Blind Santa: Audible Books from me to me

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

The greatest joy this time of year comes from finding ways to share with others. It is more fun when you can do so without recognition. That's easy for me. I have a secret identity. For more than a decade, on a special day each December, I strip down to my thermals, tie a pillow to my stomach and pull on bright baggy pants. I don a fur-trimmed jacket, a wide black belt and heavy black boots. I also tug on a wig of long white hair and then glue on a lengthy, thick and wavy beard. I even slip on totally useless spectacles. One moment, I am just an unassuming blind fellow with EarPods hanging from my head. In a twinkling, I become Saint Nick.

My annual volunteer role as Santa Claus takes me to a local elementary school where I pass out books to many hundreds of young children. Since the real Santa can see everything, including whether someone has been naughty or nice, I've learned to fake it. I never show up with a dog or cane, but rather am accompanied by helpful elves who serve as sighted guides. Santa's little helpers also whisper to me what each child is wearing and any other detail that might help me personalize their experience. On rare occasion, a little one will point out that I am not looking directly at them. I slowly take off my glasses, wipe them on my sleeve, and quietly explain that I have a little "snow blindness." There is always at least one boy that thinks he needs to tug on my beard and a few will try to grab the book out of my gloved hand and run. That never works. Santa is strong. This jolly old gent will only let go of his books when he is good and ready.

The easiest part of my Santa job is to make books feel like the best present in the world. I understand that truth. I discovered science fiction in the sixth grade after reading "A Wrinkle in Time" by Madeleine L'Engle. As a teenager, I used to take my weekly earnings from my part-time jobs and trek over to the B. Dalton Booksellers. I would usually buy about ten paperbacks on each visit and generously give them to myself. I collected everything written by Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov and many others. I adore my books.

Over the years, as my vision faded, I moved to Braille and recorded media. Braille is great, but I have always been a very, very slow Braille reader. By the time I might finish a chapter, I could not remember how it began. Talking Books became my lifeline. Two of the earliest books I listened to on vinyl records were William L. Shirer's "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" and James Clavell's "Shogun." I had to read. I even dragged my Library of Congress record player into the attic during a weeklong spring cleaning and listened to the entire collection of Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

When Talking Books moved to four-sided cassettes, I was able to carry my books wherever I went. And, I could push a slide on the bulky government-issued player and speed up the reading. This was fun only if you liked listening to Minnie Mouse.

Audio books finally found their way into my pocket with the APH BookPort and a new service called Audible. Beginning in 2004, I would visit the Audible website, find books I wished to purchase, and then download them to my device for local playback. That is much the same process for my iPhone today.

I read a lot of Audible books on my iPhone. Although purchases from Audible must still be made from their website, I spend most of my time inside the iPhone Audible app where I listen to my books. Once purchased, my books are permanently stored in my Audible Cloud library and easily accessed from the Audible app. When I want a book on my iPhone, I download it. When I finish it, I can delete it from my device. The permanent copy is always safe, ready to be downloaded again. I also find the Audible app is very stable and very accessible. Admittedly, I wish Audible could integrate the purchasing process into the app, but I am happy with how well almost everything else works.

Audible has a phenomenal collection of books, in many languages, along with old time radio shows, theatrical productions and lecture series. To satisfy my reading addiction, I chose to become a Platinum member, which means putting out a chunk of change to purchase 24 redeemable credits. The plan also comes with other benefits. For those who have busier lives and do not read as much, there are other Audible membership options. Almost all offerings on Audible can be bought with a single credit, which averages about $10 for Platinum members. When you find a book for $20, you use a credit. If you see something for $5, you use your credit card.

One of my first purchased Audible books was "Ringworld" by Larry Niven. Great book! I have read it in print, on vinyl, on cassette and now on my iPhone. In fact, I now read everything through my iPhone. The Audible icon sits on the top row of my Home screen where it is launched every day. My most current book is the latest private detective novel by Robert Galbraith, a pseudonym of J. K. Rowling. I have listened to all of her Harry Potter books, but it is fun to read this entirely different genre from the same author. At present, I am also reading "The Violin" by David Schoenbaum. I should note that the violin book will likely bore all but the most serious violin enthusiasts, but I am enjoying it. So many books, so little time. Fortunately, since I had overdosed on political news during the last several months and have now gone "cold turkey," I have even more time to bury my ears in good books.

