Listening To A Continent Sing


As much as I rely and use technology I still have not bought into the idea of a tablet or paperless book. I enjoy the smell of old books and the feeling of turning pages. Being unplugged relaxes me. I agree with author Sherman Alexie when he said digital formats are not good for authors, especially new authors. In a Colbert Report interview in 2009 he said that he doesn’t allow his books to be on any digital formats because it is too easy to be pirated.

There is something to be said about holding a paper book, having a personal library and supporting the hard work of a writer.

“I’m worried that in the music industry when music went digital, depending on the study, between 75-95% of music is pirated. Nobody makes money off of their music anymore, their CD’s.”

They make their money now off of concert sales. How will authors making a living in this new media?

He warns that, “With the open source culture on the internet the idea of ownership, artistic ownership goes away.”

But technology still moves on and the authors, readers and consumers need to adapt to the new formats. Fast forward to last week with the publication of Listening to a Continent Sing by birdsong expert Donald Kroodsma. The author shares his ten-week, ten-state bicycle journey with his son from the Atlantic to the Pacific. (A great read/gift for father’s day coming up this Saturday.)

They journey on remote country roads, over large picturesque terrain, from dawn to dusk all to gain an appreciation of bird calls – something that many of us take for granted. Hope I do not need to remind you of the book that caused an environmental movement: Silent Spring.

Kroodsma leads the reader west across nearly five thousand miles. This book allows you to be relaxed – one of my main goals of reading a physical page turning book.

The author guides you through the history of our young nation and the geology of an ancient landscape, with the invitation to set aside the bustle of everyday life to follow one’s dreams.

The technology piece that this book offers, which I have never seen before, is that each birdsong that is mentioned has a QR code that links to the song that he is describing. If you have any read an identification wild bird book you will understand how grateful this technology is for the reader. It quite difficult to truly understand the difference between a tu-a-wee and a tu-tu-tu (whistled) and a tu-tu-tu (in-flight, repeated) (Eastern bluebird and Greater Yellowlegs and Short-billed Dowitchern, respectfully, of course).


The book celebrates the nation’s flowers and trees, rocks and rivers, mountains and prairies, clouds and sky, headwinds and calm, and of local voices and the people you will meet along the way.

The book has 125 illustrations of  birds and scenes and the corresponding QR codes so you can listen to their song which is unlike any other book I have read. This book encourages readers and myself to do at least three things this summer: read, bike and birdwatch I hope to accomplish many of these tasks this coming weekend as I head off to Iceland for a 12 day camping trip.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s