Greetings! Approximately one year ago, I turned over "The Handheld Librarian" to Tom Dennis of OSF Saint Francis Medical Center. I worked at OSF until August 2002 when I left to become Director of the Mid-Illinois Talking Book Center. What do you know - I am still working with handheld devices and digital content - in a different way - but I decided, why not jump back in? Thanks to the generousity of Tom Dennis, I am back with The Handheld Librarian - this will be a collaborative blog with several contributors as it was when I left a year ago. Jenny Levine, The Shifted Librarian has been after me to get a blog, so here we go!
The Mid-Illinois Talking Book Center is a sub-regional library serving residents of central Illinois who have a visual, physical or learning disability which prevents them from comfortably reading regular print. From January-June, we did a small pilot project with Audible.com to see how our readers liked digital audiobooks on a handheld MP3 player. With donation funds, we bought eight Otis players (an Otis is an Audible mp3 player) - The Otises are about $100 and come free to users who buy a year-long Audible listener plan. They are small - about the size of the palm of your hand. They play regular MP3 files and also the special Audible files, which play on a variety of handhelds, but not everything. We had about 70 people try the Otis. You can read the final report. The final report was written by Tom Peters, project evaluator.
The eAudio project lead to a 5-state collaborative digital talking book project with Audible and using the Otises, called the Lobe Library. Illinois, Mississippi, Hawaii, Montana, and New Jersey are participating in a shared digital library. We are about 3 months into the project, and it has gone surprisingly well. I think that the leadership from the Illinois Regional Library by Sharon Ruda is big reason why the collaborative project has gone so well.
We own the Otises we are lending out to people. We would like to be able to allow people to use their own devices, but this has not happened yet. Digital audiobooks are new to many of our patrons and although they want to try the service, some of them are not ready for a device of their own. Some who have tried our service have gone on to buy their own devices and get their own listening plan. One of the problems of eAudio and Lobe Library is we have many more people who want to try the service than we have Otises.
How low do you think prices on PDAs can go? The lower the price, the more people that will be able to use them. Take a look at this article which credits Dell with pricing on PDAs coming down.
This article talks about PDAs in the classroom and how more and more schools are allowing students to use PDAs!
Well, I am back, happy to be back and blogging. Thanks to Tom Dennis for allowing me to return to blogging, and I look forward to working with others who will be working on this blog!