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Belk library introduces Playaways

Belk Library is introducing nine Playaway sound media players, which are two-ounce devices than can hold an entire audio book. The players were purchased to satisfy growing interest among patrons in audio books and new technology.

“The whole point of the Playaway is that it’s combining content with an easy player all in one,” says Patrick Rudd, coordinator of library access services. “So you basically put in a AAA battery and your ear buds, and you listen to a whole book.”

The sound media player does not require downloading and enables users to listen to an entire book without the interruption of changing CDs. The player also marks stopping points, keeping track of where users left off and can hold up to 80 hours worth of content.

Belk Library has a lease with Playaway, the company that supplies the players and loads the software. Every three months, Belk sends three media players back to Playaway to be replaced with new books. Currently, Belk’s players offer a variety of fiction and non-fiction, including, “The Mummy Case,” “Credit Repair for Dummies,” Eye of the Needle” and “Whose Body.”

According to Rudd, audio book listeners tend to enjoy fiction, especially mysteries.

“[Playaway media players] have been around for several years but they haven’t made it big into libraries until the last couple of years,” Rudd says.

Belk Library has had a lease with Landmark Audio, a company that provides books on CDs. Recently, Landmark Audio began supplying Playaway sound media players as well. “It’s a good move for us since we already have this relationship [with Landmark Audio],” Rudd says.

Students, faculty and staff can check out the media players for two weeks at a time. Rudd says the media players are more reliable than iPods and MP3 players because the devices are pre-loaded and users are not responsible for the downloading process.

“I’m interested to see what the reception will be,” says Rudd. “The large audience for audio books is faculty and staff, so I think we want to see if the players will appeal to everyone or if it will just be one group.”

Due to increased popularity, audio books are now released on the same day as the hardback books. “But the Playaways do not get first release,” says Rudd. “The books [on the player] will be a couple of years old.

Rudd says the audio books on CD are not going away anytime soon. But he is excited to see how the Playaways catch on. If successful, Belk will consider ordering more.

- By Sarah Costello '11

Dan Anderson,
7/21/2009 6:10 PM