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Thanks so much to all who responded to my question about Follett's 
Playaways.  The general consensus was that they are a big hit.  I am 
still unsure, mostly because of the price - at an average of $49.99 
each I'm not sure if it's worth it for our school.  In any case, 
thanks again to everyone, and the responses are below.
Joanna Arkans
Library Media Specialist
New Paltz High School
New Paltz, NY

We're using them and have had no complaints so far.  I even put in
another order for more since they've been so popular.  
I bought 150 playaways, and we can't keep them on the shelves.  THe
students love them.  I highly recommend them.  Our students struggling
reading Shakespeare can read along with the audio recording.  
If you happen to subscribe to School Library Journal, Joanna, I 
Playaways in this month's test drive column.

While I don't have time for a full redux, I liked them and think 
the most sensible way to deliver audiobooks in many school settings. 
catalog decent and growing. Frankly, I have yet to see any source that
comes close being satisfying in terms of offering up newer titles for
tweens and teens, and they're as good or better than most alternatives
I've had the chance to explore.

These are fantastic. The kids love them. The selection is good, etc.  
The kids here are allowed to have their ipods with their earbuds as 
long as the teachers don't care. They can also have their cell phones, 
 These are smaller than an ipod, will fit in a shirt pocket or jeans 
pocket, and are virtually indestructible (unless you run over it with 
your car).  They are completely sealed units that run on 1 AAA (I 
think) battery. 
 The kids who don't think it's cool to be seen carrying a book with 
them, will check these out willingly, stick it in their pocket under 
their jackets or hoodies or wherever they normally put the ipods, plug 
their earbuds in, and everybody thinks they're listening to music.
 The kids normally have earbuds, so we don't check those out. One neat 
feature is that it bookmarks itself when the kids shut them off so 
they don't lose their pl 
This is just amazing and so cool. It increases circulation. We're glad 
we did it.
We've just added them to the two libraries I service: 4-6th grade and
9-12th grade.

I love them. We also have a subscription to Recorded Books
( For $375 our students and teachers have access
to 50 downloads (not each, but rather for the school)to put onto their
computer or onto an MP3 player. Five students could all be listening to
"Eragon" or five students could all be listening to a different book.
Extra capacity can be purchased.

Playaway provides access to some limited titles (as they become
available and as we purchase) so that students who do not have access 
an MP3 or a computer at home can be as cool as everyone else. Students
of all ages love them!!! We charge $1 for the earbuds for students who
do not have their own headphones.

