I went to our nearby new library recently. I checked out a book in a new form — the “Playaway”. Basically, I am a sucker for new things — and free new things are even better.
These are not for the average consumer — they are about $35–40 each. (You can buy the Kindle edition of this book for about $10.)
The title? (“Living Well in a Down Economy” — one of the “Dummies” series.) I didn’t listen to the whole thing. There were some interesting bits about breathing right and preparing a resume. (My wife is looking for a job). It’s rare that I would have time to listen to a whole book like that, so this format isn’t for me.
I think this is a bad idea. You get a cheap MP3 player with a pre-loaded title. The sound is very poor compared to a real MP3 player. Navigation is sub-standard. (The interface “screen” is a tiny LCD readout.)
My recommendation? Libraries should “lend” MP3 titles of audio books via iTunes that would be playable for a 3-week time period. Then you use your trusted MP3 player and the interface you know and (hopefully) love. For people without an MP3 player? Perhaps Apple could produce a super-durable iPod that libraries could lend out for 3-week increments.