I was ill this last weekend and spent it in the company of ghosts. Fictional ones, that is.
As it happened, I’d been fighting flu for quite some time. But I had just finished some big, important assignments, could finally allow myself to be ill and it was raining cats and dogs:
So what better time to test an online streaming service for audio books?
Ordflyt, owned by Norwegian publishing house Cappelen Damm, bills itself as a kind of Spotify for audio books (or rather, Wimp for audio books, as the service is developed by Aspiro, the company that also has developed Norwegian Spotify-competitor Wimp).
In either case, it was the perfect companion on a grey and rainy day, and even though the selection of audio books available through the service still is limited, and the free section mostly is limited to old classics, I greatly enjoyed being reacquainted with Oscar Wilde’s old classic “The Canterville ghost”.
On the whole I liked Ordflyt (though still in beta) because of its App Store-like ease of use:
Digital marketplaces such as Apple’s App Store and Amazon’s Kindle has spoiled many of us to such a degree that we’ve come to expect that ease of use from any new service.
But more interesting than the streaming service in itself:
Of course, for book lovers such as me, it’s great to have a Spotify for audio books too, but when I tweeted about my review of Ordflyt, @portart (aka Marius Röstad) had an interesting suggestion:
Why not combine streaming of music and streaming of books in the same service?
Certainly, if it wasn’t for the business-related challenges, combining Ordflyt and Wimp, would give Wimp a huge competitive advantage over Spotify? (Wimp is currently available in Sweden, Denmark and Portugal in addition to Norway).
Both Android and iPhone-apps with the ability to seamlessly transfer tracks between say PC and iPhone are in the process of being developed for Ordflyt – and having both audio books and music available to stream, or play offline, via any of your computers and/ or mobile devices seems like a very attractive proposition to me.
In fact, in the long term: why not combine the likes of Spotify, Audibook and Netflix into one big streaming service?
I am aware that streaming movies and streaming sound is two very different propositions and that movies take up a lot more bandwidth, but still: it’s an attractive proposition – your very own mobile entertainment centre that you can tap into wherever you go.
As for ghosts, I also read Andrew Taylor’s “The Anatomy of Ghosts” this weekend, mainly because I greatly enjoyed his bestselling book “The American Boy”.
I found some of the villains in “Anatomy of Ghosts” so annoying that I nearly put the book down at times, but it certainly did wonders for my flu to lose myself both in the paper-book and the audio book.
It’s rather amazing what a miracle cure just staying at home for a few days with some decent books (and Lemsip) can work on flu;-)
And while we’re on the subject of ghosts, this ghostly weekend of mine also reminded me of one of the most bizarre stories I’ve ever worked on: namely when I did all the research, effectively working as a fixer, for a big magazine feature on how to have a ghostly holiday (or rather go ghost-hunting) in Britain.
This is about five years ago but I was rather proud of myself for putting together a great travel route which included a meeting with one of Britain’s top paranormal experts and a stay at what billed itself as the most haunted house in Britain - with a representative from the local paranormal society bringing over all sorts of equipment for identifying any ghostly presence.
I’m afraid I’m pretty much an out-and-out rationalist myself, but I found working on the story both fascinating and enjoyable - if bizarre. The most bizarre moment was probably when I called up an establishment in the West-Country, which told me:
“Unfortunately, all our eight ghosts are friendly ones, nothing scary like in this place on the other side of the mountain”
That place on the other side of the mountain was Skirrid Mountain Inn, by the way, not that I’ve ever been there or got to send “my journalist” there in the end.
But luckily, I did blog about my experience putting together that story. Reading through that blog post now I can recall the week in question vividly, which I doubt I’d be able to do without that blog post…