In Which I Fight The March of Progress

I love audiobooks. They are so soothing and comforting and nothing says relaxation to me like lying on my bed listening to a great story. Over the years I’ve amassed quite a library, the oldest on cassette tape – which are now hard to listen to because my cassette player is so ancient and well-used that the wheels scream in protest after an hour or so – the next era on CD, and then the most recent on the ipod Mr Litlove gave me for Christmas a couple of years ago. For my next birthday he gave me a docking station, because I prefer that to ear buds and because the docking station has no function buttons on it whatsoever, it comes with a remote.

Now the first little mishap I had occurred one night while I was sleeping. Evidently a butterfly flapped its wings in China, I turned over in bed, the thick corner of the duvet shifted, clipped the remote on the bedside table, and sent it on a neat dive head-first into my nighttime glass of water which was standing half full on the floor. I put the glass there so that it shouldn’t get knocked over and spill onto the pile of books I happen to have beside me. This goes to show that you really can’t think of everything.

Well, you may imagine my horror when I woke in the morning to witness the mischief that had taken place. Without the remote, the docking station is useless. But I dried it off, and by the end of the day it was working again, albeit unreliably. The on/off button worked, even if all the others didn’t seem responsive. I couldn’t honestly tell you it was much different when it was new, as I would often poke and prod it without effecting noticable change to anything other than the volume.

The next little mishap wasn’t even a mishap. I’d taken the docking station downstairs to listen, and then returned it to the bedroom. Obviously it travels as well as I do, because this caused some sort of short-circuit or dodgy connection at the point where the ipod fits onto the station. If I fiddled about with it and pushed it down harder, I could get it to play, but the sound could cut off abruptly if an atom shifted in the universe.

But hey, I could still get it to work, and after a long, frustrating evening, Mr Litlove managed to find a way to continue downloading audio books onto it, after itunes and audible decided that no one uses such obsolete devices as ipods any more. I think I’m supposed to own a swanky phone or tablet instead, so it’s a good job that none of these young turks at the forefront of modern technology have seen my 2004-bought pay-as-you-go phone which beeps every time I press a button, much to the amusement of my son, and can only save about a dozen messages at a time. In my defence, if I decide to commit a crime, I’m pretty sure the police will never trace me.

So having negotiated all these technological pitfalls, I finally discovered there was one thing I simply could not get around – and that was the chaos caused by falling asleep. It’s very hard not to, when you are warm and cozy and doing nothing more than listening to a soothing voice. Recently, I’d used my latest audible credit on Anne Tyler’s A Spool of Blue Thread, which I was loving. It’s a wonderful family story, with all the trademark Tylerisms that make it so good to listen to, in particular her ability to turn out both a beautiful sentence and a great line of dialogue. Well, I was enjoying it immensely, but the inevitable happened and without being able to tell you at what point exactly it happened, I fell asleep.

I woke up to silence. This was worse than usual, as it meant that the ipod must have shifted on its docking station and lost its connection. How long had I been asleep before that happened? I’ve woken up before to disconcerting déjà vu when the story has both finished and seamlessly started all over again. But now I had no idea how much of the narration I’d missed. The remote was useless to me, so I went over to the ipod and fiddled about with it until it started speaking again.

My ipod has a touch screen the size of a large-ish postage stamp. It has two little lines or an arrow in the middle, for play or pause, and a triangle either side for fast forward or rewind. If you tap the triangle it skips a chapter (not at all the same thing as a chapter in the book, alas) and if you hold your finger down, it supposedly moves forwards and backwards more slowly so you can skim. HAH is all I have to say to that. I touched the screen and we instantly jumped forward by several book chapters. Now I was even more lost than before. I touched the screen to move backwards, and this time it was enough to cut the connection. After more wobbling and poking and calling it some ugly names, the narration resumed but way further back, back at a part I’d been listening to the previous day. There was more back and forth that I’ll spare you, but eventually I ended up deciding the best policy was to listen again to a chunk I’d already heard.

After the half hour it took to reach the place I fell asleep, I turned out to have missed only a paragraph or two.

What is this obsession with tininess? I don’t have particularly large hands, but this whole poking and swiping business is a nightmare of inaccuracy. My ipod could be three times larger than it is, and it would still be small. It could have buttons on it, so I could actually be sure what function I was selecting. The ‘chapter’ divisions could correspond to actual chapters in the book. And the most smiled-upon solution, to switch to a newer form of technology, means learning a whole new host of instructions on ever more complicated gadgets. What is a dinosaur of technology like me supposed to do?


17 thoughts on “In Which I Fight The March of Progress

  1. You could get it on CD and use your old technology. Sony still makes a boombox that plays both CD’s and cassette tapes, so maybe you could replace your old player with old technology! Or you could get a tablet and get used to a newer technology, which would be useful for SNB, too. I found it really easy to get the hang of Android, and the Ipad mini isn’t too much $ either. I like the 7-8″ size tablet. I find it big enough to see but still paperback size, so I can hold it in one hand on my knees and read. I also have an antique “dumb” phone that does nothing but has great battery life, so I’m not replacing it with a smart phone until it dies, which maybe it won’t ever. It could be immortal! But I do like my tablet. My h doesn’t have a tablet, but he uses his smart phone the same way, and there are very good ones in a mid price range if you’re not wed to Apple, and if you want something smallish.

