Daniel Boone Regional Library unveils Playaway audiobooks

Wednesday, October 8, 2008 | 4:46 p.m. CDT; updated 9:36 p.m. CDT, Thursday, October 9, 2008

COLUMBIA — A new kind of audiobook has hit the shelves of Daniel Boone Regional Library — the Playaway.

This digital player for audiobooks resembles an iPod. It's small in size and, with the touch of a few buttons, it's easy to use.

The current collection includes 350 titles including mystery, romance, Christianand science-fiction genres from a wide range of authors.

By mid-October, a larger collection will be available. Most of the Playaways are  at the Columbia Public Library, but some are also available at Ashland, Fulton and bookmobile locations.

"They're so portable," said Doyne McKenzie, collection development manager at Daniel Boone Regional Library. "There is no need for a CD player, MP3 player or computer."

The device remembers where the book was paused and resumes playing when turned back on. It displays battery level and time remaining in the current chapter and has adjustable narrator speeds.

 "All you need are earphones, which you can purchase at the library for $1.50 if you don't have any," McKenzie said.

Funding for the $25,000 program largely came from Friends of the Columbia Public Library; $5,000 was from the library's materials fund.

"Each year they have been very generous in their donations to the library," said Kris Pharis, spokeswoman for the Daniel Boone Regional Library. "They raise money through book sales, and then we talk to them about what we'd like to use that money on. We used a portion of their donation to buy the first batch of Playaways."

To find a Playaway in the library catalog, include the word "playaway" in any keyword search.

"Probably quite a few hardbacks could have been bought," McKenzie said, "but the audiobooks are among our highest circulating materials so we thought we'd try this new format. We are getting out of cassette tapes, and this is the substitute."

The Playaways have a guaranteed battery life of nine to 18 hours, enough to listen to one book and make mistakes, McKenzie said. The batteries are replaced after every use, and the library absorbs the 24-cent cost.

"To us, it's good will to supply the battery," McKenzie said. Used batteries are recycled.

"We are always open to new media we think our public would like," McKenzie said. The format has been introduced at other libraries, and has been popular in St. Louis and Kansas City, McKenzie said. 

"We decided to take a leap. We waited until we got enough titles that we could buy enough to satisfy our public," she said.

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