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February 6, 2006

New Discoveries in New Guinea

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It's amazing how the reticular activating system works. Just yesterday I'm watching the excellent National Geographic documentary Guns, Germs and Steel based UCLA professor Dr. Jared Diamond's book of the same name. In it he discusses at length the people of New Guinea and the reasons for their lack of material wealth when compared with those in North America and Europe.

Then today I'm scanning my blogs and see a post from 37signals pointing me too an article in The Independent entitled "Scientists hail discovery of hundreds of new species in remote New Guinea" with the following quote:

An astonishing mist-shrouded “lost world” of previously unknown and rare animals and plants high in the mountain rainforests of New Guinea has been uncovered by an international team of scientists… The scientists are the first outsiders to see it. They could only reach the remote mountainous area by helicopter, which they described it as akin to finding a “Garden of Eden”… In a jungle camp site, surrounded by giant flowers and unknown plants, the researchers watched rare bowerbirds perform elaborate courtship rituals. The surrounding forest was full of strange mammals, such as tree kangaroos and spiny anteaters, which appeared totally unafraid, suggesting no previous contact with humans.

How cool is that?

I'd highly recommend checking out the documentary or listening to Diamond's book on audio.

What a fascinating world we live in huh?

 

January 16, 2006

The Dirty Dozen: 12 Predictions for Digital Audio and Video

With 2006 upon everyone is offering their predictions for the year so I figured I would throw my hat in the ring, especially as it comes to the future digital audio and video. Paul Colligan and Alex Mandossian over at got me thinking about this yesterday during one of their podcasts and 24 hours later I've got a list of what I think will transpire in the next 12 months. Enjoy!

1. Device convergence will happen more quickly than anyone realizes. When you're walking down the street carrying both a cell phone and iPod (or other mobile player) and you bump into your friend who has a killer cell phone will all the same mobile media functionality as your iPod you're going to want to switch...soon. The number of people who carry a combination cell phone/media player will grow significantly through 2006 and explode in 2007. Here's a recent quote from Sun CEO Scott McNealy, "It's going to be hard to sell a lot of iPods five years from now when every cell phone is going to be able to automatically access your library wherever you are." I don't think that's going to take five years. Verizon has a phone with a 4 Gig chip on the horizon. The convergence trend will happen quickly. And when it does it's likely going to mean...

2. The iPod could become the next TiVo. TiVo is a superior product to any other DVR on the market. It has a great interface and does pretty much everything very well. Yet the general consensus is that unless something changes soon the TiVo will go the way of the dodo bird. The problem? Distribution. Requiring a consumer to buy an extra box and an extra service means asking them to jump through two more hoops than they have to when they get a DVR from their cable company. Apple will face the same challenge with the iPod. As device convergence emerges people will begin to wonder why they need to purchase a separate device and load content on it when they can just do everything through their cell phone. So unless Apple makes significant strides in the mobile phone space their domainance in the mobile media market will quickly fade.

3. will be bigger than anyone realizes. Google Video appears to be able on the cusp of doing something that no one has really done to date: Allowing individuals a significant opportunity for monetization of video content. Their current video store leaves a lot to be desired but I trust that they will figure this out...after all, they are Google. And when they give people an incentive to produce quality video content and get paid 70 cents on the dollar for their efforts the game changes significantly. They'll be empowering the little guy to sell video content much the same way that a certain little company called eBay empowered the little guy to sell products a decade ago. And we all know how well that worked out for eBay...

4. Satellite video will arrive...courtesy of the satellite radio guys. Two themes seem to be emerging in video: The ability of companies like Google Video and Netflix to meet the demand for long-tail content and the ability of Apple and others to provide space-shifted content (see Prediction #12). Space-shifting allows people to view video content whereever they are. I can watch content on the train on the way to work, when I'm at the gym, at home on my new HD TV (I wish...), etc. Who is best positioned to provide this? It just might be XM and Sirius, the satellite radio companies. Their mobile players offer a ton of potential and Sirius already has announced plans for video in 2006. It's very likely the day will soon come when people consider ditching their cable or DirecTV subs for an XM or Sirius-powered satellite video service.

