Feed Your Brain: The Easy Way

The old adage, “so many books, so little time,” is more true now than ever. With almost 200,000 new titles published every year, we have a cornucopia of literary options. I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time keeping up.

iPod Shuffle

Yet I know that “leaders are readers” and “readers are leaders.” If you are going to lead in today’s environment, you have to be a thought leader, and that only comes from reading. If you don’t keep up, you’ll fall behind. Before long, someone else will be doing the leading.

Last November, when I began running, I also started listening to audiobooks. I discovered I could “kill two birds with one stone.” I could run with my body and listen with my mind. I found that this was a great way to feed my brain while doing something else.

So, I joined Audible.com and began listening to recorded books. Audible has nearly everything I want to read—thousands of books in nearly every major category. It is fully compatible with my iPod. Best of all, it uses a “bookmarkable” format (.aa format for you geeks), so that my position is saved when I turn off my iPod. When I’m ready to listen again, I pick up right where I left off.

I joined Audible’s Platinum program for $22.95 a month—about the cost of a single hardback book. This gives me two credits. (One credit equals one unabridged audiobook.) Since the average recorded book is 6–12 hours long, I can usually get through two books a month. Honestly, this enables me to read way more than I was able to do conventionally.

In the last six months, I’ve listened to:

  • Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend
  • The Carrot Principle by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton
  • Focus: Achieving Your Highest Priorities by Stephen R. Covey
  • The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive by Patrick Lencioni
  • Go Put Your Strengths to Work by Marcus Buckingham
  • How to Think Like a CEO by D.A. Benton
  • It’s Your Ship by D. Michael Abrashoff
  • Made to Stick by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
  • Next by Michael Crichton
  • The South Beach Diet by Arthur Agatston, M.D.
  • Tough Choices by Carly Fiorina
  • Ultramarathon Man by Dean Karnazes
  • What’s So Amazing About Grace? by Philip Yancey
  • Wikinomics by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams
  • Your Best Life Now by Joel Osteen

For the last six months, I have used a standard video iPod. I have a 80 GB model, which holds a mind-boggling 20,000 songs. But for just running and listening to books, it’s overkill. Plus, it’s a little bulky and expensive—about $350. I used a “fanny pack” for running, but it always seemed a little awkward.

So, last night, I bought an iPod Shuffle. It’s so small and light, it’s scary. It weighs just a half an ounce and is about as big as my thumb—only thinner. It has a 1GB flash drive, which will hold 240 songs or about 4–6 audio books. It comes with a docking station and earphones. The sound is great, and it costs only $79.95.

Audible is also running a special offer on their Gold program. The program normally costs $14.95 a month. You get one credit (or one audiobook) a month. But, if you sign up now, you get the first three months for half price—$7.49 a month.

Most of us know we should read more. Intuitively, we believe it will make us more creative, more engaging, more educated, and more well-rounded. But many of us have difficultly making time. Well, here’s a simple, relatively inexpensive way to get your body and your mind into shape.

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  • http://www.taketwoministries.com Todd McKeever

    Sounds great but how do you underline and take notes now? That would be the hard part for me. I read about 2 books a week, but I am what they call an aggressive reader and all of my books are marked up.

    Great idea though.

  • http://www.michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

    Todd,

    That’s the one downside of audiobooks. But I was willing to give that up in order to read more books. A few times, I have actually bought the physical book after listening to it as an audiobook. But in reality, I rarely went back to all those books I had underlined and highlighted. To me the pluses outweight the minuses.

    Thanks,

    Mike

  • http://historyandhope.com/ ML Eqatin

    I discovered audiobooks ten years ago, back when they were all on tape. My husband had a 2 hour a day commute in sloowww traffic, and ‘gripe radio’ made him grumpy. So I kept him supplied from the library, first with all the classics he’d never had a chance to read, then on to whatever the nearest three libraries had. It improved his quality of life more than I can say. Sometimes I would read what he was listening to, then we would discuss. Or a really good one would give him something to talk to me about as soon as he came in the door.
    I use them to exercise with, and also while working on tedious projects like illustrations and CAD detail. And we have now graduated to mp3 format.

  • http://daveanthold.typepad.com/elevate Dave Anthold

    This was a great post. Over the past couple of years I have increased my reading and listening of books and I have up’d my anty on reading. I try and read (a physical book) a month and listen to a book in the month. So far I have been averaging about 2 books per month (physical) and about 2 books listening. I listen to the books in the car on my to and from work or around town if I have to travel far. As of late, I have picked up books in the biography or autobiography realm.

    Recommendations right now are:

    – Einstein – My Life and Universe
    – A Long Way Gone – Memoirs of a Boy Soldier
    – Leadership Principles for Graduates

    and soon I will be starting the “Freedom Writers Diary” after seeing the movie.

    Thanks for your insights.

    Dave

  • http://www.michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

    Dave,

    I’ve downloaded Einstein, too. I can’t wait to read it. I’m just finishing up Wikinomics, so I’ll start soon. It looks great.

