April 28, 2006

What’s the World’s Most Popular Language?


Did you guess English? If so you’re wrong. 500 million more people claim Mandarin Chinese as their first language. That blew me away. Actually, the entire article entitled “The Mandarin Offensive” that I read tonight blew me away. I really don’t we fully realize the impact that China is going to have on the rest of the world. It’s going to be truly mind-boggling.

And it’s a wake-up call I guess to go out there and learn at least a bit of Mandarin. I tried to do this a couple of years ago and I’ll admit that it wasn’t the easiest thing in the world. It’s definitely a lot more difficult (coming from an English background) than trying to learn French or Spanish.

Now I might be a bit biased but I think one of the best ways to learn a foreign language (or to supplement your learning) is through audio. I know that both my Spanish and French (Disclaimer: I’m not anywhere near fluid in either language.) have been helped a lot over the years by listening to tapes and CDs. And when I made my attempt at learning Chinese a couple of years ago, listening the Pimsleur Mandarin Chinese course did help a lot.

If you’re in the process of learning a language I would definitely recommend adding audio material to your plan of attack. We’ve got a ton of language learning material listed on our site so you should be able to find something that suits your needs. The best part about audio is that it’s easy to repetitively drill the stuff into your head. Plus, it usually costs a fraction of what you would pay for classes or a private tutor.

April 27, 2006

Take a look at TeachOutLoud


It’s been flying under the radar for a while but I finally decided I should blog about our new service TeachOutLoud. When we started LearnOutLoud we were impressed by the number of good audiobooks and podcasts that were out there. At the same time, we compared that with the total amount of high-quality audio content that is generated on a daily basis around the world. We’re talking about literally hundreds of speeches, lectures, presentations, classes, etc. that are delivered every day and of which far less than 1% are ever recorded and made available on the Internet.

One of the reasons why we felt that people didn’t bother to record this content is that there wasn’t an easy way to distribute it. You’d have to set up your own site, upload the content, deal with people who couldn’t figure out how to download it or play it, etc. Not rocket science perhaps but certainly a bit of a hassle. And that assumes that you’re giving the content away. If you wanted to charge for it then there’s even more involved in terms of e-commerce, secure downloading, etc.

We wanted to make it a lot easier.

In fact, we wanted to make it so easy that if you had an MP3 recording of a live event or audiobook then you could have that audio available for people to download within minutes, complete with a professional looking product page and the capability to charge for the content if you so chose.

With TeachOutLoud that possibility is now a reality.

TeachOutLoud provides you with all of the services that you need to distribute and sell your audio content online. It allows you to focus on what you’re really good at: Creating great content. Our vision for TeachOutLoud is a day when anyone and everyone can take a lecture they’ve just given, a class they’ve just taught or an audio book they’ve just recorded and easily make it available through LearnOutLoud.com.

No need to understand RSS or XML or any of that stuff. No worries about a proprietary file format that won’t work with certain players (all files are distributed as MP3 files). No hassle in setting up hosting, customer service, e-commerce. Just an opportunity to record educational and inspirational content and make it available to anyone around the world (Note: We support international payment as well as Paypal).

In the last few weeks since we’ve done a soft launch of TeachOutLoud we’ve already had 50+ titles uploaded through the TeachOutLoud system. Here is a sampling of what you can find there:

John Selby – A best-selling author and noted teacher, John has posted a half-dozen courses on self-development and spirituality on TeachOutLoud.

The Work of Ratanjit Sondhe – Discoverhelp is a company dedicated to help you reaching your potential. They’ve posted a number of discussions with Ratanjit Sondhe that you will enjoy.

Trish Dennison – Dave Trager, the Founder of Feel Good Vibes, introduced us to Trish and we’re proud to be hosting her content.

Sounds for Sights – Audio walking tours are a great way to enjoy a new city. The folks at Sounds for Sights have posted several titles through TeachOutLoud and even have made a free walking tour of Rockefeller Center and the Diamond District available for download.

This is just a start as we hope to have hundreds, if not thousands, of titles added to TeachOutLoud in coming months. The best part is that your title could be next. Do you have something you would like to teach the world about? Just head on over to http://www.teachoutloud.com and see how easy it is to get your audio content up so that others can learn from what you have to say.