My personal Audible library holds many surprises and I often rummage through the stacks looking for books I have not yet read, or to find something special that is worth revisiting. I get excited when I find totally unexpected nuggets in my collection. Dean R. Koontz is best known for novels that explore the supernatural, but my brother found a very moving tale the author wrote about his beloved Golden Retriever in "A Big Little Life." Stephen King, best known for the Overlook Hotel, raging psychopaths and pandemic plagues, wrote and personally narrated an excellent introspective for budding authors called "On Writing." Still, if you are looking for something that will kick your heart rate into high gear and leave you with goose bumps, just read about the spelunking in "Blind Descent," a novel by Nevada Barr. One particular scene in that book will stay with you for a very long time.

So many of my acquisitions are worth reading more than once. Some notables are "Team of Rivals" by Doris Kearns Goodwin, "The Devil in the White City" by Erik Larson, "Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies" by June Casagrande, and a worthy book set that cost me two credits, "Conspiracy of Fools" by Kurt Eichenwald.

However, if you need the occasional break from regular fiction or non-fiction, you can always find large Audible collections of old time radio. For instance, I have purchased a lot of "Dragnet," "Richard Diamond" and many episodes of "The Shadow." "Who knows what lurks in the hearts of men?" Audible knows. And, there are plenty of more recent dramatic audio productions to discover and enjoy. Searching through Audible is like hunting for treasure.

So, what do I plan to give me as a present this year? I'm thinking I'd like to renew my Platinum membership. That will be a nice gift. I'm easy to please.

Immersing myself in Audible books is always fun, but the greater joy still comes from my giving books to children while impersonating Santa Claus. I dearly love hearing the excitement in their voices as they try to quickly dictate their long lists of proposed gifts. My favorite was a young lady, who was perhaps seven or eight years old. My elves told me she was dressed in an immaculate red dress with a crisp white petticoat. Her hair had obviously been carefully curled and she had very festive ribbons tied in her hair. She approached Santa, absolutely confident in what she planned to share. I asked, as I often did, what gifts she might like to receive for the holidays. Not missing a beat, she replied with total self assurance, "An Easy Bake Oven, and diamonds."

*** G. Morgan Watkins spent thirty years at the University of Texas at Austin, most of it in information technology leadership. He also enjoyed thirteen years on the Board of Directors at Guide Dogs for the Blind. After retiring from the University, Morgan served as the Guide Dogs for the Blind Acting President and CEO.

Morgan is now happily retired again, taking more time to study string instruments and play his violin. Morgan has created 15 other blogs for AppleVis, including “No News is Good News: Breaking my iPhone news addiction”, “Lost In Space: Canes, dogs and my iPhone GPS apps” and “Sleeping With The Stars: Old Time Radio and my iPhone”.

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36 Comments

#1 Good blogger

You are a really good blogger.
Keep up the good work.
Happy hollidays.

#2 O man you're killing me!

Morgan, I'm like you in the sense I'm a bookworm & book/reading addict. The one difference is, that I read braille books!

One time, a book in a series that I really really love, came out on my birthday a few years ago. I looked at the list of books that were going to be released & when, & seen a book came out on my birthday. Naturally, I got giddy & thought `Yay! Birthday present for me!`

I use Bookshare & BARD. I use Bookshare the majority of the time for my braille books. I use BARD., for my audio books & braille books if they have them. But, I have recently started using Kindle from Amazon. I love it!

I didn't know another P.I. novel came out from J. K. Rowling! I'll get it!

O by the way Morgan, the series I was talking about is called Chicken Soup For The Soul. It's by Mark Victor Hansen, & Jack Canfield. They have other authors that write books for them too. I really like these books! My teacher from 7th grade told me about them, then I went on Bookshare, downloaded a few, read them &... was hooked! I'll give you the web site for the series. The web site is:

www.chickensoup.com

Please check out this series. Happy Holidays!

#3 RE: Blind Santa: Audible Books from me to me

Hello again Morgan:

What a delight to read your santa stories. I can just see that little vision of loveliness in red. It sounds like she's going to be a heart breaker and a woman of high maintainance and great class.

Thanks for sharing some book references. I also have many treasures from Audible in my library.

In case you haven't found this gem, Lee Stephen is writing the Epic series. The first book, Dawn of Destiny has been completed with a performance from a full cast. Only one word can describe the full cast version of the book, "incredible". It's a combination of SiFi and military action, with a side of romance thrown in. I haven't had a chance to read the next four books, but the first one kept me glued to my seat. Should you decide to read this, I hope that you are as enthralled as I was.

Thanks for a fabulous year-end read once again. Looking forward to your musings next year.