One caveat: if you don't need the fancy packaging provided through
Follett, purchase them through Playaway as an individual rather than as
a library for a savings of $10-20 on each one. We have no outside
collection source so students just hand us the Playaway- it is not
dropped into any box in which case the protective padding would be
helpful. Also, Recorded Books is also selling Playaways even though
Follett is supposed to be the only K-12 distributor- but their price is
$5-10 more).
I am using them at the elementary level.  My PTA is purchasing new
titles as they come out. The kids love them!  I have had 1 pair of
earbuds break, but no other problems.  I have been circulating about 30
of them for 4 weeks.  I do have a permission slip for the kids to have
signed before they can check these out so that parents know the cost.  
am mainly using them for students reading below grade level and I check
out the book with the playaway.  I would love to start a "walking club"
to listen and walk for exercise.
We just started circulating the Playaway audio books at my school.  We 
have also been circulating Recorded Books on CD to students.  The 
Playaway sound quality is not as good as the CD.  With the Playaway, 
however, the students don’t need a CD player.  The response among the 
students has been good.  They really seem to like them.  I do 
recommend purchasing replacement earbuds and lots of AAA batteries.
So far, so good.  I ordered 30 of them in the fall.  It took a while 
for them to take off, but they have taken off.  Now, I have students 
searching the playaway list to find a title instead of searching a 
subject or genre. 
I chose heavily from the classics because my district has an excellent 
track record of students reading current fiction, but not classics.
 But I did get some I knew were taught in the classrrom and a few for 
enjoyment as well.  We have a few visually impaired students and I was 
choosing for them in particular.
 I also purchased the transmitter for teachers to use to play the book 
 As of today, the only complaint I have had was that one kept 
skipping.  When I asked my Follett rep about the problem she sent an e-
mail asking me to check to see if the student had put in multiple 
bookmarks.  I will check when I get back to the High School library on 
Tuesday to see if that is the problem.
I have had e-mails from Spec. Ed. teachers that love them for their 
students. The sixth grade teachers are telling me that study hall is 
quieter than ever.  One teacher is using it to "read' Romeo and Juliet 
to her students and a spec. ed teacher used The Giver to help her 
students keep up with their classroom study of the book.
 We ask that the patron to also check out the corresponding book.  I 
have put several on the order for next year as well as another 
transmitter and lots of batteries.  I haven't replaced any batteries, 
yet, but with the volume of use I am seeing, I am sure we will need 
I was awarded a grant this Fall for 25 Playaways and they have been a 
hit in my library! I think they are going to be really long lasting, 
too. My only complaint is that we’ve had to invest in a stock of AAA 
batteries. Also, the earbuds that come with them are not really 
hygenic—nor very good quality. The High School students like the 
Playaways because they look cool and they will slip into a pocket. I 
would recommend them!
Several libraries in our Alliance Library System in
Illinois have received Playaways through a library
grant which the System wrote for us. I have just
started the books today and can tell you more later
The teachers who have seen them are blown away with
the technology, and the high school students seem
impressed as well. They think of them as IPODS. There
are some check out procedures that you have to be
aware of: you need to provide earbuds for patrons, or
clean them after use, and batteries. I believe that
one battery is good for one reading of the book. Some
may need a change of battery to get through. You have
to decide how you are going to display and circulate
the books and if you need to have secured locked cases
or not. We received 60 titles for our high school--a
good selection of classics, popular fiction and some
non-fiction. I think they look great.
I think these playaways have a lot of potential, but after using a few 
I can 
make these comments.
There are supposed to be 3 speeds, slow, normal and fast. But, several 
of my 
friends and I would say the speeds are  normal and  fast and chipmunk. 
is not really a slow speed which would be good for the slower reader 
if they 
wanted to follow along.
I have not always been keen on the quality of the digital voice. 
it seems to sound artificial. But, the kids think they are great and 
want to borrow them. The size is great and they can't misplace a 
cassette or 
cd for the "audio book". They do have a fairly good selection but it 
is not 
expansive yet. They are constantly adding more titles and are also 
playaways which contain more than one selection. I won a grant to 
audiobooks and have added some playaways to my collection.
Our sp. ed. teacher bought 2 for the 8th graders who were reading Tom 
Sawyer based on my reports of what I had heard and she loves them! 
esp. the bookmarking feature.  Batteries are know to go fast, but 
convenience, etc., so far, seems to be good.
We tried out six titles on Playaway this year. We have had them since 
mid-November, and they have constantly been checked out. They are very 
popular, and the kids report that they are easy (and fun) to use. One 
boy told me that the bookmarking button was sometimes a little 
inaccurate, or that after stopping it would start up back a bit so 
that he would hear a little bit that he had already heard. (To me, 
that doesn't seem like a big problem, or maybe it's even a good thing!)
 The batteries do tend to die pretty quickly (after two or three times 
through the book), and the lanyards don't always stay attached (we've 
already lost one). For the most part, we are very happy with them, and 
plan to buy a few more, and have written a grant to buy about 30 more.
When I first ordered these in October, I think there were about 40 
titles to choose from, and now there are well over 100 and they are 
adding more all the time. We easily came up with 33 titles we wanted 
as a sample list for our grant.
Our regional consortium recently purchased about a dozen titles for 
to checkout for use. (Not a real good setup for use as I see it)  I 
a couple to evaluate myself before purchasing any with MY funds. 
I am a K-12 librarian, and my experiences are that elementary students 
recorded books a lot. In the JH and HS, it seems most check outs are 
special ed students and their teachers.... I think it's harder (& so 
expensive!)to have a well-rounded selection for the general population 
First, I have bunches of recorded books on cassette... and am 
purchasing only CDs from now on EXCEPT:  all classrooms have cassette 
and audio centers. They are limited to only the CD players on 
computers.  On 
the other hand, most homes and autos have CD players, cassette players 
vehicles are becoming a thing of the past. 
I have a blind student who "devours" everything audio.  The free books 
the State library for blind can't send things fast enough for him, so 
mother wants CDs they can listen to in the car, etc. 
My special ed rooms use huge amounts of recorded books.  They listen 
as they 
read along (thus I need classroom sets of paperbacks) as well as 
individually. (BTW We are an Accelerated REader school... that 
increases the 
demand for all of these types of media.)

ONWARD to Question at hand:  

Advantages I found to Playaways:

1. Complete book is on ONE don't have to deal with the 
cassette or CD sets; having to keep them together, and risk losing one 
of the 

2. Speed of play can be adjusted, which may be helpful to slower 
readers, or 
faster readers.  (however I found it distracting)

3. The case of the Playaway makes it obvious it is a book the student 
listening too. (we have access to digital books for download to 
personal MP3 
players, but teachers can't tell if student is listening to book or 

4. They come complete with earbuds, AAA battery and a spare, a case 
for all 
and even have a lanyard that hangs around neck, which I think is best 
way to 
protect from damage.


1. Sharing earbuds!!!! Eeck!  I'd prefer each student have their own 
set, but 
would school provide them???  Also, the ones that came with the 
playaway hurt 
my ears... but many do.  I think they would really be too large for 

2. Not easy to group listen....would need a jack adapter to use with 

3. Would school have to constantly replenish batteries? It would be 
nice if 
it could be used with an AC adapter for classroom use, etc.  However 
would be another piece of 'stuff' to have to keep track of.

4. Limited titles available.  Not as many titles available as there 
are with 
cassettes or CDs. It seems most are adult or long classics. (In my 
we've found we have to work up to the longer length recordings... 
have to practice and hone attention keeping skills) 

5. Only a one year warranty. The recorded books jobbers I deal with 
replace a bad tape or CD with no time limits. Of course, Playaways are 
dealing with a machine... apples and oranges in a way. 

I may buy a few... just to see how they really work in the school 
but until cost is lower I doubt if I would buy many.

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