I live in Hong Kong where life is often ruled by time. My work demands excessive amount of time so much so that its often difficult to find large puddles of time where I can sit down and do nothing, especially during week days. Even lunch you will find me reading emails or scouring through notes of things to do or write about. As a result my entries on this blog are often erratic. I spend 6 hours of sleep and probably a total of an hour for meals. Traveling accounts for maybe 2 hours, including times I need to meet people outside the office. My wife onced said I work 17 hours a day – an exaggeration no doubt but it reflects her concern that work takes precedent over family life. I am trying to change my ways but its hard to change habits you pick up as an adult.

Reading is a luxury these days and often the pile of stuff to read just gets higher and higher. A few years ago I subscribed to audible.com thinking it would be better if I listened to books instead of reading. Today I have about 30 audible books. I’ve probably listened completely to only two. Most of the others remain unplayed. Why? The audible books ranged from an hour to as much as 12 hours long. I live in Hong Kong. I don’t have a car. I take the train to get to work and travel time is 15 minutes. I found it hard to start and stop listening to an audio book – trying to follow the flow of ideas that could literally take me days or weeks to finish.

Then came iMinds. An Australian company founded by Olivia Wood, a former book and publishing executive, who saw an emerging trend (translate: opportunity) in “Education/Entertainment” consumer products and the proliferation of personal technology in all aspects of modern life.

If you think about it many a discussion in bars and pubs are around short snippets of discussions and that people huddle around those who have the wider breathe of knowledge. Forget deep subject matter knowledge. Go wide and shallow! This is how standup comedians keep their audience entertained and focused. The discussions are never dealt with in very deep detail – otherwise you start to becoming boring.

The ipod and phones with built-in mp3 functions are the ideal platform to store these snippets of knowledege. iMinds strategy of doing away with digital rights management (DRM) is also a good way of ensuring that its content gets propagative to as wide an audience as possible. Afterall the only way to ensure the digital media is able to play in as many platforms as possible is to use the most widely used audio format today – mp3.

The choice of 8-minute as the right length of time for majority of its content is great (at least for me). Its just long enough to get enough knowledge without becoming boringly long.

According to the iMinds website, they cover twelve main categories of interest: Ideas & Concepts, Politics, Law & Business, The Arts, History, People & Places, Medicine & Inventions, Sports & Action, Crime, War & Conflict, Pop Culture, Science & Nature, Culture & Religion, Mystery & Conspiracy and include individual topics such as The U.S. Federal Reserve, Evolution, and The Seven Wonders of the World.

I find the heavy emphasis on Americana suggests that a business decision was made early on to focus on the US market. I read Chuck Lawton’s (wired.com) review and he obviously had a wider sampling than I did. But I do agree with him that the quality of production is on par to content produced by audible.com and other production houses. At least for the samples I had an opportunity to listen to the voice of the reader was clear and engaging. Like Lawton I ended up going to Wikipedia to read a bit more about what I just listened. It makes me wonder whether this would be an ideal companion content in some of the upcoming electronic book readers due out in 2010 – at least the ones that support Internet browsing and MP3 playback. There is another business opportunity here for you.

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