#4 A suggestion for app

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

Dear Rebel Girl,

Thank you for such a kind note.

I do enjoy writing these blogs, but for the sake of clarity and space, I usually feel compelled to trim extraneous branches that don't quite fit the narrative. I had so much fun reading through lists of my favorite books and then sharing a few of them, I clipped out one of my suggestions for future improvement. Rather than let this thought be forgotten on the Island of Misfit Text, here is one of my extracted dreams for the Audible app.

"Still, enhancements are always welcome. I'd love to be able to set different speeds for different books. Right now, there is plenty of flexibility in the reading rate, but when you change it for one book, that is what you get with all books until you change it again."

I hope you, your family, and friends all have a wonderful holiday,

Morgan

#5 Awesome!

Hi Morgan and thanks for yet another brilliant post. I, too, am an avid reader but have been very busy as of late and not had much time for pleasure reading. I mostly use BARD and have one of the free NLS players. But I have read a couple things using my trusty MacBook Air. I absolutely cannot get enough of BARD, and I'm so looking forward to the Mac version of BARD Express if that'll ever be possible. If not that's okay with me, because I have found the BARD site a breeze. Or who knows, perhaps one of these years I'll get an iOS device. Those NLS players are truly awesome though. Here's wishing you and your family the best of the holiday season! , thanks for the Chicken Soup link. I've read some of those and really like them. I'll definitely check out their website when I have more time.

#6 Braille and Chicken Soup

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

Dear Dawn,

Thank you for your note. It is good to hear from you again.

I wish I had the talent to read Braille as fast as you. I love the tactile nature of it, but limit most of my reading by hand to the New York Times weekly Braille news magazine. The stories are short enough that I can actually finish something I've started.

Like you, I also enjoy BARD a lot. I have always appreciated the Talking Book program and still access many books and magazines through this wonderful Library of Congress service.

Finally, thanks for the reference to the "Chicken Soup" series. I have often heard of them, but have not yet read any of the offerings. Sounds like a worthwhile thing to check out. You present a powerful endorsement.

Dawn, I hope you have a wonderful holiday. And, thanks again for writing,

Morgan

#7 Reading on iPhone

Club AppleVis MemberMember of the AppleVis Blog Team

I love using my iPhone for reading. I like how easy it is to get most books at the same time as everyone else, in a format I enjoy reading, and I can have as many books as I want without them taking up any space. I still get frustrated sometimes when I can't find a book I want on an accessible service, but we've come a long way.

I use a combination of iBooks, Kindle and Audible. Here in the UK the RNIB provides an audiobook library through the overdrive service, and I'm a member, but I never use it because I find that the overdrive app isn't as easy to use as the others. I also have the Librivox app, for audio books of texts that are out of copyright, but I haven't explored their collection much. I'd like to, though. There are, of course, lots of sites where DRM-free versions of out of copyright texts can be obtained.

My collection is a mess because there's no real logic to which store I buy each book from. Sometimes a book I want is only available on one of those services. Sometimes AI buy it on whichever is cheaper. Sometimes I buy from whichever I happen to be browsing at the moment. I want to organise my collection, but there's no way of putting all those books in one app. As a general rule, I use audiobooks for fiction and Ebooks for nonfiction, but there are quite a few exceptions to that. I've recently bought Ebook copies of a few of my favourite works of fiction so I can examine the text in detail and easily find and reread favourite passages. If I'm likely to want to refer back to different parts of the book and skip to particular chapters or look up quotes from it, I'll want it as an Ebook. In an audiobook, though, having a human narrator can add to the experience, (there's nothing quite like being read to), and often makes dialogues easier to follow. And, as you mentioned, Audible also has radio dramas and lecture series.

I'm also a slow braille reader (I don't know whether I'm slower than average; quite possibly, because I'm out of practice, but slower than I'm willing to deal with in any case) so I always found braille reading a bit of a chore. But with Ebooks and audiobooks I can focus on the content, not on the process of reading.

#8 Platinum and diamonds

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

Dear Roxann,

It is always a delight to hear from you. Thanks for writing!

Your reaction to the little girl all decked out for Santa was the same reaction that my elves had when she first presented her wish list. Thanks for the smiles.

OK, you have helped me out in another way. I was impressed by your recommendation of "Dawn of Destiny." So, I went to the Audible website and bought it. And, gee whiz, I was suddenly out of credits! However, as I had been thinking of gifting myself another Platinum Audible membership, I went ahead and did it. Blind Santa came through again.

Roxann, your notes are always much appreciated. They are a part of what motivates me to write for AppleVis.

I hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday.

Warm wishes from the North Pole,

Morgan

#9 NLS Players

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

Dear Ekaj,

I have also enjoyed the portable players that are provided by NLS for use with BARD books. Fortunately, each generation of playback machine gets smaller and lighter. The big red record players were great, but did not have built-in batteries. You were always limited to having an electrical socket or extension cord at the ready. The bright yellow cassette players had the battery, but could still be used for weight lifting. The new players for digital books are really quite nice.

Thanks for your comments. I appreciate the feedback.

See you next year,

Morgan

#10 Dylan Thomas on Audible

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

Dear LC3249,

I really enjoyed your note. I, too, have books from a large number of sources in a multitude of formats. Organizing all of my information resources is not yet possible. But, like you, I am grateful to have such incredible access to almost everything I want.

On a different note, you do sound like a more accomplished Braille reader than I am. I have the complete skill set, and can read anything, but I am slow even on elevators. Thank goodness for Audible and all the other great services.

I hope you have a very pleasant holiday. Some day, I want to be on your side of the Atlantic at this time of year. One of my favorite poems of all time is "A Child's Christmas in Wales." Magnificent! It was written by Dylan Thomas and I own an Audible copy where Dylan Thomas actually narrates his own work. I absolutely love it!

Thanks again for writing. It was good to hear from you.

Cheers,

Morgan

#11 Some questions about the Audible app

I have some questions about the Audible app and am glad to find someone who admits to using the app extensively. And it seems like a good time of year to revisit this blog post.

I understand how to purchase Audible books, download them to the app on my iPhone and play them. But one thing I find myself needing to do fairly often when listening to an audiobook is to skip back a few seconds to review something I just heard or refresh my memory if I've paused listening for a while. I'm aware of the skip back and skip forward buttons on the player screen and even on the lock screen. But using the buttons on the lock screen requires waking up my phone, and if I leave the phone unlocked and the app open, I suspect my battery will drain a bit faster. Plus, double-tapping the skip back button causes Voiceover to speak and the book's audio to duck. So, my first question, is there a gesture or some other quick and silent way to skip back a few seconds?

I usually use the included wired earbuds when I listen to an Audible book, and I'm aware that the center button of the remote can be triple-clicked to skip back, but I find this awkward and prone to failure. I find it difficult to get the 3 clicks quick enough, and since a double-click skips forward, I find myself skipping forward as often as I skip back. How does this work with the airPods? Does a triple-tap of one of the pods perform a skip back?

Do you have any helpful tips or tricks for using the Audible app efficiently?

And finally, will you be playing Santa again this year?

#12 Great Post and Happy Holidays!

Hi Morgan, I am continuesly amazed at your posts. Always informative and funny, and the best part, from the heart.

I can definitely see that little girl in the red dress is going to be a heartbreaker. At least she's already learned that diamonds are a girl's best friend.

As for reading, I too have enjoyed reading since I was a child, but I could never really get into reading hard copy books. I've always been a bit of a slow learner when I was young and trying to read books, well, I would often fall asleep. Maybe thisw was a sign that I wasn't reading the right type of book. Later, when I began losing my eyesight and had some low vision, I began using a Closed Circuit Television, but I could never really get into reading using the CCTV, I was always anchored to the machine. I wanted some way to read on the go. Plus, When I tried to read paper books, I spent more time re-reading the same pages trying to understand and make sense of the book that I never really enjoyed it. Maybe this was my learning disability, not really sure.

But over 11 years ago, while listening to the TWiT podcast, they introduced a new sponsor, and you guessed it, it was Audible. Well, I decided to give them a try and fell in love almost immediately. The first book I bought was the autobiography of George Takei, and like the books title, "To The Stars", I sky rocketed and began reading any books I could get my hands into. I eventually found the genres I was more into and began reading Science Fiction, biographies and even some mysteries and thrillers. I am a big fan of Daniel Suarez, Dan Brown (mainly the books with Robert Langdon), Andy Weir, and many other authors I can't think of at the moment. I find that when you find that right book with just the right narrator, it can bring that book to life. I even discovered many audiobooks for Star Wars, and thanks to the narrator Mark Thompson, when reading, it's like I am listening to a movie.

So I must say, thanks to Audible, I found a means to read books and remain engaged in the story. I recently started reading the autobiography of one of my major crushes, Barbara Eden. Just so you know, I am a kid of the 80s, so I wasn't around when the original airings of I Dream of Jeannie, but one of our channels did replay many old shows,and to this day, I still have a little crush on her, even if she's in her 80s.

