HD Reader–Redundant?

Blackstone Audio’s presentation on audio books wasn’t of much personal interest to me, particularly since I’m hearing-impaired and only retain 60% or so of what I hear without captions or the ability to read a speaker’s lips.  I was initially intrigued by the idea of Blackstone Audio’s HD Reader (although I would never use it myself, because I’m a fast reader and would be bored by the reader’s slower talking speed), but it quickly lost its charm.  It brings to mind all the times in middle school we were forced to take turns reading out loud from textbooks as a class.  Those were some of the most excruciating hours of my life!  I don’t see the benefit of this sort of reader, other than for educational purposes, and as Samantha pointed out in an earlier blog post, that sort of technology would not be available to everyone–and especially not the people or schools that might need it most.

I remember my little sister having a toy called a Leap Pad, I think.  It was an interactive toy that would “read” books out loud when you clicked on parts of it.  Isn’t the HD Reader just imitating a learning device that already exists, albeit for an older audience?  The Leap Pad is limited to the books they provide for their product, but so too the HD Reader is limited to the books that have been recorded, although admittedly there are a lot more of them.

I apologize if my thoughts seem disorganized or obvious, but I was unimpressed by Blackstone’s reader, and I’m writing this to figure out why.  Where will the technology go?  Who will actually use it?  It seems a tad redundant to listen to the same thing you’re already reading.  The information is all there, why add extra?  For a super-duper all-inclusive learning bonanza?  I imagine the device would be useful for children struggling with reading, but here we are, back to whether those children will ever actually see this technology.  I find it difficult to believe people will use the reader, say, on the bus, when they could be simply reading instead.  There’s a purpose for an audio book–getting to “read” in a situation where you can’t actually read, but the audio/reader hybrid doesn’t exactly fill a need.  Let’s be honest.  How many of my fellow college students would actually sit down and slowly read your textbook with this thing?  Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m guessing not a whole lot.  On the other hand, it would be awesome to listen to your textbook while you’re driving to school, as a classmate pointed out during the presentation.  Audio books fill a need.  Book books fill a need.  Where does the HD reader fill in the gaps?

Eschewing the negativity, Blackstone Audio gave a great presentation, and I appreciate their innovation.  I hope their reader goes somewhere, and maybe someday even I will find a use for it.

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