It may have taken a semi-obscure German professor, the profit motive of the world's CD-ROM drive producers, ingenious hackers and aesthetically gifted interface designers, but the simple fact is that MP3s are out there, and they're everywhere -- every major desktop OS comes with players for your easy listening. Chronic book review madman chromatic points you to a fount of knowledge for anyone who needs more than "click here to play."
The ScoopJudging by the way even my non-technical friends are talking about MP3s, digital music is on a lot of minds. As usual, O'Reilly has published the definitive guide to all things MP3. Computer and music guru Scott Hacker takes you through the codec, the software, the controversies, the competition, and building your own equipment. Though it's aimed at end-users, the book is still accessible to the do-it-yourself weekend hardware wizard.
What's to Like?Hacker's writing is simple and not-too-technical. In places, it's even informal. Sure, there are plenty of gory details, but you won't miss anything essential if you skip over the sidebars now and then. An average computer user could probably create his own MP3s while reading chapter five, for example. Power users aren't left out, though: Audiophiles, hackers and tweakers will benefit from the extensive comparisons of players, encoders, hardware, and competing codecs.
No stranger to alternative operating systems (he also wrote the BeOS Bible), Hacker takes pains to be cross-platform, covering Windows, Mac, Linux, and BeOS. This isn't limited to playback options, though that's the most extensive discussion, but includes serving files over the Internet. Of special consideration are quality issues. The author's perspective as a sound connoisseur comes in handy while discussing optimal (and affordable) recording and playback equipment.
As per the title, the Guide completely covers the subject. If you're interested in collecting MP3s, creating them, playing them back with software, with portable hardware, car hardware, building your own hardware, making music available to others, discovering alternate means of delivery and other codecs, or just want a broad overview of all things MP3, you'll find something of immediate interest. If Hacker whets your appetite for more information, follow one of his references to the source itself. (That's especially nice in his treatment of the more exotic hardware players.)
What's to Consider?Though the chapter on legal information and MP3 is excellent, and among the most extensive treatments of the issue lay readers are likely to encounter, it's U.S. Centric. Also, it should be noted that the digital music debate is undeniably fuzzy, so any interpretations are open to correction. Though he debunks the common disclaimers found on shady MP3 sites, the author wisely sidesteps copyright arguments by explaining the relevant laws, and allowing his readers to come to their own conclusions in the gray areas.
People who've been tracking the scene for a while know how fast things change. Information on specific programs or hardware players could become obsolete quickly. (That's noted in the text.) For the most part, Hacker prefers to explain concepts and trends rather than the fine details of any particular implementation. For items still unresolved, such as the eventually supported ID3v2 specification, he provides caveats regarding compatibility issues.
The SummaryCatch up to the digital music revolution with MP3: The Definitive Guide. It's packed with information, yet easy to read, and stuffed with links to satisfy your appetite for up-to-the-second information.
Purchase this book at ThinkGeek.
Table of Contents
- The Nuts and Bolts of MP3
- How MP3 Works: Inside the Codec
- Getting and Playing MP3 Files
- Playlists, Tags, and Skins: MP3 Options
- Ripping and Encoding: Creating MP3 Files
- Hardware, Portables, Home Stereos, and Kits
- The Not-So-Fine-Print: Legal Bits and Pieces
- Webcasting and Servers: Internet Distribution
- Competing Codecs and Other File Formats
- ID3v1 Genres