I am even happier now that you can easily find books, add them to your wish list, and after buying them on the site, being able to download them all from the comfort of the app. I used to read Audible books back when you had to download them into iTunes and sync them to my iPod and later, iPod Touch.

Anyways, I better stop before I end up writing a book of my own. Thanks again Morgan for the wonderful post and I wish you and your family a wonderful and safe holiday season.

#13 Ho ho ho!

Great read. Madeline L'Engle's Time quintet was also a defining moment in my early literary life. I believe the audiobook versions are narrated by L'Engle herself—have you listened to them?

Also, I had no idea Audible had episodes of "The Shadow." I think I'm gonna have to spend some Christmas money...

#14 spread love every where people.

this is a very good blog.
I wish this holyday is good for everyone.

#15 bard and audible

I like to listen to the star trek bard has recorder along with several good books such as Robert B. Parker, John Sandford, Jonathon Kellerman and other great writers. In audible I love finding scifi books. I also use my iPhone for both. I am using more audible because bard has reduce recording on scifi and what they have I am not interested. Thank for audible I am able to keep me and Bella the cat entertain with good books.

#16 RE: Blind Santa: Audible Books from me to me

Good Morning Morgan. Thank you for sharing this post with us. How charming that little girl must have been, in her little red dress and so self-assured. Her future husband better be a strong man, well set in his financial endeavors.

I, too, am an avid user of the Audible app, along with Kindle and BARD. Where would I be without my beloved books. I also remember the days of records and tapes for my book reading. How greatful I am to be able to utilize the media options available on my iPhone. I agree with you... so many books but so little time to read them all.

Happy reading in the new year for you.

#17 Dolphin Easy Reader

Hello again. I'm wondering if any of you have checked out the free iOS app manufactured by Dolphin Computer Access, called Easy Reader? I've never used any of their other products, but recently downloaded this app and really like it. I haven't used it that much thus far, but it seems to contain a lot and is very accessible with VoiceOver. Btw, I just finished a book about the current US President, whom I will not talk about here since this is not a political discussion. But suffice it to say, BARD has both the English and Spanish versions of this book. The English one is read by a commercial narrator who did an excellent job. The book author read part of it too and did an excellent job. The Spanish version is read by someone from Potomac Talking Books who is also very good. I took Spanish so thought I'd review a bit. Anyway, happy holidays to one and all!

#18 Some Audible Hints

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

Jeff

Excellent questions. My response is a bit delayed as I wanted to confirm a few things before offering any ideas. Here are a few thoughts.

I sometimes leave the iPhone unlocked while I am listening to a book, and do not notice appreciable battery drain, but my screen curtain is always turned on and I often have the iPhone on a charger while reading. And, I do agree that VoiceOver can be a bit interruptive when trying to jump back. So, here are some alternative ways to move backwards that may prove useful.

I agree that using wired Apple headphones will allow you to move backwards if you can successfully triple click the center button on the toggle. I, too, have occasional difficulty with that awkward move. What I do, when trying to move back in this fashion, is to hold the wired headphones toggle in the middle with my left thumb on the middle button surface and my left index finger on the opposite side of the toggle. While holding the toggle in this way, I put my right index finger against the back of the left index finger and put my right thumb over the left thumb nail. Then I use my right thumb to do the triple click through the left thumb. It sounds a bit nutty, but I find it much easier to effect that triple click. I think it is all about leverage.

However, I know of some other ways to move backwards that work well for me.

Inside the Audible app on the reading screen is a button labeled Car Mode. This presents you with a very simplified set of buttons that I guess might let drivers listen to books and move back in the text without running over someone. The Play button is located near the middle of the screen and, at least on my iPhone, the Jump Back button is in the lower left of the screen. Unfortunately, your iPhone still has to be unlocked and VoiceOver will still talk.

But, there is hope...

I use BlueTooth keyboards all the time. With your keyboard, you can still listen to your Audible book when the iPhone is locked and you can stop and start your book from the keyboard. And, on my keyboards, I can also jump forwards and back in the Audible book. On my keyboard, the Function 8 key will stop and start the book, and F7 will jump backwards and F9 will jump forwards. And, thankfully, VoiceOver remains quiet.

Now, you asked me a great question about AirPods. As much as I love them, I did not know the answer to your question. But, after a bit of simple experimentation, I have the answer. Yes, you can use AirPods to do what you want. And, VoiceOver will not feel compelled to talk when it works.

