As a knowledge worker in our digital age there are innumerable ways we have at our disposal to gain knowledge, each with their respective pros and cons. We have google, wikipedia, youtube, blogs and associated RSS feeds, ServerFault and its family of sites, podcasts, iTunesU, the kindle, etc.
I will talk about most of these different areas but today I want to talk about why the kindle is critical to your ability gain access to a specific domain of knowledge that had up until recently, been completely inaccessible to us.
There is a lot of great content out there via all of the mechanisms mentioned. I listen to podcasts (PacketPushers, .Net Rocks, RunAs Radio, PowerScripting Podcast, etc.) incessantly with a great return on investment, more detail in a future blog post. This combined with a good RSS reader subscribed to numerous blogs, google, and wikipedia allow me to tap into a wide range of knowledge and learn many topics to various depths.
Even with all of this there is still a domain of knowledge that is inaccessible through these means, the printed pages of books. As nice as it might be to have access to Safari online, an Apress or Oriely subscription, there exists a broad base of knowledge, much of which is found nowhere else, only in books. As with all mediums you have to be selective in which books you invest your time in but the depth of the content that you can glean from books on topics such as software development lifecycle, Agile software development, BizTalk Administration, Oracle Expert Database Architecture, traditional project management, The practice of system and network administration, etc. is greater than you can find on msdn, blogs, podcasts, etc.
The problem for most of us is that we simply are not willing to take the time to invest in sitting and reading a book regardless of whether we recognize the valuable knowledge that they contain. We have fractured chunks of time at irregular intervals which works for consuming a quick post but doesn’t likely present us the opportunity to pick up a book and read for that time.
Audio books are one helpful way to try to address this problem. They allow us access to some of the content out there but unfortunately much of the deeper or more technical books are never recorded in audio form. Audio books also tend to lock you into a pace of consuming the content that is designed to be appealing to the least common denominator. I prefer to consume audio content at at least twice the speed of the original recording as I find I do not lose any of the fidelity of the content and enable myself to consume twice as much in the same amount of time. For this reason I exclusively use DownCast to listen to podcasts as it allows me the greatest flexibility in controlling playback speed while at the same time allowing me to consume podcasts without every connecting to iTunes.
We are then faced with this problem, how do get immediate, convenient, self paced, access to the content that can only be found in books without having to sit and read?
The answer is what I think is the least supported, under marketed, and mostly unknown feature of some models of the Amazon Kindle, Text to Speak also known as Read to Me.
This feature allows you to have the kindle read to you any book that the publisher has allowed to be text to speech enabled.
When browsing a kindle books product page there is a section towards the bottom that gives you the kindle specific features of the book.
If you look at the comparison between different kindle models on Amazon’s website you will not find this feature listed.
This feature allows you to gain access to an audio form of books which I garauntee you will never see published in an official audio book form. Exactly who is going to sit down and record an unabridged copy of Implementing Cisco Unified Communications Manager, Part 1 (CIPT1), no one, that’s who. Especially when you consider that there may be 5 people who would actually purchase such a recording if it even did exist.
I can tell you this technology has transformed my life and if you start listening to hard core technical books while driving to and from work, it will change yours as well.
So what are you waiting for, go out there and get you the best real time audio book generator for technical books on the market, also known as the Amazon Kindle 3g (the one with the keybaord, ps the touch model they discountinued had it for a while too).
Thanks for reading,