to it on streaming video: http://cbs5.com/video/?id=17034@kpix.dayport.com. I still wish I could get it on my iPod.

October 7, 2006

The TEDTalks Rock!


The TEDTalks rock! I blogged about this before but it’s worth mentioning again because the awesome folks over at the TED conference just keep putting more content up on the TEDTalks podcast feed. I’ve been listening to a bunch of these lately and just about each and every one blows me away. Like the 19-year-old Princeton student who has. Or the British biogeretologist who thinks that one day in the not-too-distant future humans might live to be 1,000. Fascinating stuff…

If you haven’t taken a listen to the TEDTalks yet I’d highly recommend it. Kudos to everyone who has been involved with making them available on the net (for free!). Each one of these talks has the potential to spark ideas that will change the world.