AirPods can have a different task assigned to each of them. And, the only way to initiate a command on them is through a double tap. At present, there is no triple tap functionality. However, if you go into the iPhone settings, open the BlueTooth button, go down to your AirPods name in the list of devices and open the More Info button immediately below their name, you will see that you can assign a single function for both the left and the right AirPod. Just double tap on the desired AirPod and make your selection. For this experiment, I set the left AirPods to Play/Pause, and I set the right AirPods to Previous Track. And, it worked! I can stop and start my Audible book by double tapping the left AirPod and I can jump back by 30 seconds with my right AirPod. I would not have known that handy tidbit had you not asked.

I enjoyed your inquiry about whether I was going to be Santa again this year. That is still an unknown. Last year, I was invited to play a violin duet in four Holiday concerts in Portland, Oregon on the critical Santa dates. So, another fellow impersonated Santa and he may well do so again this year. But, I'm always ready. "Ho, Ho, Ho!"

For fun, I've included an accessible link at the end of this paragraph that points to a short sound file. Many years ago, I tried to create an audio birthday card for my wife utilizing my Santa voice. There were a lot of outtakes before I finally got it right. She liked the excerpted snippets best of all, so I combined them for her in a short mp3 file. I hope you find it fun. My own, day to day voice is not quite so deep.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/c0hqkniyz8ywsv9/Santa%20Birthday.mp3?dl=0

I hope that link worked.

Great hearing from you and Happy Holidays,

Morgan

#19 Old TV and New Books

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

Dear Blinken223,

What a treat! Thanks for sharing some of your own stories an reminding me of Barbara Eden. I just looked her up, and indeed, she is 87. I am a child of the mid-50's, so I do remember the initial airing of "I Dream Of Jeannie." The big controversy back then was that Barbara Eden would not be allowed to show her belly button on TV. Norms for TV have certainly changed. I'd be happy if the newest shows were still "The Rifleman" and "The Wild Wild West."
Oh yes, and "The Addams Family."
Of course, since I first penned "Blind Santa," I have read many more Audible books. I have really been enjoying the Virgil Flowers series by John Sandford and I found an interesting, and often light-hearted, science fiction trilogy that started with the book, "We Are Legion (We Are Bob)" By Dennis E. Taylor. I have also read a ton of non-fiction titles, but I won't list them here. I'm a bit of a history buff and language enthusiast.

Again, thanks for writing.

Happy Holidays to you and your family,

Morgan

#20 Thanks Morgan

Thanks, Morgan, for the answers to my questions. I hadn't thought of using my BT keyboard, but I might give that a try. I don't currently have airPods, but this might give me insentive to get some. I'm sort of holding out because of rumors that Apple might be updating the airPods early next year.

I saw the car mode button on the player screen, and thought of it, but I didn't actually try it. On that same screen a few swipes down from the car mode button is a more menu button. If you double-tap that button, you'll find a button-free mode option in the menu. That's almost exactly what I want except for a couple of things. First, when you three-finger swipe left to skip back, the "new page" sound causes the book audio to duck...twice actually. If that didn't happen, it would be perfect, other than the fact that the phone has to remain unlocked for the gestures to work.

You sound pretty good as Santa. I hope you have very happy holidays and thanks again.

#21 Scott Brick audio books?

Does anyone enjoy audible books read by Scott brick? He is one of my favorite narrators. I enjoy reading books by Clive Cussler.

#22 RE: Platinum and diamonds

Good morning Morgan. I am so glad that you bought the Dawn of Destiny book. I dearly wish the other books in the series would be released on audio. I think He has released book five by now in print. I really need to research and see what the current status is on the audio side of things.

So did you read the book yet? If so, what are your impressions of this full-cast style book? Hopefully you were able to put a really great set of headphones on or push the book through some powerful speakers as this really brings that book to life.

Jeeze now I gotta break that book out and reread it.

God's blessings on you and yours throughout this new year.

#23 RE: Scott Brick audio books?

Hey Matt, I'll take as many audio books that I can get from Scott Brick. I so enjoy listening to him read for me. I'm glad there are others who enjoy his reading style, as well. Happy reading.

#24 Great Audio File!

Morgan, that was awesome. Sounded like a real Santa too!

#25 Seasons Greetings Roman

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

Dear Roman,

Thanks for the kind feedback. I hope you have a wonderful holiday as well.

