Launched in 2011 by portable audiobook and media platform provider Findaway World, handheld Playaway View units were designed with kids in mind, featuring straightforward, oversized button controls, scratch-resistant screens, and pre-loaded series of shows from PBS Kids, Sesame Street, and others.
But two librarians who participated in a pilot test with the company last fall say that the units’ portability and ease-of-use has also proven popular with adults, since Playaway began offering units featuring classic TV shows, do-it-yourself (DIY) videos, documentaries, and other content.
“My initial view was that it is kind of geared toward kids—kids that are stuck in the backseat of a car going on a roadtrip, and they don’t have a DVD player,” said Kelly Fann, Director of the Tonganoxie (KS) Public Library.
“They’re still incredibly popular with children, more so than adults, but there is a particular segment of the [adult] population that really enjoys them. They’re easier to manipulate and use than a DVD player, I think that’s part of the allure.”
Fann said that the pre-loaded, $99 units offer a viewing option for patrons who can’t afford cable or don’t own a DVD player, and said that she had received positive feedback on the units’ design from older patrons, including a couple of users who have arthritis.
“I think it’s been really handy for the elderly, or people who are not as technologically inclined or who struggle with buttons as well,” she said. The buttons “are not hard to press, they’re easy to find, they’re large and oversized.”
The only common criticism from adult patrons was that they would prefer a larger viewing screen, Fann said.
The portability of the units also seemed to appeal to do-it-yourselfers working on home projects or viewing the instructional videos on topics such as home finance, noted Tracie Curtis, Supervisory Librarian for Apache Junction (AZ) Public Library. Stopping and rewinding is easy, which simplifies note taking or hands-on projects, she said. The DIY videos, along with classic TV shows had been two of the more popular categories for adults during and after the pilot test.
Fann gave a similar assessment of use in Tonganoxie, noting that the popularity of the DIY playaway views was “also a wakeup call that we needed more DIY DVDs” in their collection. But “the TV shows are definitely the popular ones” led by I Love Lucy, the Dick Van Dyke Show, and Bonanza.
According to surveys collected during the pilot test at Tonganoxie, Apache Junction, and seven other libraries, 91 percent of patrons who tried the devices loaded with content geared toward adults said that they would check out the device again.