    Thanks,

    Mike

  • Leslie

    Great idea about the IPODS! Are you able to sync 2 different IPODS to the same iTunes account so that you can download some of the same things on each???

  • http://www.michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

    Leslie,

    In a word, “yes.” For example, I sync everything from my ITunes library to my video iPod. But nothing automatically syncs to my iPod Shuffle. You can set it to automatically fill and randomly fille the Shuffle from your main library or—and this is what I do—I manually drag what I want from the library to the Shuffle.

    Thanks,

    Mike

  • Renee Teate

    Thanks for this post about the iPods Shuffle solving the problem with running and listening. I’ve been seriously considering purchasing an iPod for listening to sermons and books while walking, but just hadn’t been able to justify the expense while being unsure of how the size would work out with a Nano or Video version. My pre-teen daughter got a Nano for Christmas but has been so attached to the Slivr phone she also got for Christmas, I keep wondering if she’d even notice if I “borrowed” her Nano. You may have just solved the Mom’s lust problem. :)

  • http://www.colleencoble.com Colleen Coble

    Sorry, Mike, nothing replaces the feel of a book in my hands. The smell of them, the touch. And every time I try to listen to a book, the person reading doesn’t sound like the characters in my head. I have the same trouble with movies. If I read a book first, the movie never lives up to it.

    I read probably 2-4 books a week. All fiction though. This might work for non fiction (and obviously does for you) but I’ll never give up my books for something digital. Ebooks would go broke on me. LOL

  • http://www.michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

    Colleen,

    I agree. Nothing is better than a book—unless you are running. I don’t know about you, but I keep tripping. Ouch!

    Seriously, I only offer this as a way to “redeem the time” while running. For me, it’s a great way to read more than I would otherwise read.

    Thanks,

    Mike

  • http://www.hopkins-fs.com Lynn Hopkins

    First I want to give you a quote Mike.
    “The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled.” Plutarch

    Now, I want to says thanks about the audible idea. My college son wants to read more, but can’t find the time. He just got a new ipod. Ding!

  • Guillermo Ramhorst

    Although in my country -Argentina- is not that easy to get local audiobooks, I think it is a wonderful way of adapting to current times. I envision -if not done already- selling those on iTunes, not just audible…
    Anyway, the main thing that came to my mind was how this would affect the sales of hardcopy material. What I think? It will increase them. Same as the web increased the amount of printed paper -you have much more information and your need to have some of it printed increases as well. As you “read” more (by listening) you will be prompted to buy that good book, to rest in your library, your bedroom little table or have it handy just to remind you of this or that concept, story or mind-trigger.
    So in the end, we are on a synergy game, where everyone wins.
    Interesting..
    Willie

  • http://www.michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

    Willie,

    All of the audiobooks on iTunes come from Audible.com. However, iTunes doesn’t include everything that Audible carries. (At least, that was true last I heard.) In addition, Audible offers some promotional programs that iTunes doesn’t. Regardless, it is seamless. If you download a book from Audible.com, it immediately goes into iTunes.

    And, yes, in the end, I think audiobooks will sell more print books.

    Thanks,

    Mike

  • http://daveanthold.typepad.com/elevate Dave Anthold

    Mike,

    I took your advice regarding the shuffle and picked up a refurb’d one on Apple’s website. I had been dragging my video ipod to my running events which gets a little cumbersome when I don’t run with a waterpak (under 4 miles). I also noticed that iTunes has been slow putting up some of the newer book releases in the non-fiction business realm, so I got an audible.com account as well. You really get a good deal on the books for the monthly fee.

    I also agree that nothing replaces the books in your hand, and I am such an ecclectic readert that I start books based on where my interest is at that given time, so this actually helps keep me focused on getting it all done.

    I just downloaded “It’s Your Ship” and looking forward to it. Wikinomics is next on my list but I think I have to be in the right frame of mind for it.

    Thanks.

    Dave

  • Paulo Calado

    This is very interesting note.
    I joined audible Germany about an year ago and I still have fun listening to the books. It is a very time efficient method to “read” books you probably never read because of the lack of time or because you need the time to read job related literature.
    I spend each day about an hour driving to/from work and with my iPod nano, an FM transmitter I can listen to my own radio station – preferred audiobooks.
    The iPod is a really cool device, unfortunately it is not possible to set custom bookmarks, like marking an interesting passage, so you can go back to it later. But If you use a Windows-PDA and install the audible player, you can set your custom bookmarks an label them.

    Here a recommendation to listen:

    The world is flat – Thomas L. Friedman
    The Lexus and the olive tree – Thomas L. Friedman
    There Must Be a Pony in Here Somewhere – Kara Swisher and Lisa Dickey
    The Coffee Trader – David Liss
    E=mc2 – David Bodanis
    Tuesdays with Morrie (Unabridged)- Mitch Albom
    How to Win Friends & Influence People – Dale Carnegie
    A Short History of Nearly Everything – Bill Bryson
    Steve Jobs – Jeffrey Young
    The Google Story – David A. Vise, Mark Malseed

    Paulo

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/PeteNikolai Pete Nikolai

    I’ve been hooked on getting my information fix from my mp3 player or the cassette player in my car for several years now. I have found Audio-Tech’s Business Book Summaries very helpful (they also make a pdf of the content available), and I have become a loyal listener of podcasts such as Marketplace and FamilyLife. Are you listening to any podcasts yet or are you sticking with audiobooks?