Morgan

#26 L'Engle and OTR

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

Dear Joseph,

I did purchase a copy of "A Wrinkle In Time," read by Madeleine L'Engle, shortly before her passing. Although I have not read the other books in the series, I will be ever grateful for her freeing my imagination at such an early age. It has been well over fifty years since she pushed my reading addiction into higher gear.

If you go looking through the Audible library for Old Time Radio shows, keep your eyes open for the really large collections at really good prices. Some collections are relatively small and more expensive. Take your time when hunting. Right now, I am listening to an old British radio series called "The Complete George Smiley Radio Dramas," available on Audible. So far, so good.

Have a wonderful holiday, and thanks for your note,

Morgan

#27 A few thoughts

Club AppleVis Member

Good afternoon .

First of all, thanks as always for such an awesome post. I always enjoy reading these, and even read them while I'm supposed to be working. SHHHHHH! Don't tell the boss. He might take away my talking computer! Hah.

A couple of thoughts on reading in general.

I have never really embraced Audible as of now. I do most of my reading via Bookshare. However, one thing that caught my attention was that both audible.com and audiobooks.com both can be played through Sonos speakers. That being said, I am debating biting the bullet and getting some credits on both of those sites to buy some listening material so I can putter around my house and read at the same time.

Also, I really enjoy reading braille materials. Actually, I have to admit, I really like taking braille books and going to local coffee shops and reading them out in public. You might be surprised how many people this intrigues whose only exposure to braille is seeing it on elevator buttons or restroom doors, (oh and that one No Smoking sign in Burger King approximately 6.5 feet above the floor over one of the urinals. True story. A sighted friend of mine had me read it.) And hey, some of the curious turn out to have really cute voices. Haha.

And now since people seem to be recommending books, here's my own recommendation for those who were Harry Potter fans but might like something a little more adult-oriented, not adult as in erotica, but adult as in language and action scenes. If you've never read The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, I highly recommend you check them out. I have heard some of the Audible readers and, while they are good, I have to tell you that if you have Bard, no one does Harry Dresden better than Gregory Gorton. To get you started, the first book in the series is called Storm Front.

I will close with another thought. If you have never been to www.archive.org, you should visit it. I believe they also have an app. They have an incredible collection of old-time radio shows for free you can download and listen to, as well as several historic speeches and news reels.

That being said, hope everyone in your family has a heck of a Christmas. Drink lots of eggnog, and say hi to the jolly bearded fella for me.

Scott

#28 Bard, Audible and some Science Fiction

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

Dear Holger,

Always great to hear from you.

I also access Bard quite regularly. It is tougher to find the latest books on Bard when they first come out, but they have many older and obscure titles that never quite made it to Audible. For our international readers, I should note that Bard is the online implementation of the Talking Books program at the United States Library of Congress. A wonderful and much appreciated service. I spend a lot of time inside their Bard app! I also like some of the music instruction books they have collected.

Speaking of science fiction. Have you read Andy Weir's book, "The Martian." That is now one of my favorites. I was not as spellbound with his book "Artemis," but I'll keep my eyes open for other offerings.

Now, regarding some science fiction that really surprised me, I enjoyed "Saturn Run by John Sandford and Ctein. John Sandford has written quite a few great police investigatory novels, including my favorite, those involving Virgil Flowers, so I was surprised to see him venture into science fiction. I will not claim that "Saturn Run" is the best of the genre, but I did enjoy it. And, the future technology in the book seemed plausible.

I hope you get many new books for the holidays!

Take care,

Morgan

#29 VoiceOver and Audio Ducking.

Club AppleVis Member

Hello, Jeff,

You may want to look into the audio ducking feature of VoiceOver. If it’s on, whenever some kind of audio is playing and VoiceOver talks, the audio is ducked down under VoiceOver. You can add the item to the rotor in order to change it on the fly when you want to. I keep the feature off, myself, as having the audio duck under VoiceOver is quite annoying to me.

Thanks,
Shersey

#30 Audible with full cast

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

Dear Roxann,

I am always glad to hear from you.

I'm really pleased that you enjoyed the story about the little girl with her Christmas wishes. I have heard many great lists from many special children who visited me as Santa, but that young lady's story was quite memorable.

A couple years ago, when you first recommended "Dawn of Destiny," I went right to Audible and bought a copy. Like you, I remember that the full cast and sound effects added a lot of drama, but I don't remember much more than that. However, the nice thing about Audible is once a book has been purchased, it is ready to download again at any time. So, I did that shortly before starting this note and listened to the first twenty minutes or so. And yes, it sounds great on my new Bose SoundSport Bluetooth Wireless headphones.

