May 6, 2021

The Playaway Digital Audio Device Sports New Features

playaway-feature

Findaway World’s improved Playaway LIGHT digital audio device came out in March 2014. Image courtesy of Playaway

Playaways, prerecorded audio players produced by Findaway World, came onto the scene in 2005, and some public libraries purchased the devices as an easy, compact way for customers—of all ages—to have access to audiobooks. In March of this year, Findaway World, announced Playaway LIGHT, an improved version of their all-in-one digital audio device.

What is new and improved? There is a backlit screen that’s easy to read in a variety of lighting situations. The information on the Playaway screen is expanded. For example, when listening to a book, you can find out how much time is left in the chapter and the device’s battery life. And for multi-taskers, the buttons have been revamped to make it easier to manage basic functions through touch for those who don’t want to have to look at the Playaway during use.

However, I didn’t find that the restyling of the buttons made it any easier to use the device without looking at it. Perhaps someone who has a lot of experience with the Playaway and knows how things are set up might find touch controlling easy to do. But others, like me, will probably still have to study the device to push the right button for listening, turning on, turning off, and so forth.

The audio quality of the Playaway is good. I played it about a half-a-dozen times, and there was no sound loss during the plays. The test unit I had access to included a selection of “Clifford the Big Red Dog” stories, and both the narrator and music are entertaining.

Ultimately you’ll want to think about the value of Playaways for your customers. In this world of downloadable content, purchasing an all-in-one player like this might not be the best way to spend the dollars you have available. Before adding to your Playaway collection (or starting a Playaway collection), even with these aforementioned improvements in mind, ask yourself:

  • Is this device the best way to meet the needs of the children, teens, families, and others that I work with?
  • Do my customers want a single-use device like this that they can put in their pocket and walk around with? Or would they prefer to have access to more downloadable content for their own devices or access to audiobook content on multi-use devices that the library circulates?
  • Is the content that I would need for the audience I work with available on the Playaway?

In 2014, the features of this kind of all-in-one-device might no longer be right for your library. If you don’t already have a Playaway collection, I’d say the improvements don’t warrant starting one. Focus instead on how you can provide downloads to customers for devices the library provides—or for their own devices.

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Linda W. Braun About Linda W. Braun

Linda W. Braun (lbraun@leonline.com) is the Youth Services Manager at Seattle Public Library, an educational technology consultant, a past president of YALSA, and adjunct faculty at Simmons College Graduate School of Library & Information Science.