2834: Book Podcasts

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Book Podcasts
I've been working my way through this 1950s podcast by someone named John Tolkien called 'Lord of the Rings'--it's a deep dive into this fictional world he created. Good stuff, really bingeable!
Title text: I've been working my way through this 1950s podcast by someone named John Tolkien called 'Lord of the Rings'--it's a deep dive into this fictional world he created. Good stuff, really bingeable!


Randall (represented as Cueball) discusses his love of podcasts, episodic audio files of a talk show. He uses them to pass the time when doing chores. At one point he imagines what it would be like if someone made a podcast narrating books, as an easy and convenient way to digest literature when reading the book yourself isn't an option. As spelled out in the caption, he quickly realizes he hasn't invented a new concept but simply described the existence of an audiobooks, a product which has existed well before the concept of podcasts. It's also worth noting that although podcasts usually involve talking and discussions, podcasts that are essentially chapter-by-chapter audiobooks already exist, as do podcasts that are effectively anthologies of shorter stories, meaning that there's nothing remotely original about his idea.

He confesses this has happened more than once, which as can also be seen in 1367: Installing and 2724: Washing Machine Settings, is not the first time Randall has accidentally reinvented the proverbial wheel for an idea.

"First principles" are the set of propositions that a method or theory is founded on, and which can not be derived from other theories that exist in the field. Therefore, first principles can't be derived from other propositions. In this case, Randall is describing the first principles of audiobooks by working backwards from a medium that was invented later, and that borrowed elements from the existence of audiobooks. The humor is in this circular reasoning and anachronistic thought process, as true first principles would probably have involved a real life read-aloud session, and as such is an example of reverse-engineering and not first principle deduction.

The title text is an inverse of the joke, with Randall seemingly having been listening to the Lord of the Rings audiobook without realizing that this "podcast", which somehow seems to have predated widespread audio devices by being released in 1952, was actually originally a book written by J. R. R. Tolkien. This would likely irritate longtime fans of the book (which humorously, would also include Randall).

The words "deep dive" might be referencing the fact that Tolkien wrote the book with the frame story that he was actually just translating the story which was written by the characters in the story, which might also be a joke regarding the reversal of the writing from first principles to "writing" by translation. In addition to this, in 1952, Tolkien's friend George Sayer recorded Tolkien narrating excerpts from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, later distributed more widely in the 1970s on vinyl records, which this may also be an allusion to.


[Cueball, wearing headphones, is looking down towards a phone-sized device held in his hand. From Cueball's head small circles go up to a large thought bubble above him.]
Cueball: I need more podcasts to listen to while doing chores.
Cueball: Hey, someone should do a podcast where they just read through a book! Each chapter could be an episode...
[Caption below the comic:]
Every now and then I reinvent audiobooks from first principles.

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This one is the most get-out-of-my-mind I have ever experienced with xkcd. And I had quite a few of these :-) I recently had this very same thought, and eventually I managed to find a way to get audiobooks and podcasts just mixed up in the very same app and very same environment. And it's been an absolute joy switching around between them. Drastically increased my book-reading. I have been telling everyone who wants to hear about it.
Anyone curious to do the same I greatly recommend using PodcastAddict and its integrated "virtual podcasts" feature. That one allows you to create a "podcast" from a selected folder with audiofiles.
Combine this with Audiobookstore.com or any other place where you can actually download books you purchase, and you can have the same set-up. See image for result: https://imgur.com/a/Jp0vgY3
Not affiliated with any of the services mentioned. Just a big fan of Podcast Addict and Xavier's work :-) Flekkie (talk) 22:28, 27 September 2023 (UTC)

You know, someone should distribute transcripts of these podcasts, so you can read them at your own time... 10:58, 28 September 2023 (UTC)

Distribute? Sounds very labour-intensive, compared to downloading. Get a building, let people come into the building and take whatever bundles of podcast printouts they want, from what you have. Either buy them outright (to cover costs) or just borrow them, no more tgan a few at a time, and bring them back for someone else to borrow later. 12:06, 28 September 2023 (UTC)
I like it, but what if you can't make it to the building—like, god forbid, if another virus breaks out? I think it'd be nice if the Internet Archive guys could set up an online version of this idea, lending out digital scans of the printouts. Surely no one would take issue with that? ~AgentMuffin 23:38, 28 September 2023 (UTC)
what if i downloaded the scans of the prints of the downloads of the transcripts? then i would be able to share books with my friends for free! Squishmallow fan (talk) 14:28, 11 February 2024 (UTC)

This might be a reference to Re:Dracula, an actual podcast that is the book dracula. They have different voice actors for all of the characters, and they release each part exactly 130 years after it was set (Mina Murray's journal entry from September 28th 1893 would be released today).

The difference between podcasts and audiobooks is like a TV series versus a movie. Podcasts are one installment at a time (often once a week), you download an entire audiobook and listen to it at your own rate. Barmar (talk) 14:23, 28 September 2023 (UTC)

Binge-watching is a thing. (As is the more traditional splitting of a (pre-audio) book into a string of installments.) The lines are very blurred. 17:01, 28 September 2023 (UTC)