As always, thanks for your thoughts, feedback and encouragement. I very much appreciate all of your interactions.

May your own holidays be Blessed and filled with good cheer and much happiness,

Morgan

#31 Dolphin Easy Reader and Language Learning

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

Dear Ekaj,

Good to hear from you again.

Well, you inspired me to try something new. I had heard of Dolphin Easy Reader, but had never taken a peek at it because I have been so happy with Voice Dream Reader. I am still very satisfied with VDR, but I went to the App Store today to look for the Dolphin software. Unfortunately, using "Dolphin" as a search term was not the best idea. I had no idea there were so many apps and games about dolphins. I had to page through quite a few apps to find the one you suggested, but I have now installed it on my iPhone. I'm not quite sure when I will get around to testing it, but I always appreciate a good pointer to something that may prove useful. Thank you.

You mentioned reading a book in both English and Spanish. I do much the same with English and French, and recently decided to learn Italian, too. I have the entire Harry Potter series in English and French, and recently bought the first Harry Potter volume in Italian. All from Audible. I have also bought many books and lessons from Audible to learn my new language. I do have a very long way to go. My goal in Italian is to become as proficient as a six year old, but that is a very long way away. Still, Audible makes these kinds of personal goals possible. What a great resource.

And thank you for your comments about the Santa audio file.

I hope you have a wonderful holiday season,

Morgan

#32 Narrator Scott Brick

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

Dear Matt,

Thanks for bringing up Scott Brick. I honestly did not recognize the name, but searched my personal Audible library and discovered 16 books that I had purchased where he was the narrator. One of the books was a favorite of mine, "The Devil in the White City" by Erik Larson. What a surprise. I also recently bought "Jurassic Park" by Michael Crichton and discovered today that it was also narrated by Scott Brick. So, I guess I do know him and definitely like his work. I used to know so many of the readers from my cassette-based Talking Book days, but am less aware of who narrates on Audible. I will probably pay closer attention to that detail in the future.

I hope you have a wonderful holiday season,

Morgan

#33 Bob Askey

Club AppleVis Member

Anyone recognize that name as a talking book narrator? I absolutely loved listening to him. Thank goodness for Bard and the ability to download books that he narrates.

#34 Thoughts on audio books, radio shows and Bob Askey

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

Dear Scott,

Thanks for such a fun note. As I truly appreciate book recommendations, I just ordered "Storm Front" by Jim Butcher from Audible. I know you mentioned the narrator for the Bard version, but I have really learned to love transferring Audible books to my Apple Watch. Unfortunately, Bard is not quite there yet. I also noticed that I already owned a book titled "Storm Front," but this was a virgil Flowers novel by John Sandford.

You also mention www.archive.org. Thank you. Although I possess a nice library of Old Time Radio shows, I will certainly check out the site you suggested. I am a huge fan of those old productions and would love to discover something new..

I hope Santa brings you many good books, in both audio and Braille. And, ask Santa for an Audible subscription. It is another nice reading option.

By the way, I just saw your second note about Bob Askey. Yes, absolutely, I remember him very well. I loved his voice, and it feels like he narrated nearly everything! A friend of mine once received an award, probably for her own writing, and part of the award ceremony involved her meeting some of the better known voices from Talking Books. And, she got to meet Bob Askey. I must confess that I would have been tempted to hand him something I had written, begged him to read it aloud, and then made a recording. Bob Askey's voice was a major part of my transition into blindness. Great memories!

Have a wonderful and extraordinary holiday season and thanks for staying in touch,

Morgan

#35 RE: Bob Askey

What a favorite narrator he is to me for so many of my BARD books. I have a handful of narrators that I truly enjoy and he is at the top of that list.

#36 RE: Audible and Bob Askey, etc.

Club AppleVis Member

Hi Morgan:

Great story about your friend. I heard an interview that was done with Bob Askey that I think I actually downloaded to my phone and still have in my archives. It was done by a reading service for the blind, and the interview itself was fascinating. IT was done after Bob retired. I think, if my memory serves me correct, Bob would be in his early 90s now. I'm like you; I would probably have written down some material and asked Bob to read it if I ever got to meet him. Anyway, it is still fun to download old books from Bard that he read, even ones I've read before. I'm almost sad to say but the first book I ever read by him was "Star Wars: Return of the JEdi." I was hooked from that day on. Oh, and it was on the flexible disks.

I will be eager to hear what you think of Storm Front. Please do let me know. Hopefully, I will be able to convert another fan.

Have a wonderful and happy holiday season for you and your family.

Scott