  • http://daveanthold.typepad.com/elevate Dave Anthold

    Pete,

    I listen to podcasts of sermons primarily because I can access them so easily; however, Maximum Impact just released their new podcast so you might want to check that out as well.

    Dave

  • Damon Miltner

    Mike,

    Excellent use of an iPod. Thanks to a door prize at a conference about a year back, I’ve really become attached to my shuffle. I listen to timely, tech-related or personal and spiritual growth podcasts on my morning and evening commutes. This has become a tremendous tool for career education and personal motivation, not to mention a tremendously efficient way to use that time.

  • http://www.jennismith.net/wordpress Jen Smith

    For those not as fixated on professional quality or new titles, http://www.librivox.org aims to offer all books in the public domain (classics) in unabridged audio formats. It’s a volunteer organization and the sound quality and readings vary from recording to recording, but they are always improving.

    And if you’re not subscribed to the Mars Hill Audio Journal (www.MarsHillAudio.org), you should be. They now offer the Journal and other audio products as MP3 downloads for slightly less than the CD and tape editions.

    My 2GB iPod Nano is filled with Mars Hill Audio products at the moment. Time spent with Ken Meyers and guests is time very well spent indeed.

  • http://www.glocal.net/2007/06/08/redeem-the-time/ glocalnet

    Redeem the Time

    Michael Hyatt, the President and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, posts a great entry on his blog (http://www.michaelhyatt.com) about using an iPod and audio books to stay on top of your reading.  Michael, like Bob, is a runner and he listens to audio…

  • http://www.healthyexpat.com Steve

    As a long time user of Audible.com, there are a couple of inside secrets you might find useful. Firstly, to be able to “read” more books at a faster rate, but very much understandable. And as well, to quicken-up a slow sermon, book, etc. My minister friend uses this tactic to breeze through all the audio files a modern day minister needs to hear. Also, to enable one to slow down a book. Remember, all this works on any audio file:

    Slow down, speed up audio on an iPod:

    You can play Audible programming at speeds of around 25 percent faster or slower than normal without significantly changing the pitch of the audio. To set the playing speed, press the Select button three times to view the Playback Speed screen. To make the audio play faster, move your finger clockwise around the click wheel. To make the audio play slower, simply move your finger counter-clockwise around the click wheel.

    Alternatively, you can select Settings > Audiobooks from the Main Menu screen. Accelerated playback is also available on the iPod mini with firmware update version 1.2 (released Nov. 15, 2004) or greater.

    This feature could allow you to listen to an eight-hour audiobook in six hours; or to listen to The New York Times in just 35 minutes. Slowing down the audio can be helpful for programs with narrators who talk fast or for those who speak English as a second language.

    Cheers, Steve

    http://www.healthyexpat.com
    http://www.eslspider.com

  • http://www.eslspider.com Steve

    To make any audio file “bookmarkable”, which means it places bookmarks in the audio file. That is, the track will resume playing wherever you left off the last time you played it. I use this for radio programs, speeches, etc

    No more “lost” places on the track.

    http://dougscripts.com/itunes/scripts/scripts07.php?page=1#makebookmarkable

    400 more scripts at Doug’s.

    Doug’s Applescripts only work with an Apple Computer. Buy one (a computer), and join the fun. They are free, or on a so called donation basis.

    Cheers, Steve

    http://www.healthyexpat.com

  • Steve

    I use Audio Hi-Jack Pro to record any audio coming into my Apple computer. Having an addiction to a few radio programs, the odd sports game and even a few movies as well. I have successfully recorded them all and enjoyed the recording in my car, on a plane and while exercising at the gym. Audio Hi-Jack has a built in timer feature which automatically records the show of your selection. Much like a recorder for TV, like a VCR for example.

    The reason I posted all three of these tips in three separate postings is that they are three differing topics.

    Cheers, Steve

  • http://www.audioedition.org Peter Sivokon

    Thanks for all the audiobook info everyone! I keep a list of places where you can download FREE audio books: http://www.audioedition.org/services/free/
    And a general audiobook provider directory with free and pay sites at:
    http://www.audioedition.org/services/

  • http://twitter.com/RogerMessner Roger Messner

    I don’t know what I would do without my shuffle! Gonna have to check out audible. What podcasts, if any, do you listen to?

  • http://www.forward-living.com W. Mark Thompson

    Excellent advice and great plan. I’m following the same path. Since I’ve started running, I’ve been doing the same thing. The only problem I’m having is finding a good place to put my pen & notebook while I’m running. Gotta take notes when something good comes up!  (J/K)  :)

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  • Jan Svancara

    I am also runner but for me is running often only quiet time per day. It is kind of mental hygiene for me.

  • http://JasonandChelsea.com Jason and Chelsea White

    Just listened to “Platform” in one day about a week ago. Loved it!