I’m pleased to announce The 27th Mile, an entertaining collection of stories and articles by a stellar group of writers who run. The book is inspired by our common passion for running and our desire to help the running community.
The list of contributors includes marathon champions and weekend warriors, ultramarathon racers and fitness joggers, running magazine pros and indie publishing standouts, best-selling novelists and… well, me. I’m also editing the book.
All proceeds from sales of The 27th Mile will go to support the victims of the tragedy on Boylston Street at the 2013 Boston Marathon.
First, Boston.com published “Weather a key variable for Boston marathon runners,” my article on the effect that variations in weather, in particular temperature and wind, can have on marathon times. I use Boston as an example, but the facts in the article apply to all marathons. And I get in some fun, referencing Mark Twain, Zeus, and Feng Po (among others).
Second, Martin Doellinger from Soft Star Shoes (makers of RunAmocs) posted his review of Overthinking the Marathon on the company blog. Martin says, “Unlike running stories in which the main character has all the time in the world to train and do nothing else, Charbonneau’s tale shows what marathon preparation looks like for an average person who actually does more in life than run around the clock. The story also includes its lighthearted quirks, which make the story fun and interesting.” You can read the rest of Martin’s review here.
Once upon a time, I looked into what it would take to make Chasing the Runner’s High into an audiobook. I found a service that supports self-publishing audiobooks, but creating the audiobook file turned out to be a challenge. I could do it myself, which would take a massive amount of time to do poorly and even more time to do well, or I could hire it out and spend over $1000 for something that was unlikely to bring in more than a few bucks in income. So I decided to give the idea a pass.
I found that text-to-speech conversion has come a long way since I first played with it on my Commodore 64. For example, my iPhone comes with VoiceOver, a screen reader that can be used to convert ebook text to sound. It’s not quite as good as a human reader, of course, but it’s more than adequate for most purposes.
Last weekend, Ruth and I were sitting in a coffee shop in Porter Square when Sally, a young blind woman, came in with her guide dog and sat down next to us. She was there to help her friend manage accessibility issues for the graduation ceremony at Harvard. Mild ADHD makes me an inveterate shoulder-surfer, so I saw that Sally had all kind of tools for vision-impaired users running on her laptop and we got into a conversation about them.
It turns out that Sally’s also a runner (coincidentally, she’s been guided on a few runs by Ken Skier, a mutual friend). She told me that she was a little frustrated with the number of sports books available for blind people though, as she put it, “I can read more than I ever want to know about Helen Keller.” She was happy to find that my books were available from Google, because her Android phone has text-to-speech tools that work with Google Play. She also liked that my books were available through Smashwords in simple formats like RTF or plain text that she could feed to her laptop’s screen reader applications.
Unfortunately, because most ebooks from major publishers are defective by design (encumbered with DRM), blind readers are usually stuck with the tools supplied by the ebook vendor. They may not work very well. For example, Sally mentioned that she didn’t like the tools available from Amazon for the Kindle.
I did some asking around. Erich Manser, another Team With a Vision volunteer, pointed me at Balabolka, a free text-to-speech app for Windows computers. Balaoolka can read many kinds of text files, including common ebook formats like epub and mobi/azw (Kindle books).
Even better, you can use Balabolka to convert your book to speech and then save the resulting audio as a MP3 file. Voila! Instant audiobook!
Here’s a sample, using the default voice that comes with Windows 7:
Since everything sounds more intelligent with a British accent, here’s another version:
Other voices are available for free, including some foreign languages.
OK, it’s a little robotic, and words like “Charbonneau” are a problem. If I were going to turn my entire book into an audiobook, I’d need to do some editing and perhaps help the computer improve its pronunciation of certain words with a little creative spelling. But for the price and the effort involved, it beats the hell out of the alternatives.
Of course, Balabolka only works with DRM-free files, reason #23,475 to avoid DRM. It’s a shame there’s no way to removeDRM from Amazon’sebooks.
My hill repeats on Packard Ave. this morning went much better than they did last week, averaging about 5 seconds faster for each one, even the extra one tacked on at the end of the workout. The cold from heck must be finally fading away.
After I finished running, I dropped off books at some of the local independent bookstores. If you need an instant Overthinking the Marathon fix in paperback, you can now visit these stores to pick up a copy:
And if you love ebooks (like I do), but hate how they cut the local store out of the loop (libraries are another problem, for another day), you now have an option. Lately, I’ve seen displays in bookstores offering Kobo e-readers for sale, so today I asked a clerk how the partnership works. Apparently if you buy books through Kobo, you get the chance to name a local bookstore as your “home store” when you set up your account. Then every time you buy a book through the Kobo store, your local store gets a cut (tiny, but much better than nothing). So you can buy a Kobo reader or load a Kobo app onto your existing smartphone, computer, or tablet (even a jailbroken Kindle Fire) and read e-books relatively guilt-free.
R is for Running is the lighthearted lexicon that spells out what it means to be a runner. There are 26 letters in the alphabet. There are 26 miles in a marathon. Coincidence? I think not! R is for Running is 26 smiles of running enjoyment!
Friday, March 8, I’ll be at the Robbins Library (700 Mass. Ave in Arlington) along with other local authors and their books for Books in Bloom, a benefit for Arlington’s libraries and the Arlington Garden Club.
The event features:
Gorgeous literary-themed floral displays
Wine and beer in the elegant Reading Room & Rotunda
Savory hors d’oeuvres and sweets
Music by The Don Hemwall Trio
Arlington authors to sign and sell books
Tickets are $25 in advance/$30 at the door. Hope to see you there!