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Books, the Most Patient of Teachers

Here are recent editions to my radio/broadcasting book shelf

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends,” Charles W. Eliot wrote. “They are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”

Here are five recent books that will be of interest to radio readers.

“NAB Broadcast Engineering Conference Proceedings 2010” — This annual summary will go on sale at the NAB Show next month. It’s a collection of technical papers from the 64th NAB Broadcast Engineering Conference (which we’ll preview in detail next issue), and constitutes a snapshot of important radio and TV technical trends in the industry. If you can’t attend, it’s a superb substitute; if you do attend, it’s a great summary. The book comes with a CD-ROM version. (Note that typically some papers aren’t ready in time for publication and may not make it into the book.)

If you enjoy reading Radio World Engineering Extra, you’ll love the BEC proceedings.

Published by the NAB Office of Science & Technology, paperback/CD-ROM. As I write, the 2010 book isn’t out, but last year’s sold for $120 retail and $72 for NAB members; you can also buy just the CD, at a discount.

“The Radio Station” — It’s the eighth edition of Michael C. Keith’s popular text, which now incorporates broadcast, satellite and Internet radio too. Keith gives a very brief overview of the history and scope of the industry but focuses mostly on trends and functions of the various departments within a station: management, programming, sales, news, research, promotion, traffic and billing, production, engineering and consultants/syndicators. Fresh material talks about satellite, the web, digital radio, podcasting and blogs, PPM and cluster management.

This is a suitable introductory text for a student, or that person in your life who is interested in radio but doesn’t know a lot about it; and it may fill in some gaps in your own knowledge if, for instance, you work at a station but don’t know what the folks in another department actually do.

Published by Focal Press, $54.95, paperback.

“Audio Over IP: Building Pro AoIP Systems With Livewire” — Steve Church and Skip Pizzi explain general principles of audio over IP and explore how those are implemented in the Livewire system developed by Axia Audio.

Church is president of Telos Systems and co-inventor of Livewire; Pizzi is a consultant and former contributing editor of Radio World, which was not involved in the book. Church also is the 2010 recipient of NAB’s Radio Engineering Achievement Award.

Because Church co-invented Livewire, it’s not surprising the book focuses on that implementation. Though the material is not platform-agnostic, the authors think their focus on Livewire “does not reduce the utility of this book for users or potential users of other AoIP systems. On the contrary, having real examples is vastly preferable to sticking purely to theory. We trust that many of the elements of Livewire we discuss will be easily recognized and made applicable to other systems.” They make the analogy that you would not write about web design without considering the effects on one particular browser.

The book delves into the arguments for AoIP and network engineering topics such as TDM vs. IP, Ethernet/IP networks, LANs, WANs, the Internet and Quality of Service; it talks about switching and routing considerations. Major sections are devoted to designing and building with AoIP, VoIP phone systems in the studio and IP codecs. Good resources are presented including troubleshooting, FAQs and a useful glossary of acronyms.

Published by Focal Press, $59.95, paperback.

“Compression for Great Video and Audio” — This is the second edition of a book by Ben Waggoner that aims to teach you how to compress video and audio with optimal quality and few hassles. The book is intended for “compressionists, people who want to be compressionists and people who on occasion need to pretend they’re compressionists.”

He explores concepts of vision and hearing, applies them to compression and then talks about creating, editing and compressing video and audio for use on the web, DVD, Blu-ray, phones and other platforms.

I love that he starts with a “quick start guide to common problems,” answering questions like “My boss says I need to put some video on our Web site. Where do I start?” and “Do I need a streaming server to put video on the Web?”

Formats discussed include Windows Media, Quick Time, Flash FLV and F4V, MPEG-4, MPEG-2, Ogg Vorbis and Theora, Silverlight and Smooth Streaming. New material in this edition includes VC-1, H.264 and mobile video.

Waggoner cofounded Journeyman Digital and is a principal video strategist for Microsoft’s Silverlight platform.

Published by Focal Press, $49.95, paperback.

“Sixty Slices of Life … on Wry” — Fred Flaxman offers a lighthearted look at “the private life of a public broadcaster.” Though he has spent a great deal of time in public television, he also is a radio guy; he was founding manager of WETA(FM) in Washington, has been heard on “Marketplace” and “Monitor Radio” and produces and presents the public radio series “Compact Discoveries.”

Actually there isn’t much radio in the book, though I enjoyed his anecdotes about receiving a jock strap in the radio station’s mail, about why host Renee Chaney once needed a police escort and how WETA(FM), with no political commentary in mind, managed to play “Joy to the World” on the air on the August morning just after Richard Nixon had resigned.

He calls the book a tongue-in-cheek memoir. It is a brief set of breezy stories about people Flaxman has met, places he’s lived, his dog, his friends and his surprise role in the infamous “hanging chad” case in Florida.

Order at, $16, paperback.