Headphones wrapped around books

(Re)Introducing Playaways

The Eau Claire library now has adult, teen, and children’s audiobooks in Playaway format.

A Playaway is a portable pre-downloaded audiobook. Each little palm-sized device holds one book. They run on AAA batteries and feature a universal audio jack compatible with headphones and auxiliary cords.

Playaways are not new or cutting edge technology. They were first introduced in 2006, at the height of iPod popularity. If CDs had not so recently ousted cassette tapes in the audiobook industry and if downloadable audiobooks hadn’t followed so soon after, Playaways might have become our primary way of listening to audiobooks. Alas, they missed their shot.

Or did they?

We’re not the first library in the MORE consortium to think you’ll like this additional audiobook option (there are currently 1559 Playaway titles in our catalog).

Here are some of the reasons we think you’ll enjoy them:

No CDs

CD players are getting more and more scarce, and for good reason. CDs skip, they get scratched or broken, and even the “portable” CD players, if you can find one these days, don’t fit in a pocket. Plus, each disc only holds about 90 minutes worth of audio, so you have to switch them out every hour and a half.

No Wi-Fi Needed

Since you’re not downloading anything to a personal device, you don’t need a Wi-Fi connection to obtain or listen to your audiobook. Camping in the Northwoods with your phone stuck in roaming? Your Playaway will still work and it won’t drain your precious phone battery, either.

Shorter Wait Times

Being part of Wisconsin’s Digital Library (WDL) allows us access to a massive variety of e-book and e-audiobook titles. The downside is that readers all over the state are waiting for the same copies, resulting in some horrendous wait times for new and popular titles.

As of writing this blog post, there are 1356 WDL users waiting for the 52 e-audiobook copies of Liane Moriarty’s newest novel Apples Never Fall. The library has only one copy on Playaway, but there’s also only one person waiting. That’s a much more acceptable wait time.Image of Playaway

Locally Curated

Eau Claire cardholders can request audiobooks on Playaway directly from the Eau Claire library.

When you want an e-audiobook added to WDL, you have to submit that request to WDL. Playaways can be requested through the Suggestion for Purchase form on the MORE catalog. The request will go to your local librarians for consideration.

Convenient Controls

Playaways are easy to navigate. You can skip forward or back by a whole chapter at a time or just fast-forward or rewind a few seconds or minutes. The display tells you how much time is left in the chapter and shows a progress bar for the entire book. You can also choose from five reading speeds and, of course, adjust the volume. You can even easily lock the controls so you don’t accidentally bump a button in your pocket.

There are a few drawbacks, of course. No technology is perfect. Playaways require one AAA battery, which is not included. They also require a wired connection of some sort – no Bluetooth capability.

If you enjoy audiobooks, we’d love for you to take a Playaway for a test run and let us know what you think. Should this previously overshadowed technology make a late comeback?


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