Thanks to everyone who has been instrumental in bringing TeachOutLoud to life!

April 26, 2006

Feynman Rocks


Richard Feynman rocks.

I love Signal vs. Noise, the blog from the peeps over at 37Signals. One of today’s posts included this quote from Feynman on the subject of awards:

“I don’’t like honours…. The prize is the pleasure of finding the thing out, the kick in the discovery, the observation of the people who use it. Those are the real things!”


How cool is that?

I noticed that David has been putting up some new Feynman titles. Check them out here. Good stuff…

April 24, 2006

More Content 2.0


OK, so I’ve been bitten by this Content 2.0 thing. In fact I think I’m going to start a whole new category for blog posts on the subject. It might not seem like it has anything to do with LearnOutLoud but I beg to differ.

It has everything to do with how we’ll consume content/media in the future.

The graph above is the Alexa traffic chart for YouTube. If you haven’t been already you really owe it to yourself to go. In less than a year and with virtually no marketing YouTube has grown to one of the Top 50 sites on the Net. By year’s end I’m pretty sure it will be one of the Top 10. I think the reason for this is that it pretty much embodies what Content 2.0 is all about. What are those elements?

1. Brevity – Shorter content is perfect for our ADD-ish culture. While I’m definitely not saying that the three-hour epic movie is going away anytime soon I do think you’ll see a trend to shorter and shorter forms on content in coming years. And one of the main reasons for that is…

2. Portable – A cool thing about YouTube is that I can watch stuff on YouTube or I can post it on my blog. With a little doing I can even download the content. Content 1.0 resides in a certain place (e.g., your television). Content 2.0 is a nomad and shows up wherever you want it to.

3. Personal – One of the neat things about Content 2.0 is that is remarkably personal. It’s not the super-polished stuff you see coming out of television networks and movie studios. It’s more rough. It’s raw like AskANinja
or the Gillmor Gang. It’s Blair Witch…not Blair Witch 2. Clerks vs. Clerks 2. In fact, often times the more money you throw at it the worse it gets.

4. Efficient – Look, we’re all busy. I’d love to sit down and read all of the great books ever written and watch all the movies and the “cool” TV shows. But I don’t have time. Very few of us do. So if you can give me 90% of the benefit and enjoyment of the full-length content in a condensed version I will be very appreciative. That was sort of my point in yesterday’s post. If your 350 page book can be condensed down to a cool 50 pages then I can read 7 different books in the time it would have taken me to read your book.

Again, I’m not talking about Cliff Notes or executive summaries. I’m talking about a new form of content that is concise, personal, relevant and highly entertaining. A form of content that respects my time and at the same time appeals to my desire to gain a richer understanding of the world and learn the stuff I need to to improve my life and reach my goals.

That’s what Content 2.0 is all about. YouTube gets it. Some podcasters get it (most don’t). It’ll be interesting to see who else gets it in the coming months and years.

April 23, 2006

The Wisdom of Crowds and Content 2.0


So I was doing some unpacking today and managed to crank through about two thirds of James Surowiecki’s excellent book The Wisdom of Crowds. The fact that I was able to get over halfway done with this book on a day when I was doing mundane stuff around the house is Reason #163 that I love audio learning. Seriously, this is a book that given my current schedule I would not have had the time to read anytime soon.

But something else struck me when I was listening to it. A couple of weeks ago I listened to a presentation that Surowiecki had given at South by Southwest (listen here). In it he hits most of the highpoints of The Wisdom of Crowds book. And he does it in less than an hour (contrast this with the unabridged audiobook which runs about ten hours).

Which of these has more value to the listener?

That’s a really good question. Although I’m a big fan of unabridged audiobooks that fact of that matter is that the SXSW presentation hit the key points and anecdotes in the books, was delivered by the author himself and cost…nothing.

If this was the first time that I had encountered something like this it might not have registered for me. But it isn’t. I’ve come across this before from people like Thomas Friedman (The World Is Flat), David McCullough (1776) and Malcolm Gladwell (Blink). Indeed, all of these (free) presentations by the authors do a pretty good job of summing up their books.

