The Advantages of MP3
by Mark Gustafson
K-House Internet Services
Koinonia House has always utilized the latest, cutting-edge technologies to reach the greatest audience possible. For example, we were one of the first Christian ministries on the Internet in 1994, and today we produce our latest materials on DVD, in addition to video, audio tape and CD.
Three years ago, we started offering our products in MP3. Many of our subscribers have jumped on the MP3 bandwagon and have thanked us for using this format. However, we still get quite a few inquires about MP3 and how it works, so we wanted to let you know a little bit more about this incredible technology.
What is MP3?
MP3 (MPEG-1 Audio Layer-3) is a type of technology that allows a music or audio file to be compressed into a very small amount of space while preserving the original level of sound quality when it is played.
To use an example, our Learn the Bible in 24 Hours series comes on 24 individual audio CDs, but we can fit the entire series on a single CD using the MP3 format. I use an Apple iPod (20GB) for my portable MP3 player. With it, I can store all of Chuck's teaching (Commentaries and Briefing Packs) on it with room to spare for my entire music collection. All of this material resides on a device that is only 4.1 x 2.4 x 0.62 inches in size (we'll discuss the iPod later in this article).
MPEG is the acronym for Moving Picture Experts Group. This group has developed a compression system that is used for video data. This compression system is used to fit video and movie data into smaller spaces in DVD movies, HDTV broadcasts and DSS satellite systems. The MPEG compression system includes a subsystem to compress sound, called MPEG Audio Layer-3, or as we know it by its abbreviation, MP3.
Why Did We Choose MP3?
We decided to utilize MP3 technology for several reasons. First, it makes our products much less expensive to distribute. Due to the compression, we can put much more on a single CD, which costs less to produce, so we can in turn reduce the price, which enables more people to afford these materials.
Most of our products will not fit on a normal audio CD. A normal audio CD can only hold 74 minutes of audio, but many of Chuck's teaching sessions go for almost 90 minutes. This prevented us from putting his teaching on audio CDs. This created a problem for us that the MP3 format solved. We can now fit almost 30 hours of teaching on a single CD, making it much more affordable for everyone.
The second advantage of MP3 is worldwide distribution: MP3 files are downloadable directly from our website and can be downloaded from anywhere in the world. Shipping to remote areas is very expensive, so this allows us to reach areas that were almost unreachable (due to cost) before.
Another advantage of MP3 is faster access to materials: downloading means no more waiting or paying overnight delivery costs. Buy it, download it, and listen to it-all in a matter of minutes!
The final advantage of MP3 is versatility. I was amazed at the number of people that wrote, asking us to provide our materials in something besides cassette tapes, as they did not own a cassette player anymore! In this age of CDs and computers, the cassette tape is becoming a thing of the past. Although any computer can run MP3 files (the software is free), there are many different kinds of portable MP3 players available, which allows this format to easily fit into people's lifestyles.
Let's look now at some of the different types of players.
Many people ask us, "What player should I get?" This is a good question, since there are several different types of MP3 players that are available. They are divided into three categories and then subdivided by storage capacity (megabytes or MB).
The megabyte, gigabyte, "what's-a-byte" numbers are difficult for many to understand, but we will attempt to demystify it for you. Simply put, a typical one-hour file of Chuck Missler's teaching is about 20 MB. So a 128 megabyte (MB) player will hold about six hours of teaching. A gigabyte is 1000 Megabytes. I will let you do the math from there.
1) Flash Players
These players have no moving parts, making them great for active people that like to listen while jogging, skiing, exercising at the gym, etc.
They are small and light and have storage capacities of 128, 256 and 512 MB. Simply connect them to your computer using the software provided to add or change the files you want to listen to.
2) Hard Drive Players
The iPod mentioned earlier is a hard drive player. These players have a small hard drive in them, which is what your computer uses to store information. Using a hard drive allows you to store several gigabytes of information. This player can be used while walking (using headphones), while driving (playing through your car speakers), and at home (playing though your home stereo).
Hard drive players are extremely versatile and can hold a "ton" of audio files. They can also be used as a backup device for your computer or to transfer large files from one computer to another.
3) CD Players
There are also several MP3 CD players available. Many of you may already have one in your living room and don't even know it. Several of the new DVD players can play MP3 CDs. Look at the documentation that came with your DVD player to see if yours is compatible. Other MP3 CD players include personal CD players, portable radios, and some newer car and home stereo equipment. These work simply by inserting the CD into the player and listening directly from the CD. No computer or software is needed.
An FM transmitter is a little extra piece of equipment that allows you to use any of the portable players in your car. These broadcasters take the audio from your player and send it to your radio so you can listen to it through your car stereo speakers.
We now have all of our Briefing Packs available for download in MP3 format and will have all of the commentaries available for download by the end of summer. They can be purchased and downloaded right over the Internet from our website-and you save almost half the cost! (See the next page for more information.) We've had the technology to do this for awhile, but broadband services have just recently reached most regions in the United States, which makes downloading large files convenient. Remember, our audio files are substantially larger than the individual songs you can download (a 60-90 minute teaching session vs. a three-minute song).
We hope this blesses you and helps as you study God's Word.
**FOR A MORE IN-DEPTH STUDY**
Learn the Bible in 24 Hours - MP3 on CD-ROM - Special Edition - Chuck Missler
This comprehensive series of 24 one-hour studies recorded in MP3 format will take you from the beginning of all things in Genesis to the final culmination in the Book of Revelation. Now available on one CD-ROM!
Click for more information - MP3 on CD-ROM