This Week in LIS - 25 October 2013

Weekly news and updates from Luther College Information Technology Services. To receive email updates, please sign up here.

Headline of the Week: Experiencing eBooks and Audio Books

The new African book club has been reading and discussing Coconut by Kopano Matlwa. Coconut is available in our eBook collection allowing all Luther community members to read simultaneously and without needing to purchase personal copies. It turns out Coconut is also available through my new trial Oyster service (think Netflix for eBooks) with client app support now for both iPhone and iPad.

It was convenient to be able to read across laptop, iPad and iPhone – anytime and anywhere – wedging in minutes here and there. Reading on the iPhone means waiting has become more enjoyable. The browser interface to the eBook is effective albeit clumsy compared to ereader applications. Downloading (vs. reading online via browser) requires managing additional free accounts and reader apps for digital rights management (DRM). My sense is most will not initially want to mess with downloading. Integration and ease of use with readers is key to broad use of eBooks. The Oyster reader experience was better than the browser interface and, for me, the Kindle experience is better yet. LIS can help anyone who wants to explore the Preus eBook collections, discuss usage in classes, and dealing with DRM and downloading. Leveraging these collections is one way to help students reduce their book costs.

Last week LIS purchased a “ticket” to the online portion of the annual EDUCAUSE  conference. EDUCAUSE is the professional conference that explores the intersection of information technology and higher education. The virtual conference provided access to many streamed sessions concurrently with the live event in Anaheim. Several were also recorded so they can be viewed at our convenience over the next couple of months.

The keynote, “Leading a Culture of Innovation,” was given by Sir Ken Robinson. In the course of his presentation he mentioned a book he had recently re-written entitled Out of our Minds – Learning to be Creative.”  The book makes the argument that education reform must include a focus on developing the imagination, creativity and innovation capabilities of students to properly prepare students for the dynamics they will face during their lives. At the end he makes some suggestions on what reform might look like. It is quite helpful in thinking about the “disrupters” to higher education that President Tiede has challenged us to consider and how Luther College will leverage and take them on going forward.

Thanks to Amazon “one-click” I was browsing Robinson’s book in the Kindle reader on the iPad within a couple minutes as I continued to listen to the talk. This is a path my credit card knows all too well. What was new this time was that Amazon offered me an “upsell.” For a couple dollars more I could also get the audio book version in addition to the eBook. Further the offer included access to an integration technology they call Whispersynch for Voice which promised to synchronize my reading or listening progress across the modalities. It required I download the Audible app onto my iPhone or iPad and Kindle and the integration in the cloud would do the rest.

It turns out Amazon had some time ago acquired Audible. In the interim they had developed this Whispersynch for Voice integration. It seemed interesting enough I took them up on their offer. I was also encouraged by a suggestion from a colleague who had very enthusiastically spoken of how he leverages audio books during his commutes across Minneapolis. He said he is “reading” several additional business books per month during his commutes as a result of audio books. Another interesting twist is that the Audible app allows one to listen to the books both slower and faster than normal speed. With some practice and focus I could listen to the books at 1.5 times the normal speed allowing me to cover more ground in less time. This would not be appropriate for books with “denser” content but it was fine for this one.

What was my experience? It did allow me to complete the book this week. Between my early morning eBook reading prior to coming to work and my audio “reading” during commutes between Preston and Decorah (about 35 minutes) I completed the book. My old Echo commuter car came with an aftermarket radio/CD player that also has a cord to plug into my iPhone’s headphone jack so I can “play” the audio book through the car sound system.  Apple also impressed me. When other sounds needed to come through such as the ring for an incoming call or the sound associated with an incoming text or upcoming calendar entry it quieted the audio book track, lowered the overall sound, produced the event related sounds and then returned the volume on the audio track.

The synchronization technology was fair. I tend to jump around when reading checking out references, reading the on-line articles references, using the imbedded dictionary, moving through the index to various sections of the book that deal with a topic of interest and, of course, making notes as I read on ideas, alternative points of view, reactions, etc. I think it was difficult for the Wispersynch function to tell to where I wanted to synch as I moved from the eBook on my Kindle to the audio book on my iPhone. It tried each time I moved between reading and listening but occasionally I needed to navigate to where I recalled I had last been.

Experimenting will continue and Amazon will extract a few more dollars from me in trade for the value the “bundle” of eBook and audiobook that allows me to leverage my commute for “reading.”  Of course there is a tradeoff. I thoroughly enjoy and leverage the commutes for thinking and reflecting.  I am not able to do both and when my mind goes to thinking and reflecting I find myself reaching for the iPhone to hit the “go back 30 seconds” to resynchronize my brain to the book. There is nothing Whispersynch for Voice can do about that!

Suggested Reading/Viewing/Listening:

Out of our Minds – Learning to be Creative by Sir Ken Robinson

Coconut by Kopano Matlwa


[email protected]

LIS Blog Highlights from the Week

The following articles are sampled from those available on the LIS Blog:

Notes from LIS Council

LIS Council is the leadership team within LIS.

Upcoming LIS Events   

Click on the event below for specific information and for a link to register. More information on training and development events is available.

October 2013

November 2013

December 2013

Training and instruction is provided to the Luther Community through Faculty Development Sessions, Library Instruction Sessions, Product Demonstrations, Skills Training, Workshops, 1-on-1 Sessions, and Online Materials. To schedule a session, contact the LIS Technology Help Desk at x1000 or enter your request online at

This Week in LIS is published most Fridays by Paul Mattson, Executive Director of LIS at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.

Content is made available under Creative Commons license.