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Everyday I Write the Book: Little Audio CD Book Debuts

by Michelle Manafy

CD recorders are one of the driving forces of the consumer electronics market today. According the Consumer Electronics Organization, so far this year, CD-R units have generated more revenue than any other home CD category. The problem is, for many consumers, programming a VCR starts to seem easy when faced with the dizzying array of computer-connected, stereo-integrated, software-requiring, portable MP3-playing, what's-a-Red-Book-anyway options out there. When EMedia's own Bob Starrett and Josh McDaniel's proposal for The Little Audio CD Book reached Peachpit Press, Editor Cliff Colby knew there was a market for a book to help would-be CD burners navigate the confusion. Colby says he knew a major stumbling block in doing a CD recording book would be confronting the legal issues surrounding home audio, but enlisting a writer as steeped in jurisprudence as Starrett would keep the book on the safe side of CD duping's murky waters."With this book," he says, "we saw exactly the approach we wanted to take."

The Little Audio CD Book ($19.99), which hit bookstores in late August, provides a helpful (and entertaining) guide to the entire process of home CD recording, from choosing the right audio recording hard and software to more advanced aspects of optimizing the conversion of LPs and cassettes to CD. This marks the fifth book on CD-ROM and CD recordable technology for Starrett, a one-time lawyer who finds CD "more interesting than any of my former clients." McDaniel, who has found in writing a way to "elude the clutches of corporate employment," saw a need for this type of book after recognizing the dearth of real information about the technology currently available. "The MP3 books out there were thin; there wasn't much substance--no discussion of science or the complexity of the process."

The Little Audio CD Book does not shy away from the complexities of CD recording. Though Starrett says the book is categorized as beginner-to-intermediate, "it covers some fairly advanced restoration processes. I characterize it as the complete guide to downloading, ripping, extracting, and recording CDs." Both authors believe this book will help readers avoid some of the common pitfalls in the process and help them gain a fundamental understanding of the technology in order to make better CDs. Starrett says,

"There are issues that people might want to know about like compression rates, where to get music, or the difference between a CD and a CD-ROM," and, as McDaniel points out, there is only so much you can say about MP3. The book devotes an entire chapter to mixed (Blue Book) discs, another to disc-to-disc direct copying, and yet another to restoring LPs and other analog sources for conversion and recording to CD. All of these chapters examine the underlying complexities of these seemingly simple tasks, as well as including chapters on sources of digitizable audio and troubleshooting. In each case, the book presents in parallel both Mac and PC/Windows scenarios for all these aspects of CD recording.

The book also touches upon some of the legal aspects and ambiguities kicking up such a ruckus in the CD recording corral. In an interview about Napster available on the http://www.peachpit.com, Starrett comments on the trial and its implications on CD recording. "Napster is perhaps the biggest story in the history of recorded music. But the book tells another story, almost as big. Anybody can make audio CDs." Which both extends and potentially inhibits the book's potential reach-as editor Colby quips, ""At times we were concerned that the book might appeal most to college kids who couldn't afford to buy CDs, not to mention a book on how to record them."

Starrett has found the cultural impact of MP3 the most interesting thing about it. He sees in it a move toward a more democratic method of music acquisition. "I don't think that I overstate it to say that there are two music revolutions going on today. The first, of course, is MP3. The second is recording your own audio CDs from those MP3s or other files."

Neither Starrett nor McDaniel thinks that the technology will allow The Little Audio CD Book to be the last word in audio CD recording. However, as McDaniel says, "The Little Audio CD Book is going to be one of the artifacts of a cultural shift." Indeed, a shift in the way we sell, buy, and even make music.

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