5. Real Rhapsody for the spoken word will surface. I love . And their new Rhapsody-To-Go service is killer and would be a huge hit if only Apple would take down the walled garden and let Real license its DRM. But enough about music...let's talk about the spoken word. It seems to me like a huge opportunity exists to do for the spoken word what Real/Yahoo!/Napster have done for music. Don't limit someone to just a couple of audio books a month (a la ). Instead give someone the ability to listen to whatever they want, whenever they want. If you're an hour into an audio book and it sucks, fine, just jump to something better. There are a few companies right now vying for the non-Apple/Audible/iPod spoken word throne: , and . A tremendous opportunity exists for one of them to attempt to create a Rhapsody-like service for audio books. I'd be one of their first subscribers.

6. Audible will hit an unexpected snag with . Audible recently launched WordCast, their podcasting service to enable advertising and/or premium content. There's just one slight problem. If I'm an author and want to get an audio book up on Audible's website I'm looking at a royalty somewhere in the neighborhood of 15%. But if I take that same audio book and sell it through WordCast (complete with DRM if I wish) my take jumps to 80%. Does something seem strange here? I think at some point there has to be an acknowledgement that all of the "services" that traditional publishers and companies like Audible provide lose a lot of their luster in a world in which it's increasingly easy to go directly to the consumer with your products. Somehow the gap between 15% and 80% will have to close and that could be a bit painful for Audible.

7. will focus on music and will focus on personalized communication. The two podcast-related companies that received major chunks of funding in 2005 will find themselves in a bit of a tough spot in 2006. The big boys like iTunes and Yahoo! have the directory game pretty well sown up and the market for podcast production software is becoming increasingly commoditized. But all hope is certainly not lost for these companies. The most sensible thing appears to be for Podshow to focus on the music side of podcasting, the area in which Adam Curry and Ron Bloom have the most knowledge. Becoming anything and everything to musicians looking to market themselves via podcasts seems to offer an incredible opportunity for the company and I hope that's what their focus becomes. As for Odeo, Evan Williams has expressed a desire to be closely involved with facilitating personal communication via RSS. He's a visionary in that regard and to the best of my knowledge, one of the few people talking about it. To the extent that Odeo makes it incredibly easy for people to send and receive podcasts to and from friends and family I think they have a tremendous business. Like Podshow, they'll fail only to the extent that they try to dominate podcasting as a whole rather than focusing on a specific niche of what is rapidly becoming a huge industry.

8. matching will arrive on the scene. This prediction strikes me as somewhat obvious but suprisingly absent from the current dialogue. If you and I each subscribe to 20 podcasts and it just so happens that 17 of them are the same then I want to know the three you've subscribed to that I haven't and you would likely want to know the same thing. I'm not certain but this doesn't seem like rocket science. To the extent that someone launches a service that allows for this and it reaches critical mass you'll have an amazing discovery service for podcasts, something that will become even more important as tens of thousands of new podcasts come online this year. I'm not sure exactly what AmigoFish and are doing with their recommendation services but if they haven't incorporated OPML matching yet it would be a great idea. And get Netflix to do this for movie queues while you're at it... :)

9. Many "mini" multimedia portals will be launched. Music artists have fans. Many fans will buy whatever the artist is selling (hence, $40 concert T-shirts). Artists set up fan clubs. Fan pay annual fees for "goodies." Everyone is happy. Now why not do this for authors, gurus, etc. Why shouldn't a Tony Robbins or Tom Peters have their own multimedia portal? You could pay $20 a month and have access to exclusive audio and video content, RSS feeds and other stuff that fans of these individuals would eat up. A lot of big names could literally bring on thousands or tens of thousands of subscribers overnight. Do the math and consider that almost all of this revenue falls directly to the bottom line and you can see that we're talking about a huge opportunity here. Companies like , , , and many others are already doing something of this nature for collections of content. Multimedia portals around individuals are next.

