Took a planned short break that turned into a long, long break, as my family adjusted to post-grad life.

Palm tree against a brilliant orange and gold sky.

While it is not reflected here yet, things did move along, slowly, yes but there was movement. I wrote new stories, recorded more audiobooks, took a couple of courses to improve as a writer and publisher etc. etc. Murphy’s Law ensured that there were plenty boulders to be moved and giant pot-holes along the way.

Over the break I also discovered audio-ebooks by ReadBeyond. They put out over 100 of them for free! I’m still working my way through the English stories on the list. As much as I’m enjoying books in this format, the most fun for me was learning how to make one, so I could turn my stories into audio-ebooks.

So, what is an audio-ebook?

A typical audiobook is a recording of a book read by a narrator. An ebook is simply a book in digital format. An audio-ebook is the combination of both formats. The wonderful people at ReadBeyond describe it thus:

“An Audio-eBook combines a reflowable text eBook with an audiobook, enabling advanced functions like synchronous highlighting and tap-to-play.”

Example of an audio-ebook page.

Example and description of an audio-ebook produced by ReadBeyond

In other words, it’s an audiobook with the professionally formatted written text on display or an ebook bundled with professionally narrated companion audio. The magic is in the synchronization of audio and text. You have all the advantages of ebooks and audiobooks combined to give you a wonderfully immersive reading experience. You can switch between reading, listening, and reading and listening at the same time.

Want to try an audio-ebook?

There is no specialized ereader device for audio-ebooks. They are designed to be consumed primarily on smart phones and tablets in ebook apps. Unfortunately, not all ebook reader apps fully support audio-ebooks. I’m looking into it to see if I can do some work-arounds.

Fortunately, the people at ReadBeyond did something about this too. They built an app specifically for audio-ebooks. It’s called Menestrello and you can find it in the Apple app store for iphones/ipads and in the Google play store for android phones.

If you have not already guessed, I think the people behind ReadBeyond are beyond awesome. Here are the direct links to their Menestrello app:

Installing and using Menestrello on your phone is a pretty straight forward process but if you run into trouble, they also have a lot of notes to help you out.

You can even manually install it on tablets (like the kindle fire) that have restricted access to the google play store using their Android APK download.

Speaking of kindles, some of them have a feature very similar to audio-ebooks called Whispersync for Voice. To use it, you must have an amazon account to get the ebook and an audible account for the audiobook. With audio-ebooks, the text is bundled with the audio from the get-go.

Screenshots of one of my stories, Ananse's Work Day, playing in the Menestrello app.

Screenshots of one of my stories, Ananse's Work Day, playing in the Menestrello app.

If you are using a desktop or laptop, Readium, a free browser extension, can be used to read audio-ebooks. It was designed for the chrome browser but I’ve used it in the firefox browser with no problem.

Incidentally, there is a free readium-based app called Cloudshelf Reader which also supports the audio-ebook format. I’ve not tried it out yet. I will let you know how well it works, as soon as I do.

As mentioned earlier, I have been learning how to create audio-ebooks. I’m putting finishing touches to the first batch of stories and can’t wait to share them with you.

In the mean time, if you want to try one out, I recommend The Gift Of The Magi, one of my favorite Christmas stories.