Review of Playaway Audiobooks

Playaway-back

A new choice for audiobooks

A few weeks ago, the little ones and I were at the library and Ari picked up what looked like a videocassette box. I looked at the front and it had the title and cover of a book and said “Playaway” on it. Curious, I turned it over and it said “Playaway is the simplest way to listen to an audiobook on the go. Each Playaway comes pre-loaded with an audiobook, and batteries are included. Simply plug in earphones and enjoy. No cassettes or CD’s. No downloads. There’s nothing left to do but listen.”

Curious, Ari checked it out and we took it home. After we found a battery (our library doesn’t provide them, probably because they never get them back), we plugged in her earbuds and she started listening. She loved it. She said that it was way better than CDs or tapes because you never had to switch sides or change CDs. After that glowing recommendation, I thought I’d better try them myself. As an avid reader, I didn’t think I needed a new form of entertainment, but I found I love these! After everyone else is asleep in the house, I can listen to a book without disturbing anyone.

Libraries are already a “green” alternative to buying books – less paper is used and it is more economical for the reader. I believe that Playaways are even better for the environment than checking out books, tapes or CDs. I’m not sure of the longevity of a single Playaway, but short of lost copies of the audiobook, I believe they may last longer than the other three. Nothing will replace holding a book in your hand while you read, but Playaways are a wonderful option in many instances.

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Requires nothing more than headphones and batteries to operate
  • No worries about scratching CDs or breaking tapes
  • More environmentally-friendly than books, tapes, or CDs

Cons

  • It is difficult to find a prior section in a book
  • 2 year olds (and others, I’m sure) can easily push buttons while you are listening and lose your place.

Comments

  1. Sounds like a great idea.

    Can a new book be loaded onto the Playaway by the library if the original book become less popular after a few years or is each book hardwired into the Playaway?

    1. The Playaway audiobooks are pre-loaded and cannot be changed out by the customer because of copyright laws. I emailed Playaway to ask about what happens to the device at the end of it’s life and they responded

      While Playaway does recycle plastic, the main component in a Playaway, we do not have a program for customers to send damaged Playaways in to do so.

      We encourage all customers to find a local program should they wish to recycle a broken/damaged Playaway they have. The efforts to send these units in to us would create a carbon footprint that would, in turn, negate the recycling efforts.

  2. Do they have these at the montgomery county libe? I will look for them the next time I go. Good idea!

  3. I work at a library and we chose to not carry Playaways for many reasons, one of the most important being that the battery needs to be changed EVERY TIME THE DEVICE CIRCULATES. Do you know how many batteries are used over the course of the life of one of these things???? It is outrageous. While our library has a battery recycling policy, I’m sure many (most?) libraries don’t. I can’t fathom how this product could be considered green for this very reason. Perhaps they should come up with a solar powered Playaway or one that can be charged with a cord between uses. Until then, it’s a no-go!

    1. While I respect your library’s choice not to carry Playaways, I hope it was considered to carry them without providing batteries. As I stated in my post, our library does not provide batteries. At home, we use one battery for multiple Playaways. There are even solar powered battery rechargers! We used to have one, but it was lost in our move last year and I have yet to find it.

      I love your idea of a solar powered Playaway! I hope you contact the company with your suggestion.

      1. I agree with CB about the negative environmental impact of non-rechargeable batteries. One of the options on the accessories section of the Playaway site is to purchase rechargeable batteries and a battery charger, but if lost or stolen batteries are a concern (perhaps there could be a fee for non-returned batteries), I can’t see how you could consider this a “green” option. And I question your comment that you believe that Playaways will last longer than “books, tapes or CDs”. On what basis? Books have lasted for hundreds of years, especially books printed on non-acidic paper. Given the costs of these devices, and the inability for them to be repurposed for another title once the title is no longer in demand, it seems convenient but not at all the best use of library funds in a economically challenging time. Books can be recycled, but many plastics cannot. It would be useful if the company provided more details on the recycling code of the plastic with which these tools are produced.

        1. I do believe that playaways will last longer than books, tapes, or Cds. This is based on my own experiences. As former frequent CD audiobook borrower, I cannot count how many times I checked out a Cd that once I tried to listen I found one of the CDs to be scratched. I found this occured most frequently with children’s books, but I have had experiences where adult books on CD were scratched, which was especially frustrating when it was one of the later CDs. As a teacher, I purchase books for my classes each year, and after a few years a large number of those books are falling apart. One of my favorites I added to my collection last March and pages are falling out right now, after only 7 months of use (no school in July or August). I won’t really address tapes right now because I rarely listen to audio books on tape anymore so I’m not sure of their longevity these days, but they do probably get less use and therefore last longer.

          Books can last a really long time if they are made from good materials, bound correctly and taken care of, but the majority of books these days just don’t stay together, especially paperbacks. I love that books can be recycled and I do it all of the time. I also believe that a Playaway can get more “checkouts” out of the content than a paperback book. Library editions of hardcover books have better binding and more protection for the book by the hard cover than a paperback book, so it is a different situation. I really don’t know how long a Playaway can be used and how it can get messed up; perhaps submerging it in water would cause it to be unusable. To me they seem to be fairly well protected from regular use.

          When I contacted Playaway about recycling they stated that the unit should be taken to an electronics recycling facility. There, the unit would be deconstructed and its components recycled. My guess is there the plastic would be sent to recycling while the electronics components would be harvested for what ever could be reused or recycled.

          My opinion is that a Playaway version of the book should be considered over a cd or book on tape. Since it seems to me that the Playaway would last longer than the other audio options (not counting the option to download the audio version from the library to your computer) I think that this makes more sense economically.

          In addition, I also think the company could find a way to recycle the entire unit when the title becomes unneeded of obsolete in the Playaway format. It will probably take the public and the libraries asking for it to have the possibility to come to fruition. Who knows, since I suggested it in my email to them a few months ago they may be working on it as we discuss!