For years, I have wanted to write a column on borrowing library audiobooks. In my experience, “checking out an audiobook” from the library has been reserved for the occasional hard copy (cassettes or CDs). I haven’t really taken the time to figure out digital audiobook library borrowing. Oh, I tried about five years ago and found that my Apple device was incompatible. Being the technophobe that I am, I quickly gave up.
But things have changed since my failed attempt to digitally borrow an audiobook. The selection is much more impressive and the technical aspect has improved. Remember, we’re talking about your library here. Who loves to help folks enjoy books more than your library? The help is there to get you started.
In our July 2014 Speaking of Audiobooks column, I mentioned my desire to feature a column on accessing audiobooks through libraries. I requested help from our listeners since my knowledge level, as evidenced here, is indeed low. Thanks to Mel, Diana, and Rachel for stepping up and contributing to today’s column.
Last month I started a new regular feature at Speaking of Audiobooks – For the New Listener. Today’s column targets not only existing audiobook listeners but the new listener as well. Listening to audiobooks through your library is an excellent way for the new listener to become acquainted with a number of new authors and narrators for no cost other than their listening device.
Let’s start with the easy stuff – those hard copies. Diana Neal is a librarian with Fayette County Public Libraries, in southern West Virginia, a library system that includes six branch locations and one bookmobile library in a county of 50,000 residents. I asked Diana, “What percentage of your library’s audiobooks are hard copies? Are they only CDs or do you still see an occasional audio cassette? Is checking out a hard copy still a common activity?”
Our library phased out all but a few of the audio cassettes; the ones we kept were older titles for big name authors like Patterson, Cussler, and Griffin. (And by few, I mean less than 150. And in the last year those have gone out maybe a handful of times. If we had the money, we would replace them with CD copies and delete the cassette version.)
Of our current audiobook collection, about 45% are hard copies with 97% of those being CD and 3% Playaways (which is a self-contained MP3 player). The Playaways, however, will probably be the next format to phase out as they are extremely expensive and easily broken.
Our patrons do still checkout hard copies but not so much in the winter months. Our peak “time” is during the high travel times of the year as well as those months when truckers are on the roads. Some months, we can checkout over 100 CDs in one month at one branch, other times, we may only check out 50. We have requests every month for certain titles in hard copy audio, so some people are still enjoying them!
Downloading Audiobooks from Your Library
Downloading audiobooks from your library can still seem like a tricky puzzle. But things are improving and if you haven’t tried borrowing audiobook downloads from your library recently, it’s time to try again. Yes, at one time it was a game of “You can do this but not here or you can’t do that there but, yay!, my library allows it!” Or it was a “My device works here but not there – wah, wah!” type of thing. And selection issues remain – some libraries have one book while a second library has another.
Although there is still a bit of confusion with library borrowing, overall the entire process has become much more user friendly. Diana gives us a picture of how their patrons start borrowing digital content.
Most of our patrons start with a conversation like this: “My