Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Why Should I Buy an iPod?

I have spoken against iPods as isolating people and perpetuating the culture of entertainment. I read a good article on this about two years ago in The Utne Reader, "Hell is Other iPods."

However, are there advantages of having an iPod for a curmudgeon? I like to listen to lectures in the car. I'm driving much more here in Arizona than I do in Denver, so the need increases. (I'm on sabbatical in Sun City West.) Could I get many lectures in MP3 format and get an adapter to listen in the car? I also usually ride my hybrid bike like a fiend as much as possible. I usually listen to CDs, but have to change them on longer rides. (I cannot ride here until the temperatures get well below what they are now.)

But do not worry. I do not plan on walking around like a zombie with it on at all times--if I get one at all. But if I do, what is the best kind for a nonfanatic?

Are there MP3 recorders that won't bankrupt you? That would allow me to record more of my lectures and perhaps get them on line.

Feel free to email me or post something on this. This time I'm asking my loyal readers (or even disloyal ones) to help me out, instead of having me provide more stunning commentary, biting sarcasm, and exemplary humility. And if you fear for my curmudgeonhood at this prospect, let me know that.


Caleb W said...

I find an MP3 player very handy for listening to sermons and talks (such as from the apologetics website, which has many good resources including MP3s of L'Abri talks).

I have become more conscious of thinking carefully about when to listen though, because it does exclude the possibility of engaging in conversation with people around me. It's better for me to try and engage in conversation and share the Gospel with fellow-travellers on a train or bus, for example, than to spend the time listening to any number of MP3 about evangelism, for example! But if I'm just alone washing-up or something, it's great.

I've just got a small player that's much like a USB memory stick but with a small screen and some basic controls, which holds 256mb which is usually fine for my purposes and didn't cost too much.

SK said...

Get a "nano" Ipod so you can organize your tunes and lectures. The "shuffle" types (i.e., your standard MP3 player) won't do that for you. For my teenage sons, we require them to submit lyrics to any song they wish to download (from i-tunes), then we discuss the song from a Christian worldview. Rather than forbid access altogether, I'm trying to innoculate them against secular thinking.

Keep up the great work, Doug. Love your stuff!

Scott Klusendorf

Jeff Burton said...

I'm skipping the mp3 player purchase advice, and going right to the television purchase advice, now that you are on that trajectory. Despite the hype surrounding plasma televisions, you really want an LCD model. They boast wider viewing angles, less weight, more durability, thinner screens, and most important for a Denver Seminary Prof - better performance at high altitudes.

BTW, get the iPod - they come in cute colors.

nancy said...

With iPod sales dipping it's time for the Curmudgeon to shell out a few bucks and jump on the bandwagon!

I do think you'll be pleased. The iPod syncs with iTunes which you run on your PC. Organizing your lecutures and jazz is a breeze. And those tiny little nano iPods will still have plenty of room for your wife's music too. I also listen to a lot of pod casts on my device.

Here's my advice, get the iPod nano (not the shuffle because you do need the screen and you don't need anything more than the nano) because other mp3 players do not work as well with iTunes, and you want something that works well with the software on your computer. iTunes rocks - I often listen to lectures and music from my computer.

You might also need a CD burner (unless your laptop has one) so you can rip (copy to your computer) your CDs. And if you don't have this perhaps you have friend locally who can do this for you. If the computer is centrally located in the house, a couple of speakers (I got mine free from someone throwing some away)turns it into a nice portable stereo.

BTW - You can purchase any Coltrane that you do not already have very easily on iTunes :).

J. Mark Bertrand said...

The simplest solution -- though perhaps not the least expensive -- would be to get a full-size iPod for $249 and add an aftermarket voice recorder like Belkin's TuneTalk. The new recorders capture high quality sound. This would allow you to easily record your own lectures and the files would automatically transfer to iTunes when you sync the computer. Also, a great source for lectures is The Teaching Company (, which now makes most of its courses available for download. To listen in the car, all you need is a cassette tape adapter (assuming you have a tape deck installed; if not, you may have to descend into the underworld of FM transmitters).

Douglas LeBlanc said...

In addition to caleb w's great tip on, it's worth noting that Mars Hill Audio has now begun offering its Journal, and many other programs, for purchase as MP3s.

An iPod is far and away better than a CD player, whether you're on a hybrid bike or jogging or walking. Using an iPod, you may listen to a multiple-CD series without interruption. The only limits are the battery charge and, of course, your schedule. I try to limit my iPod time to the times I spend on a daily walk, washing the dishes, or driving -- times when I would not be engaged in conversation anyway, unless my wife is in the vehicle with me.

I agree with sk: if you buy an iPod, consider the Nano your minimum standard. It's worth noting, as well, that you choose what to load onto the iPod. If you listen to a long lecture series and are done with it, you may remove it from the iPod but keep it in iTunes on your computer.

