It’s 1970 and a time traveler from the future befriends you. He offers you a gift upon his departure. Something, a mere trinket, he had on his person. He gives this to you, and it is a cassette-sized plastic rectangle with buttons on one side and the cover of a book on the other. He tells you that it’s a book—an “audiobook”.
You say “Wow! How do I read it?”
“You don’t read it,” he says. “You listen to it. The book is read to you.”
“Get Out!” you say.
He then shows you the miniature headphones, which he calls “earbuds,” to place in your ears. In a minute, he shows you how to use the device.
And then it occurs to you that it would be nice to have many books like this so you ask, “Can I place other books on this device?”
Your guest from the future replies, “There are such devices as you describe, but this device only plays one book.”
“But what if you want to hear another?” “Then you buy another such as this, but with a different book on it.”
“Amazing!” you say after you close your open jaw. “A self-contained audiobook.”
Okay, so it’s not a jetpack.
But I have to admit to having a science-fictional sense-of-wonder about the Playaway audiobooks.
As you may have gathered, a Playaway is a complete audiobook preloaded onto a portable player device.
They are about the size of a cassette and can hold up to 40 hours.
There’s over a thousand titles available from many different audiobook publishers.
The package for each title contains a battery, earbud-style headphones, a lanyard, and brief direction on using the Playaway. The player features are simple and easy to use.
It has the basic functions you’d expect: fast forward/up, rewind/back, play/pause and the power button. It also offers an EQ button that has five presets. There’s also a speed button with two settings that can increase the pace of the reading without changing the pitch.
Although I enjoyed the Playaway player, there are a couple of attributes that could be better. One is the way it bookmarked the audiobook when you shut the power off. When the audiobook was turned back on, it sometimes goes back to the beginning of the track. If you’re near the end of a twenty-minute track when you shut it off, then you need to do some fast forwarding to get back to where you were. At other times the book started up where I left off.
The sound quality is just okay. It’s actually quite similar in quality as a download from Audible. Hopefully, this is something that can be improved upon in future titles as the cost of tech components continue to drop.
One last quibble is that the batteries in each of the two titles that I received were dead. The Playaway takes a standard AAA battery. It was easy to replace, so not a big deal in my case. But if you bought one to listen to on a plane; for instance, it could be a bummer if you didn’t have an extra battery. Overall, I think this is great option for many listeners. For hardcore audiobook listeners, it’s probably not going to supplant your dedicated listening device. But as a gift for a non-techie or for the occasional listener, it may be ideal. They are also becoming very popular at public libraries for the obvious conveniences to their patrons.
And because our dedicated readers at SFFaudio rock, we have an exclusive discount code from Findaway, the makers of the Playaway. The discount code is good for first time purchasers.
To receive 20% off, just go to www.playawaydigital.com and during checkout enter this code:
Pretty cool, I know. And just in time for the holiday season.
posted by The Time Traveler (of the Time Traveler Show podcast, and is not incidentally sending today’s technology into the past. It must be stated that he is in full compliance with the prime directive of the Time Patrol. And the rumors he has a personal jetpack in his garage are simply not true.)