  2. You sound like my wife when it comes to tech and I’m not a lot better. I download audible from their site and on to my pc, then on to devices from there via usb. It is usually problem free, but I don’t mind earphones. Just got Hilary Mantel’s Every Day is Mother’s Day and Vacant Possession, which seem to be like Beyond Black to some extent. Hope that’s right. Good luck with the ipod and dock!

  3. I’m not a fan of progress, it has to be said – I never even got on with audio books (though I do like audio readings of poetry). I have a (work) iPad and my fingers will just about cope with the tapping on that – anything smaller, and I would lose the will to love and just pick up a paper book…

  4. I’ve had an iPod for quite a while now, and never has it occurred to me that I could use it for what I still call “books on tape,” though that isn’t the current term for them, of course. I do use it for all sorts of other things, though, and despite the fact that I am, generally speaking, someone for whom things don’t work quite as they are supposed to, the iPod and I have bonded in some marvel of symbiotic cooperation, and I have had nary a cross word with it. Depending upon which version of the iPod you have, your vexation may be due to the 16-pin connector. Newer versions have a different, smaller, and more reliable connector, but you can get an adapter for them to fit older 16-pin docking stations or chargers. The adapters fit the 16-pin connection far better than the device itself ever did, so you can plug your newer i-thing into the adapter, use your older docking station, and get better results. Probably this entire last paragraph made no sense to you, I now realize. You’ll just have to take my word for it.

  5. Hahahaha, this is exactly why I don’t do audiobooks OR keep a glass of water at my bedside. I have learned the valuable lesson that if there is a glass of water where it might be spilled, I will spill it. I don’t know how many times I’ve put a glass of water down by my feet “just for a sec” and kicked it over five minutes later.

  6. I managed to put my pre-iphone mobile into a glass of water on the bedside table. I did it very very slowly as I was talking to a friend on the landline. I thought I was carefully putting it on the table. I did it – of course – by feel rather than by sight. But I successfully dunked it and it never recovered. So … I bought an iphone and I don’t suppose I use a tenth of its capacity but it lives on the floor, turned off, at night and the glass of water retains pride of place by the bed. This, of course, is useless information for you except to say that I know you can listen to all sorts of things on an iphone (I only listen to the voices of the people I ring or who ring me) if you ever decided to invest in one … .

  7. I so laughed at this and could easily do ALL the same things. Mr C has dropped his phone down the loo MORE THAN ONCE and we have both knocked over so so many nighttime tipples onto so so many absorbent things.

    I love Anne tyler too and am waiting for the paperback such a luddite am I.

  8. I so relate!! My daughter gave me an ipod. I don’t know how to download anything so I don’t use it but it sure is a pretty blue. I recently got an iPad because I had so many Amex points I really had to use them, so I traded them in. It’s pretty spiffy; my daughter bought me a Kate Spade cover for Christmas. I can read my Kindle books. Can I download audio books? I didn’t even know that. Anyhoo, I always listen to an audio book in the car on my CD player. Just finished The Cleaner of Chartres and am currently into The Kings Curse. Oh, and I fill a water bottle for the bedside…one with a cap. No worries.

  9. Heh, you and Bookman should get together. We got iphones a few months ago about the same time he also got a gym membership. I offered to let him use my ipod for music or audiobooks but he decided he’d use his phone instead because nice and compact all-in-one. But every time he tries to add/delete music or books to it he generally spends about 30-45 minutes cursing because he can’t seem to get the process to work as smoothly as it’s supposed to. Then something clicks and five minutes later it’s all fine. He also manages to mysteriously change settings on his phone. I just keep the giggles to myself and stay out his way 🙂

  10. You made me laugh. See, that’s why I have a bottle of water and not a glass of water next to my bed. I’m not into audiobooks at all. I don’t tend to fall asleep but my mind wanders and the going back and finding the moment I left into my own imagination is hard.

  11. I never put water next to the bed, because the cats will knock it over – deliberately. And one of their ways to wake me up is to knock my iPhone, which I plug in to charge overnight, onto the floor. In defense, at the first sound of wakeful cats, I have developed the ability to unplug my phone and hide it under my pillow, without even really waking up myself.

    I think I’m a rare pro-technology voice in your comments! I love audiobooks and Audible, and I particularly like the way that after initial set up, audiobooks are so easy to download to my iPhone. And then with Bluetooth in the car, it automatically picks up where the audiobooks left off and starts playing. I also am sometimes lulled to sleep by an audiobook, but on the iPhone it’s pretty easy to scroll back to find the place.

    But, audiobooks on the iPod were difficult, and I think that’s because they were pushing what the device was intended for and not even Steve Jobs thought about what would happen when you lost your place.

    Maybe you’re a prime candidate for a phablet? Ghastly word, but at least the race for tinyness is over. Large screens are all the rage!

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