You know why to listen, how to listen, and have a good idea of the types of audiobooks there are out there, but do you have a preference for how you get your audiobooks? Do you download them, transfer from your computer onto a portable player, or are you a traditional audiobook-on-cd listener? We’ll give you a little walk through some of the different formats — there is something for everyone.
Traditional Audiobook (Kelly):
I’m a huge fan of these. They come fully set to pop into your car’s CD player and play. You don’t need to do anything, but you do need to be aware these bad boys can get long (and if you’re purchasing them, expensive). The Help, for example, ran 15 discs long. If you’re anything like me, I pull out ALL of the discs of a book at once and put them in the change tray in my car — 15 of those bad boys sometimes leads to the CDs falling off and under the seat in the car.
On the plus side, they require little to no work to begin listening. On the downside, they aren’t super versatile. You need a CD player of some sort to use them, unless you want to copy them onto your computer’s hard drive and then save them in your music player of choice.
MP3 Audiobook (Kimberly):
I’m going to be honest and say that I’ve never actually listened to one of these before, but they’ve got a lot going for them. I was lucky enough to receive a free (signed) copy of Rick Riordan’s newest book, The Red Pyramid, at BEA on mp3 CD. The print book is over 500 pages and the audio runs over fourteen and a half hours, but the entire book fits on ONE mp3 CD.
Obviously, the compact size is a huge pro. There’s no need to swap out discs while driving (yikes!) and they take up much less space on the shelf. On the other hand, not all CD players are compatible with the format. Most CD players being manufactured today can play mp3 discs just fine, but both my car CD player (from 2004) and my boom box (from the Jurassic Age) – the two players I use most often – won’t play them. If I want to listen to an mp3 CD, I’ve got to use my computer, which is a pain.
In my experience, this lack of compatibility problem applies to most public library users today. My library is not yet purchasing mp3 CDs, but I have a feeling that’s the way the technology is heading (along with downloadables, as described below). Will we see the traditional CD going the way of the cassette tape soon?
Downloadable Audiobook (Kelly):
Many libraries offer a way for users to download audiobooks directly from their database to your home computer (and now, sometimes right onto your portable device). Though I haven’t tried this out yet, it’s on my list of things to achieve in the next few weeks. . . fitting with the goal of using audiobooks on my ipod for working out.
There are a few vendors for downloadable books, but the two biggest include NetLibrary and Overdrive. Both have their pluses and minuses, so you have to figure out the quirks of your library’s system for yourself (or ask the librarian, of course). Don’t think you have access to downloadable audio? Think again. Janssen has pointed out that there is a wonderful way to find out if your library has access to Overdrive via this link.
Another downloadable option is LibriVox. I’ve never used it, but I know people who do. It’s run on a volunteer basis, where readers choose to help record all of the books in the public domain. In other words, if you’re looking to listen to a classic, try them out. And, if you’re so inspired, try your hand at recording a title, too.
The Playaway is such a good idea – an audiobook player that comes pre-loaded with the audiobook. No need to convert any files or go to the trouble of loading the files onto the device. No need to even HAVE a device.
It seems like Playaways are best for people who want a portable audiobook but may not be able to afford their own mp3 player or just don’t feel technologically savvy enough to download or transfer files to one. I’ve read anecdotal evidence that public libraries in poorer communities see more use of the Playaway, but I don’t have any numbers to back that up. There are some definite downsides – they can be pricey, require the user to supply their own batteries and headphones, and lack the flexibility of a normal audio player which can hold more than one book at a time.
Which format do you prefer?