This week, Jon Udell interviewed Hugh McGuire, the founder of Librivox on the IT Conversations, Interviews with innovators podcast. You can listen to it here.
During the conversation Jon Udell said that Wired magazine interviewed him about Librivox, then didn’t use the information because Librivox wasn’t a “Killer App”.
I wrote the following reflections on the Librivox Forums. You can follow the conversation here.
6 Reasons Librivox is a Killer Application
I think in many ways Librivox is becoming a ‘killer app’
My understanding of a ‘killer app’ is a use for computers that attracts a new and large amount of people to buy and/or use their computers specifically for that purpose. One can argue that email, itunes, IM, craiglist, and EBAY are all Killer apps. Wikipedia describes a killer application as “a computer program that is so useful or desirable that it proves the value of some underlying technology, such as a gaming console, operating system, or piece of computer hardware.”
Reason #1: Getting Grandma and Grandpa recording
As a member of the tech-support generation, over the last 10 years, I have spent a substantial portion of my holidays and countlesss phone calls helping my parents and grandparents maintain and use their computers effectively. What is their killer app?– Communication with family. Pictures of grandchildren over email, instant messages with children flung across the globe, genealogy, contacting distant relatives.
At Librivox, we are seeing more and more retired people with grandchildren, who see the value of our project and are taking the daunting step of buying logitech usb microphones (because we tell them to) and downloading audacity so that they can record for us. (Wait I’ll call my son who knows computers– “How do I download this audacity thing”). We’ve seen this story played out many times. I would say that this qualifies Librivox as a “killer app”.
Reason #2: RSS Feeds, Turning the Entire Catalog Into Podcasts
On yesterday’s Canadian Podcast Buffet, Mark Blevis interviewed Charles Hodgson of the excellent Podictionary podcast, where he discusses the etymology of a different word each day. Charles made the point each Christmas, millions of people receive IPods and immediately go to itunes to find content for them. Many people have told us that we produce ideal content for their IPods. This week’s addition RSS and Itpc subscription feeds to all the works in our catalogue makes it much easier. I strongly believe that we will come to see these XML feeds as a “killer app” for librivox. A next step might be to get our entire catalogue listed in the podcast directory of the Itunes music store.
Reason #3: Turning Consumers into Producers
Let’s remember that You are The 2006 Time Magazine Person of the Year. By “You” Time Magazine meant anybody who is producing their own creative works and sharing them with the world through the magic of modern computers and the Internet. Youtube, podcasts, blogs, and websites offer anybody a zero cost to low cost means of creating and distributing their own work to anybody of like interests anywhere in the world. Most of the active volunteers here would agree that it is way more fun producing media than merely passively consuming it. I hardly watch any television any more. I would rather be working on audiobooks, producing my podcasts, or listening to other people’s podcasts. One of the tremendous strengths of Librivox is that we teach people how to become a creator of content (young or old, of any technical skill level). Once they know how to record audio, upload to the net, create a podcast, etc…, we are seeing them develop on to their own projects. In my Librivox journey, I began by recording the weekly poem, then infrequent chapters for books that interested me, followed by volunteering to host the community podcast, and eventually developing podcasts of my own outside of Librivox. In a way, I used Librivox and its tremendous community resources as a kind of Podcasting Night School. Thank you all for that.
Reason #4: Turning interested people around the world into a genuine community.
Our greatest strength is our community. It is not just a word we use. We have taken great pains to have a welcoming, nurturing forum and I think that makes us stand out from so many other online ‘communities’ where venturing onto their bulletin boards is a frightening wild-west scenario of trolls and flame-wars. With the launch of local chapters and our upcoming Worldwide Gathering we are growing into a genuine club, not unlike the Kiwanis, or scifi- fandom.
Reason #5: Enriching the Public Domain and Educating People about copyright.
I’ve said this many times, but Librivox is at the forefront of the copyfight. We are taking existing public domain written works and enriching them by producing audio books. As a side effect, our volunteers and listeners are being made aware of the current worldwide copyright craziness and our hopefully learning about the importance of the public domain, and alternative ways of releasing creative works such as the creative commons.
Potential Reason Librivox is a Killer APP: The Proposed Librivox Bookshelf
The proposed Librivox Bookshelf, where users can create their own collections of Librivox books and share them (by RSS or OPML?) presents a new opportunity for our passive listeners, those people who download and listen to our works but do not post to the forums, record, or prooflisten. With their bookshelves, they could share their favorite books with their friends and family. Teachers could create audio bookshelves of course material. Reading clubs could form ….
Getting back to the ITC interview where John said that Wired Magazine did not pick up the article on Librivox because Librivox is not a ‘killer app’, I must heartily disagree. Using open source free tools, the internet, and the public domain, I think that we are on the forefront of a great wave of people making instead of consuming media and that Librivox will come to be recognized as a ‘killer app’ in that revolution.