My only regret about buying an iPod is that I didn't do it a few years earlier, when I had a demanding commute from Oak Park to Carol Stream, Illionis.

David Anderson said...

It's a wonderful way to redeem the time. I have been blessed by the MP3 biographies of John Piper that have been incredibly edifying on road trips and long commutes.

Small Group Guy said...

I do feel you are falling into the techology trap. I do not care for having one and do not see purchasing one any time soon.

No one buys a cell phone, a T.V., or an Ipod with the thought that it will further isolate them...but they usually do.

Cancelling my cable was the best thing I have done in awhile. Peace reigns, family game night is a blast and I have found music that I have not realized I have been missing for years.

Timo_the_Osprey said...

Dr. Groothuis,

A few years ago I experimented with the same idea.

I got a hold of a modest MP3 player and found a great deal on several hundred hours of philosophy lectures. (I enjoy the occasional dose of talk radio as well.) My goal was to redeem the time without falling prey to the tech gods.

I began listening while running, working out, and other odd times throughout the day.

Result of my experiment? I soon found that even my limited use was more harmful than expected. My use at the gym was the first to be dropped. Soon after, I stopped using it even on my solo runs. To date, I find that my use is remarkably infrequent - and yet very valuable at those rare times.

Conclusion: I echo the ipod and itunes endorsement of the other commenters but expect that you'll probably find it less useful than what you perhaps have in mind now.

Philip Prewitt said...

If you were to purchase the iPod video, XtremeMac makes a recorder that attaches to it and records in mp3 format. I'm getting ready to purchase one so that I can listen to your collegue's lectures while driving to school.

Jonathan Erdman said...

One word: Coltrane

With a large enough ipod you can conceivably load up every single Coltrane track you have.

I think that this effectively ends the debate.

Douglas Groothuis said...

What does it say that my post generated eleven responses in less than twelve hours? This may be a record for this blog. Now I know that Scott K. and Doug L. check in. Good to have you "here."

Thank you for the insights everyone. They will be pondered. The lectures are really more important to me than the music, which I can hear in other formats.

And, No, I am not moving toward getting a high definition TV screen. (This is the TV-B-Gone fanatic, remember?!) We have no TV at all here in Sun City West.

wtanksleyjr said...

I'm very happy with my dirt-cheap generic MP3 player (it's a Sandisk "Sansa" m240). $70 at Costco, lifetime warranty (from Costco).

The recording on all such cheap units is sub-par.

Don't get the Sansa c100 series -- it's a dud right now (perhaps if they release a fix).

Chuck said...

It's interesting that none of the posts here mention what to me has been the best usage of my iPod: listening to the Bible itself.

Several translations are now offered in MP3 format, including the NIV, ESV, NASB and NLT.

Whether it's driving to work, taking a walk, or actually at work (we're allowed to listen to music or whatever with headsets), I've been enriched by listening to the various books of the Bible be read to me. It definitely opens up new facets to hear, rather than read, Paul's letters. After all, they were written to be read publically in the churches...

Jo Jo said...

I think you would make good use of an iPod. In your position and need to gather information quickly, I believe it would be a useful tool for you - not an icon in your life. I don't have one, but I have tons of books and my icon... the computer. =) Forgive me, but I'm proud to say I don't even own a cell phone, or wear a watch. If I need to find the time, I ask a human, or can usually make it to the next available time piece without disintegrating. Enjoy your new iPod, I wish I had one. =)

E. I. Sanchez said...

An iPod from Apple would be the best investment. I had a cheap MP3 player but Apple just owns the market. Not only the online music (iTunes) but also the podcasting. Anybody doing podcasts does it through iTunes.

I use my iPod everyday to listen to sermons, the Bible, and tunes.

Check out the podcasts I listen to:

Mathew Sims said...

I have an iPod nano which is fantastic. If you also want to record your own lectures though, I would recommend an iRiver. These do double duty as MP3 player and MP3 recorder. They are easy to use and you can pick one up for about $75-$100. No other purchase necessary..they will give the program you need.

I record lectures from my seminary.

Soli Deo Gloria

jc said...

though i have a 5th generation video iPod, I would suggest getting another brand. iPods can't play WMA or OGG. And some stuff, like Lloyd-Jones weekly sermons come in WMA format.

Gary said...

Poor man's Ipod
I spend 1.5 hours on the road on weekdays. I have listened to a lot of audible books from
I recently decided to better enrich myself listening to sermons, lectures, and seminary classes (those offered for free).
I bought an inexpensive CD-player - that plays MP3 files. I use a re-writable CD - load - listen - erase. Not pretty - but inexpensive.
If money were not an issue - I would probably go with a Creative Zen Vision (some classes offer video formats as well as the audio).