An electronic device the size of a deck of playing cards and containing up to 80 hours of preloaded audio content is available now for loan from the Oklahoma County Metropolitan Area Library System.
The so-called Playaway provides all the audio for a narrated book without the need to juggle multiple discs or cassettes. The user must provide headphones and batteries.
“It's just kind of been a hit here. It's great for a lot of people who are not fortunate enough to afford an MP3 player or an iPod,” library spokeswoman Kim Terry said.
“People love it because you can walk, work out, travel, drive, do just about anything and listen to a book at the same time.”
The Playaway includes an automatic bookmark feature that allows the listener to automatically pick up where he left off listening. The listener can move back and forth within or between chapters and alter the speed of a narrator's voice.
During the past year, the library system has purchased 3,296 Playaways for a total of $160,151.
“One great thing about Playaway is that it is just one device,” Terry said. “Our books on CDs sometimes have nine CDs and we'll just get back eight because the person who checked the CD out lost or misplaced one; with this it's much easier to keep track of.”
“If the library that a person wants to get a Playaway from doesn't have any yet, they can request that our library sends it to them,” she said.
The library will continue to offer audio books on CD. These devices are meant as a supplement.
Terry said Playaways have gained popularity among library users and employees alike. Other public libraries throughout the state also are beginning to carry them, she said.
“I remember walking into the storage room and seeing one of our employees organizing new books while listening to her Playaway,” Terry said.
Chelsi House who works at the downtown branch circulation desk said she prefers using a Playaway because it allows her to listen to her favorite stories at times that are most convenient to her.
“I was pleasantly surprised by the sound quality,” House said. “It's clear and easy to follow. I listen when I'm on the treadmill.”
Playaway's social media manager, Jamie Belardo, said the device is different from an iPod because the Playaway comes pre-loaded and does not require the user to download any information.
“Unlike an mp3 player or an iPod, this comes pre-loaded and is fully accessible to the user,” Belardo said.
They are not designed to be reprogrammed.