10. Podcast prioritzation will become a reality. I want to be able to communicate to my media player that I have a 45 minute drive ahead of me and have the media player automatically figure out the best content to deliver to me based on the amount of time I have, the latest content that's been loaded to my player and the preferences that I've given it ahead of time. Sound farfetched? It's not. In fact, is offering something very close to this right now. The only problem with their system is that they haven't incorporated prioritization into podcast feeds yet, just for the news feeds they offer. If they (or someone else) offers the ability to give me a "custom commute" I'll sign up in a heartbeat. When that happens manually locating which podcasts you've recently put on your iPod, which you've listened to, calculating how much time you have to listen and how long each episode is...all that will seem so 2005.

11. Live event content will start to tap its true potential. Every day, around the U.S. and around the world many thousands of people say things worth listening to in classrooms, seminars, conferences and other forums. A very small percentage of that content is recorded. An even smaller percentage is distributed to a wide audience via the Internet. Why? You tell me. I haven't been able to figure it out yet. If this content wasn't worth listening to or watching people wouldn't pay hundreds or thousands of dollars to attend these events. And while there are some benefits of attending a live event there are also some significant drawbacks. I think the market for the recording and distribution of live events is an incredibly huge one and hope that 2006 is the year when many people wake up to this. We're hoping that efforts like Doug Kaye's and our soon-to-be launched LearnDirect service will help provide the match that starts the fire.

12. New words will be coined and gain widespread adoption. This list of predictions wouldn't be complete without a prediction for a few new words that will enter the lexicon in 2006. Here are some that I think will enter the dialogue this year as well as a couple that I'm definitely hoping will. :)

Space-shifting - As previously mentioned, this is the ability of content to be with you whereever you are. To the extent that content can be consumed anywhere it's value increases tremendously. That's incredibly important for those providing content and distribution channels to understand.

Dead-time Learning - Thanks to Paul and Alex who've used this term on their show for a while. Dead-time learning refers to turning time that is normally thought of as intellectually unproductive (e.g., commuting, exercising, etc.) into prime learning time. It's taking your hour commute and using it to learn a new foreign language, study for a certification exam or stay on top of trends in your industry. By doing so you'll free up more time to spend with your friends and family, devote to your hobbies and do the things that you previously thought you didn't have time for.

DRM-free - People already use the term "DRM-free" but I'm hoping/predicting that it will become thought of as more of a feature in 2006. People will start to actively seek out DRM-free sources of content and show an increasing willingness to pay more for content that hasn't had DRM applied to it. It won't be because they're looking to illegally share such content but rather because they want to have the versatility to share content they legally purchased across the increasing number of devices they own.

Learning Out Loud - My wish for 2006 is that people increasingly talk about their desire to "learn out loud" which I define as using audio or video content for personal and professional development. Part of this is a selfish desire as the CEO of LearnOutLoud.com and part of this is (hopefully) a very altruistic desire to see everyone become more educated this year. I truly feel that education represents the rising tide with the potential to lift all boats. And I also feel that in an era of globalization and increasing competition "lifelong learning" becomes less of an option and more of a requirement if you want to stay ahead of the curve and possibly even keep your job.

So we'll see how this all shakes out. At the end of the day I'm more excited than 2006 than I've ever been excited about an upcoming year and many of the people I've talked to lately have expressed the same sense of hope and optimism. There are so many cool technologies coming down the pipe and the opportunity to effect positive and lasting change in the world is more real than it's ever been.

 

January 13, 2006

MLK Out Loud

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When people ask me "Why audiobooks?" there are a few common responses that I'll give. It's a great alternative or supplement to reading. You can listen while you're driving or at the gym. Sometimes it's easier to remember what you hear than what you read. But there's one another one that's really powerful:

Some listening experiences just can't be duplicated in print.

Probably the best example I can give of this is listening to A Knock at Midnight, an outstanding collection of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s sermons. I mean I guess you could read these but I doubt that it would move you the way listening to King himself preach would. When I flip this on my iPod (something I find myself increasingly doing) I almost immediately get goosebumps. I'm not sure quite what it is about King's preaching that does that to me.

As most of you here in the United States know, Monday is Martin Luther King Day. For many people it's just another freebie holiday that they probably won't think twice about. And that's a shame. Because it's an awesome opportunity to learn more about an amazing man who has done so much in the struggle for justice and equality here in the U.S. and around the world.

