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Song book

Brad Hill’s ‘The Digital Songstream.’

The fast-paced world of digital music might seem too fluid to be contained in a book, but Brad Hill’s “The Digital Songstream” (Routledge, $19.95) does an admirable job of wrapping up a lot of information, along with taking on some of the thorny issues in the topic.

Hill’s Web site is a very good source for news and analysis about digital music. In other words, whatever might be dated in his book should be fresh on his site. As for the book, it’s about two-thirds user advice and one-third topical. It offers handy tips on such topics as making CDs, finding good streaming audio, choosing (or not choosing) a music-subscription service, and setting up a music system to best suit you.

For dyed-in-the-wool types, Hill’s advice might seem elementary at times. But tips that seem basic are sometimes forgotten by folks who should know better–you’d be surprised how many people don’t make sure that their MP3 files are tagged .mp3. It’s worth being reminded that in many cases, this is essential to being able to play the file.

The more interesting portion of the book for those who have the basics down is when Hill takes on issues with legal and ethical ramifications. He admits that the entire topic of file trading exists in a huge gray area with no easy answers. But in doing so, he poses some provocative questions–for instance, instead of people who download digital tracks, shouldn’t the record industry be hounding those who rip and upload them, thereby making the songs available to millions?

“The Digital Songstream” isn’t a For Dummies volume, nor is it a heavy-duty white paper. The book’s layout encourages skimming, with plenty of bulleted excerpts and bits of bite-sized advice. In short, if you know your stuff about online music, it still has something to tell you, but it won’t bog you down if you’re a beginner.

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