Sunday, June 14, 2009

Instrument Evaluation: Want to Playaway?

Yes. Playaway is spelled correctly. I'm talking about a Playaway preloaded digital audio book player.
In total, over 6,500 titles are available on Playaway. The complete list of titles available to schools can be obtained by combining the Follett (the exclusive distributor of Findaway World's titles in the K-12 market), Recorded Books, and BBC America catalogs.

Playaway is the easiest way to listen to a book on the go. Simply plug in the earphones and enjoy. No Cassettes or CDs. No Downloads. Just Play.

Our school library just purchased a few of these devices, and the librarian asked me to demo one. I took it with me on a school trip and offered it to students during the ride. It got mixed reviews.

While most students were eager to listen to the device and sat quietly doing so, there was one student in particular that was frustrated by the fact that there was only one book to listen to from this one machine. In the world of iPods and mP3s, this student commented that he wanted more choices than just one book. He pushed the buttons a lot in order to figure out how they worked.

According to the Southern Scene company:

Each title is supplied in specially designed library packaging and includes:
  • The Playaway digital audiobook
  • Earbud' style earphones
  • User instructions
  • Two batteries (one inside the unit and one spare)
  • Lanyard


  • 10 volume levels
  • 3 voice speed levels: normal, fast and fastest
  • Bookmark your favourite sections
  • Skip forward and back chapters and bookmarks
  • Rewind, fast forward and pause
  • Remembers where you stopped
  • Can also be used with most headphones,
    speakers and car adapters
  • Time remaining and battery level on LCD screen
  • Full 12 months warranty
From my perspective, the Playaway is a great alternative to an expensive iPod or portable cd player, although it is still expensive at approximately $50. Despite the price, the Playaway is a assistive technology alternative for students that have difficulty decoding. The fact that the student can only listen to one book means that he or she has to focus, and will not be distracted by any other auditory book choices. However, the success of a book on tape always depends on the reader. A unique alternative to this product would be the ability to choose a different reader.

Based on my knowledge and experience with audio books, I like this unique alternative to books on cd which can get scratched or a expensive iPod that could easily get dropped and broken. Educators should consider the Playaway for students that benefit from books on cd or tape.

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