Today David put the finishing touches on MLK Out Loud, an attempt on our part to bring together all of the audio and video content from or about King that we could find. There is a ton of great stuff linked from the page including biographies, documentaries, collections of sermons and of course King's stirring "I Have a Dream" speech. We've tried to find as many free audio and video resources as we could too knowing that there are a lot of teachers who would love to use them to relay the power of King's message to their classes.

I wanted to say a special thank you to American Rhetoric which hosts several of King's speeches for free. If you have a minute, drop Michael Eidenmuller who runs the site a quick line and tell him thanks.

In the "I Have a Dream" speech King talks about a faith that he has. In his words:

With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

It's a faith we need more of in this day and age when King's message of brotherhood is as relevant as it has ever been.

Take some time this long holiday weekend to listen to one of his King's speeches or order one of his audio books. It's a great way to celebrate his legacy and a powerful way to learn more about the man who has touched so many lives.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone.

 

January 6, 2006

Peaceful Warrior The Movie

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I had the distinct privilege of being invited to attend an advance screening of the new movie Peaceful Warrior which is based on Dan Millman's book Way of The Peaceful Warrior. The movie comes out in June and you'll definitely want to check it out. It's both a touching story and very thought-provoking. And I would highly recommend reading the book or listening to the audio book beforehand. As with any movie a lot gets left out but I thought they did do a pretty good job in sticking to the theme of the book.

If you're interesting in catching a little of Dan's work for free you can take a listen to the Dan Millman Podcast which we host on LearnOutLoud. We've only got one episode currently up but more will be on the way soon.

Thanks to Dan for the invite and kudos to him and everyone at Lion's Gate for their work on the film. It may or may not be the next Hollywood blockbuster but the inspiration it will provide for many will far outweigh any dollar figures.

 

January 4, 2006

Five Things That Make It Easy To Get Up In the Morning

Why do you get out of bed in the morning?

It's a question worth asking often. Last night I was reading a quote I have on the wall at home. It's from a commencement address that Apple CEO Steve Jobs gave to Stanford students last June.

For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

The answer for me is "Yes" and I thought I'd share with you five reason why. Five reasons for being (I thought I'd dress it up with a bit of French). Bear with me. I think you'll see my point by the end. :)

Raison d'etre #1 - I want to learn from the world. Today, around the world, there are thousands of people teaching. Scratch that. There are millions of people teaching. I want to learn from them. I don't want to be limited to learning from the minute percentage that broadcast media gives to us. The few talking heads that say the same things in the same way. That doesn't do it for me.

Tomorrow somewhere someone will give a talk on some niche topic within the world of search engine optimization (or any of thousands of other subjects, take your pick. This person will know more than 99.99999% of the planet on the subject. His talk may reach 30 or even 300 people. Yet there are thousands of people around the world who could benefit from that talk. How do we enable that?

That's my raison d'etre #1.

Raison d'etre #2 - I want to teach the world. Maybe I have a message. Maybe I'm an expert in a particular area. Maybe the words that I spoke two days ago or two hours ago could add value to someone's life. Maybe I'm that guy or gal teaching that search engine class. Why should I have to limit my message to just the people in the room at the time of the class. In this era of technology and new media that makes no sense.

There's a reason why college professors are relatively underpaid (IMHO). It's because of leverage. Professors typically only reach a few dozen people at one time. They could be reaching hundreds, thousands or even millions. A child growing up in Africa could have the finest education in the world if the technology enabled it. And the people who are the best teachers of our era could at last become the rock stars that they truly are.

That's my raison d'etre #2.

Raison d'etre #3 - I want to immortalize wisdom. On the way to the office tonight I was listening to Martin Luther King Jr. (A Knock At Midnight is one of my "broken records"). Every time I listen to that I am so thankful that someone took the time to record his voice so that we have it for future generations. I'm glad that my children will one day listen to MLK's sermons and that they'll be able to pass them to their children.

