Easy-to-use audiobooks at the Everett Library

EVERETT – Think of the Playaway as a digital audiobook player on training wheels.

With only a few buttons, the portable, palm-size players are half the size of a pack of cards, and as simple to use as a remote control.

The wee devices are making a splash at Everett Public Library, where they have proven popular among patrons.

Like iPods, the current king of digital audio players, portability is among the Playaway’s biggest benefits.

Gardeners can tuck the players into a shirt pocket and commuters can hook them up to a car stereo.

“These are handy,” said Dan Staple, an Everett resident who recently checked out a few of the players.

Library cardholders can check out the self-playing audiobooks for three weeks. Patrons must provide their own headphones and one AAA battery.

Staple’s job puts him on the road frequently, and audiobooks help him break the monotony of driving.

CDs are prone to scratches and skipping, and carrying several audio tapes around can be cumbersome, he said.

By contrast, a single Playaway can fit more than 40 hours of audio and can easily connect to a car stereo with an adapter.

Each of the self-playing boxes is pre-loaded with a single audiobook, many of which are narrated by the authors themselves.

Since April, the two-branch library system has bought 89 fiction and nonfiction titles and is planning to buy more as they become available. Librarians say the players are flying off the shelves at the library’s downtown branch, 2702 Hoyt Ave., and its Evergreen Branch, 9512 Evergreen Way.

Titles include classic novels, new best-sellers, how-to books, and instructional language books for travelers.

Library Director Eileen Simmons said she listens to audiobooks on the players while walking to work and gardening. She previously never checked out audiobooks, but she found the small players convenient.

“You almost have to put them on hold because they’re so popular,” she said.

There’s also a cost benefit, Simmons said.

At $40 each, the devices are actually cheaper than most audiobooks on CD.

Simmons said the Playaways are an interim step between audiobooks on CD and downloadable audiobooks.

By fall, the library is expected to begin offering cardholders access to a collection of audiobooks that they can load onto personal computers and MP3 players.

Reporter David Chircop: 425-339-3429 or dchircop@heraldnet.com.

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