So you’ve finally got yourself amped up to read Moby Dick. Or Pride and Prejudice. Or Hamlet. Or any of the other Serious Books you haven’t cracked since your last English class at Penn. Trouble is, you still don’t have the time. But you are about to take a three-day drive. Or you’re training for a half-marathon. Or …
One solution is the Library of Classics (enjoytheclassics.com), which might be described as one-stop shopping for great works of literature in a spoken format. For $99, you not only get 100 serious works of literature read aloud by experienced narrators, but you get them already loaded on an MP3 player (along with 50 of the “greatest classical music performances”).
The Library of Classics is the brainchild of Phil Nadel W’88, former president and co-founder of Gulfstream Internet, now president of Florida Asset Financing Corporation, who says he has been able to “leverage” his online-marketing experience in launching this new product. While only a Wharton graduate would be able to use leverage and classics in the same sentence, the idea behind what he’s selling is laudably humanistic.
“We wanted to design a product that would give more people easier and more affordable access to great literature,” says Nadel. “Many older folks don’t have the requisite skills to operate today’s high-tech devices such as iPhones, iPads, or Kindles. We decided to preload all of the books onto an MP3 player to make it incredibly easy for people to use. Just open the box, push Play, and enjoy.”
He and his staff selected the 100 books (which include plays and long poems like The Raven) with the help of some English professors and book reviewers, drawing on survey results as well. Though they did not consider the issue of royalties while compiling the list, they did place “great weight on historical sales figures,” noting that “it was imperative that all of the books had stood the test of time—works whose lessons and stories were truly enduring across many generations and cultures.”
Designing an MP3 player that is “incredibly easy to use while also being very affordable was a bit tricky,” Nadel acknowledges. “But it was worth the effort!” Sales have “exceeded our expectations,” he says, and “while our initial target market was senior citizens, we have found that people who commute and travel a lot really enjoy it as well. In addition, a lot of people are purchasing it as a gift, especially for older parents. We have also been pleasantly surprised at sales from people who are visually impaired.”—S.H.