But I also get sad when I think of all of the wisdom we have captured and that we'll never be able to go back and get. People who had incredible things to share with the world that we'll never be able to hear. So I plan to do my best to tell everyone to record everything. Not only will digital audio and video content have increasing monetary value in the upcoming years, it's also a tremendous legacy to leave to future generations.

That's my raison d'etre #3.

Raison d'etre #4 - I want to help the diamonds in the rough to be discovered. There are so many people out there who have incredible things to share with the world. They just need a little help to get that voice heard about the crowd. My buddy Brian Johnson is a great example. He has some incredible wisdom to share with the world.

In the past he would have had very limited options for sharing his spoken message with the world. But we've been able to post his content here at LearnOutLoud and now people are saying stuff like this:

Brian's reading of this collection of quotes on courage helps to enliven them for us - thus, giving us a greater chance of learning and mastering the courage we need in order to maxmize our lives.

There might not be anyone just like Brian out there but I guarantee there are a ton of people who have some awesome content out there and just need a little incentive to get it captured and online.

That's my raison d'etre #4.

Raison d'etre #5 - I'm frickin' selfish. :) The reason I love audio and video learning is that it gives me options for learning at all times throughout the day. Out for a run? I can throw on a pair of headphones and listen to an audio book or podcast. Need to veg on the couch for bit? Give me a cool video course or documentary to watch.

A big factor in the quality of our lives is the quality of the information we're exposed to. The better the information, the better our lives are. I want more choices. Audible has 5,000 audio books. Great. I want 50,000. iTunes promises 20,000 podcasts. Cool. I want 200,000. I want to give people the incentive to bring the absolute best possible content to market and share it with as many people as possible.

That's my raison d'etre #5.

So why do I bring all this up? Well, last night I had the opportunity to see a sneak preview of LearnDirect, the new service we'll be rolling out in a few weeks. It might be a bit presumptious to say this but LearnDirect (and other services like it that will no doubt follow) will. change. the. world. Sure, it won't happen overnight but when it comes to opening up the flow of information I think it has tremendous potential.

Let me go back to a quote from Jeffrey Sachs that I posted last week:

I believe that the single most important reason why prosperity spread, and why it continues to spread, is the transmission of technologies and the ideas underlying them.

We here at LearnOutLoud are incredibly excited to help with this "transmission." We hope you'll join us.

For more information about LearnDirect, please send an e-mail to learndirect@learnoutloud.com.

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December 27, 2005

Education and The End of Poverty

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During my plane flights back and forth to Minneapolis for the holidays I had a chance to dig a little deeper into Jeffrey Sachs' new book The End of Poverty. It's a remarkable study of the history of poverty and what we can do to end it in this generation. Here's a quote that I found particularly relevant to what we're doing here at LearnOutLoud:

I believe that the single most important reason why prosperity spread, and why it continues to spread, is the transmission of technologies and the ideas underlying them. Even more important than having specific resources in the ground, such as coal, was the ability to use modern, science-based ideas to organize production. The beauty of ideas is that they can be used over and over again, without ever being depleted.

I got goosebumps when I read that. The transmission of ideas is exactly what LearnOutLoud is all about. It's why I'm so excited for all of the cool stuff we're planning to roll out in 2006. And it's why I'm so incredibly passionate about bring the best audio and video educational content possible to as many people as I can.

I've been having some great discussion lately via e-mail with Wynn Williamson over at The Stingy Scholar blog (highly recommend by the way). Here's a snippet of a recent e-mail that he sent me to give you some flavor of what we've been chatting about:

Some of the best emails coming into Textbook Revolution and Stingy Scholar have been from people in countries like Papau New Guinea where there aren't textbooks to go around, let alone new and updated ones. Making these audio, video, and text materials available is a huge deal - not just because people can't afford to pay, but also because the openness makes translations possibility.

