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There are many ways to enjoy various types of media–printed books have been joined by audiobooks and ebooks, and recorded music on CD has been largely supplanted by streaming services. For years, CDs were commonplace for music, computer programs to install, and even file storage, but today many computers don’t come with internal CD drives. Instead smartphones provide almost ubiquitous internet access and the cloud is the storage location for much of the world’s digital data.
Because audiobooks are still available in various formats, including on CD, it is easy to confuse the terms. Most audiobooks today are accessed through digital downloads. You can obtain CDs with various types of data recorded, but it is a challenge to find a way to listen to them while mobile.
Technology is constantly evolving. CDs have gradually given way to mobile devices which can access audiobooks, music, and games. Smartphones or tablets download data so you don’t need additional storage in the form of CDs. For more information about CDs and common formats for audiobooks, read on.
What is a CD?
Within the last few years, computers which include drives for playing CDs have become less and less common. As the internet becomes more accessible using smartphones and tablets, CDs (or compact discs) are becoming obsolete. The need for digital storage is no longer a high priority, since information of all types is available through a quick download.
CDs were a step up from vinyl records in that they were more durable and could hold more data. The purpose of the discs was to record, store, and playback audio, video, and other digital data. The standard compact disc measures 4.7” in diameter and is .047 inches thick. The audio capacity of a CD is 74 to 80 minutes, with 650 or 700MB data capacity. The first CD was the invention of James Russell in the late 60s.
Music CDs were popular for a generation of automobile stereo systems, but the information on the disc can be audiobooks or computer programs as well. With the growth of readily available high speed internet access options through mobile devices and the linking of car stereo systems to phones with Bluetooth or USB, there is less need for the typical automobile commuter to listen to music CDs while on the road.
What form do audiobooks come in?
Audiobooks are created to be accessible to those who don’t want to carry separate playback equipment with them. There are still books on tape, but since playback requires yet one more piece of equipment to carry with you in the form of a cassette player, they are not the first choice of listeners today. The preferred access to audiobooks is to download them using Wi-Fi and listen to them using a smartphone, tablet, or computer.
Usual formats for audiobooks
There are two types of file compression for audiobooks–lossless and lossy. The major difference in these two formats is the quality of the playback. Compression of files is done in order to reduce file size for storage. Lossless compression removes redundant data without removing information, which results in the best sound. Lossy compression, on the other hand, greatly reduces the size of the file by permanently removing some of the audio data.
Standard lossless file formats include FLAC, WAV, ALAC, and WMA Lossless. Typical lossy file formats are MP3, AAX, M4B, AAC, OGG, and WMA (original). Typically lossless formats are preferred for music by audiophiles, but for spoken word as in audiobooks, the sound quality cannot usually be distinguished by ear.
It is most common to purchase audiobooks as digital downloads these days, but you can still find many audiobooks on CD at your local library. Some audiobook publishers use file formats which are restricted from being transferred to a flash drive (USB stick) but sometimes audiobook collections can be purchased preloaded on this type of device.
Quality of the listening experience
There are two different types of CD audiobooks, The type which is chosen can greatly affect the enjoyment of the playback experience. Audiobooks produced in an audio-only lossless format, such as would be used in producing a music CD, require the use of more CDs for the same data, which could be inconvenient, since the CDs must be placed in the player one at a time. The word flow can be interrupted, and the physical actions necessary to replace the discs can cause a less enjoyable listening experience.
A second major type of CD format for audiobooks is MP3. In this type, the files are greatly compressed before being saved to the disc. The book can be played on any compact disc player that supports MP3 format. A major advantage of lossy compression is the ability to condense a lengthy audiobook from 15 CDs down to one or two CDs. The compression does not have a major negative effect on oral recordings, as it might on a music file.
Digital Accessible Information System (DAISY)
For those with visual impairments or print disabilities, a special type of CD player becomes a complete audio substitute for materials in print form. DAISYs play standard CDs and DAISY discs and files, as well as MP3s and other file formats.
Pros and cons of audiobooks on CD
If you like to choose your audiobooks on CD, you have the advantage of being able to hold the storage unit in your hands. There may be descriptions and images on the case which add to the information about the book and help you to decide if the recorded material is something you want to listen to. For example, if you have 2 hours to spend, you probably don’t want to pick a selection that will take 5 hours of listening time.
While CDs can degrade over time, they are more durable than vinyl records. A scratched, warped or otherwise damaged CD, of course, may no longer be usable. Although carrying a dozen CDs with you on vacation demands less luggage space than printed books, audiobooks that are purely digital are even less demanding.
There are still people who swear by their expensive stereo systems and collections of vinyl records, but CD fans may prefer CD recordings to MP3 format files. Pros of digital format audiobooks
Computers of today have amazing capacity for more data storage in smaller packages. In fact, the mobile phones of today have much more storage than the computers of just a generation ago. The prices of digital storage hardware are also much lower. It is less common to keep devices able to read and write CDs on hand, but portability of digital files is almost unlimited.
If your audiobooks are stored in digital format, you have the ability to organize your collection easily. Playback apps commonly offer at least some ability to search, sort, label, organize, annotate, and link audio files for easy usability.
CD storage challenges
Although compact discs seem fairly sturdy, they are made of plastic, and can be affected by heat, sunlight, position, and even humidity. Dust particles, insect infestation, skin oils, or food particles can damage the CD player as well as the disc.
Publishers recommend keeping the CDs in the original case, since the plastic provides visibility, as well as protection. The cases, though, require more storage room and are easy to crack, so if space is limited or durability is a concern, some people remove the discs from the case. The CDs can be placed in plastic sleeves and organized in specially designed storage boxes, or in CD binders.
It is important to protect CDs as much as possible, regardless of the type of storage you use. Use approved cleaning methods to remove fingerprints and dirt from the surface of the disc. Storage orientation is designed to easily read the narrator, author, and title of the audiobook.
What does the future hold for storage of audiobooks?
In the days before increased storage capacity was common, there was concern about running out of physical space. More and larger quantities of data are being produced every day. The cost of secure physical storage space is increasing. Technological advances are driving the volume of data that is created and retained. Advances are also creating more and better ways of storing data. It is expected that technology will continue to push for new solutions for accessing, storing and transmitting data.