My gut is telling me that there’s a new form of content emerging here. It’s shorter than Content 1.0 (think one hour presentation from the author rather than ten hour unabridged audiobook). It’s more personal than Content 1.0 (think the author talking about her book in her words rather than her book read by a narrator). And it’s quite possibly more entertaining than Content 1.0 and certainly more efficient (I could listen to 10 author presentations in the same time that I could listen to one unabridged audiobook).

It’s not Cliff Notes. It’s not Soundview Executive Book Summaries. It’s something entirely new (at least I think so). I’m going to call it Content 2.0 and leave it at that for now. But I’ll be back with more later… 🙂

April 22, 2006

Great Podcasts

Man I’ve been listening to a lot of good stuff lately. Here are a few samples:

The Future of Work – Very inspiring and optimistic presentation from MIT Professor Thomas Malone from Accelerating Change 2005.

Beyond Search – Cool panel discussion from BayCHI with the founder of Digg, del.icio.us, Pandora and Netflix.

Mosaic – Unleashing the Creative Spirit – I’ve been doing some “church hunting” lately here in LA and I love the ability to check out a church via a podcast before I show up in person.

Venture Voice with Steve Hindy of The Brooklyn Brewery – Venture Voice just keeps getting better and better. If you’re running your own business or thinking about doing so in the future you *must* subscribe to this podcast.

April 19, 2006

LearnOutLoud on the Web 2.0 Show

We’re not really a web 2.0 company but in the spirit of never missing the opportunity to spread some LearnOutLoud love I did an interview at BarCampLA with Nick Dyson of the Web 2.0 Show. It’s a short interview but it turned out pretty good. Here’s the link if you want to take a listen. And one question…could they have found a worse picture of me? 🙂

April 19, 2006

LiteralSystems Produces Free “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” Audiobook

LoudLit.org and LiteralSystems have created the first free audio book version of Mark Twain’s “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”. At 9 Hrs. 30 Min. it’s one of the longest free audio books recorded to date. And the sound quality and narration sound superb. Check it out:

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

April 10, 2006

Why I love LearnOutLoud

OK, I’m a bit biased here perhaps. 🙂 But one of the things that I love about this site is that every time we ship an order or serve a download it’s a product that we’re all proud to sell. When we started LearnOutLoud we made a conscious decision that we weren’t going to carry every spoken word audio title out there. Rather we were going to focus on the highest quality educational and inspirational material. If you’re looking for romance or crime or mystery that’s totally cool. You just won’t find it here.

A glance at our top ten best-selling titles reaffirms for me that the decision to only sell high-quality stuff with substance was the right one:

1. Meditations for Manifesting – By far our best-selling title. And for good reason. If you’re interested in learning Japa meditation there’s no better way than this audiobook.

2. Energizing the Body – We’ve been selling a lot of Dan Millman’s titles and this one has proved the most popular. Definitely worth checking out if you would like to have more energy. Uh, that would be all of us…

3. English for Portuguese (Brazilian) Speakers – This is our #3 best seller? Who would have thunk it? I will say though, there’s no better way to polish your language skills than with audio learning.

4. The Purpose-Driven Life – Rick Warren’s mega best-selling book is also a hit on audio.

5. The Science of Getting Rich – This title is actually on our top 10 twice. The Brian Johnson narrated version edges out the Gildan Media version to date.

6. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – An all-time favorite from Steven Covey.

7. The Science of Getting Rich – The other Science of Getting Rich in our Top Ten.

8. The Chronicles of Narnia CD Box Set – The best value audiobook ever. 31 discs for $52. That’s a great deal! 🙂

9. The Twelve Gateways to Freedom – Another Dan Millman title. This one is excellent. Highly recommended.

10. English for Spanish Speakers – Suprise, surprise, more language training.

So that’s our Top Ten. Every one of those titles has the power to improve your life in some way. That’s what I love about this site and learning out loud in general. It’s self-improvement without taking time out of your day. Now what could be better than that?

April 7, 2006

5,000 Registered Members

I promised myself I’d blog about these milestones a little less frequently but was excited to see that sometime in the last 24 hours we passed over the 5,000 registered member threshold. It’s a lot of fun to watch the growth of the site and to see all of the people who are downloading audio books and podcasts.

Thanks to all of you who have joined the site. We’ve got lots more coming down the pipeline which we’re very excited to share with you. Have a great weekend everyone and keep learning out loud!