We've been discussing a lot of possibilities and I suggested to him that we bring the conversation out in the open and see if we could latch on a few other people to join us. So I'll keep this brief and we'll pick up the conversation in the forums. I'd love to hear from you so click the link below to join us. Through giving people increased access to ideas we will change the world. We would love it if you would want to be a part of that. :)

 

December 9, 2005

Narnia Mania

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If you haven't spent the last couple of months in a cave you're probably aware that Disney is releasing their latest projected blockbuster The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe today. The Chronicles of Narnia was originally a seven-book series written by C.S. Lewis. I fondly remember reading these as a child. I'd have to check with my parents but I'm pretty sure I probably read them all.

If you're a Narnia fan you'll want to check out a couple of things we've put together here at LearnOutLoud.com. The first is our C. S. Lewis Author Page. We've collected every audio and video title from or about C.S. Lewis that we could find. One of my favorites include the The Chronicles of Narnia CD Box Set which contains unabridged recordings of all seven Narnia books for a very affordable price ($52.50). Another interesting title is a reading of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe read by Michael York.

If you're interested in learning more about C.S. Lewis or delving into some of his non-Narnia material there are a couple of things you may want to check out. You can start with our free reading of the C. S. Lewis Wikipedia entry where you'll learn more about the man behind Narnia. Then you can move on to The C.S. Lewis Signature Classics Audio Collection, a collection containing The Screwtape Letters, The Great Divorce, The Problem of Pain and Mere Christianity.

If you're heading to the movie this weekend drop a quick post in the forums and let us know how it was.

Have a great weekend everyone!

 

December 1, 2005

Audio and Video Learning Around the World

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So I popped on in to Google Analytics tonight to check on our stats and found the map of our vistitors fascinating. Each of the dots on the map represents a city from where at least 30 people came to our site in the last week. Where did we receive the most visits from? Taipei. 710 visits this week. Gives me chills just thinking about people in China firing up their web browser and listening to audio and video learning content, improving their English skills, etc.

I exchanged e-mails today with a sweet lady from China who explained to me how grateful she was to have found LearnOutLoud.com. Here's a bit of what she said:

maybe its main idea is not to practise one's listening, but obviously it's a big potential benifit to english learner, especially who want to improve their listening.

The potential for audio and video learning and podcasting is amazing. It can open up new worlds for people in places like China. And there will be an incredible demand for ESL and other english language programs in these countries. Likewise there will be a lot of demand for programs to learn languages like Mandarin. A prime example of this is the fact that the third most popular podcast on Yahoo's podcast directory is ChinesePod, a podcast out of Shanghai that teaches Mandarin Chinese through daily audio lessons.

The most apropros sign might have been the title that my new friend in China originally e-mailed me about. What was it?

The World is Flat

Yes, indeed it is.

 

October 28, 2005

Starting Fires

Caught this over on Brian Johnson's blog:

"Education is not filling a bucket but lighting a fire."
~ William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)
Irish poet, playwright & mystic, winner of Nobel prize in 1923

If education is lighting a fire then we here at LearnOutLoud.com are pyromaniacs. :)

Have a great weekend everyone!

(By the way, if you get an extra few minutes this weekend wander on over to Brian's author page and download some of his stuff. It's really good. Lately I've been particularly digging Quotes on Action and Quotes on Courage. Did I mention that it's free?)

 

October 27, 2005

The Blue Flame

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During my run today I was listening to Keith Ferrazzi's Never Eat Alone (highly recommended by the way!). He talks about the concept of the "blue flame" which he defines as "a convergence of mission and passion founded on a realistic self-assessment of your abilities." He goes on to talk about Joseph Campbell's blue flame.

After graduation, (Campbell) moved into a cabin in Woodstock, New York, where he did nothing but read from nine in the morning until six or seven each night for five years.

Ferrazzi goes on to quote Campbell himself:

"If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living."

Campbell was an amazing man. You can find all of Campbell's audio books and DVDs on our Joseph Campbell Author Page. I watched the video series Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth a year ago and throughly enjoyed it. I'm sure you will too!

By the way, I listened to Never Eat Alone on the "Faster" setting today on my iPod which increases the speed by about 20%. It sounds a bit different but not as bad as I thought it would. Considering that you could get through a 10 hour book in about 8 hours, it's something that I'll probably be doing a lot more of in the future. Definitely good when you've got a book that's heavy on information that you want to crank through.