McPherson Sentinel, April 12, 2013
As one of our final National Library Week events, the public library is selling off our collection of adult audiobooks in audiocassette format. Compact discs are now the dominant medium for audiobooks, and as tape players are becoming scarce, the circulation of our audiobooks on cassette had dwindled.
I started our adult audiobook collection a little over 20 years ago with an order of about a dozen titles from Books in Motion. And I know that most, if not all, of those initial audiobooks can be found in the sale. After some 20 years of being checked out and played -- in some cases around a few hundred times -- they are still functioning.
We’ve had to replace tapes occasionally over the years, but on the whole, the audiocassettes performed remarkably well. The commercial BASF tape stock used by the audiobook companies was very durable and not prone to stretching or getting caught in a player.
The creation of the cassette tape enabled the commercial audiobook industry. The reigning format at the time was the “record”, which required a phonograph to play it. The limited recording time made it suitable only for audiobook applications of children’s stories and poems, and the delicate balance required by the phonograph tone arm – just enough pressure to play it but not enough to gouge the surface – made any thoughts of portability laughable at best.
Our current collection of some 1,000 audiobooks, now in compact disc format, has changed significantly since the days of cassettes and will continue to evolve. Compact discs consume less storage space, are easier to use, and provide great audio quality. But CDs are not the last word in audiobooks.
Anyone interested in downloading and listening to audiobooks on their iPod, iPhone, iPad or other mobile device can do so via our Sunflower eLibrary. Simply visit the McPherson Public Library website at www.macpl.org and select the Collection Central option.
No discussion of audiobooks would be complete without a mention of Talking Books, a fine program provided free of charge by the U.S. Government which sends books and periodicals in an easy to use audio format to those citizens who are visually impaired or otherwise unable to read or hold regular print media. If you are interested in learning more about this program, please give me a call at the library at 245-2570.
Regardless of the format or source, one factor determines the success or failure of any audiobook: the skill of the narrator. A good narrator can make a book come alive, and whether we are listening to an audiobook in our car, in our living room, or anywhere else, we know we are hooked when it’s difficult to press that STOP button!
The new technology is exciting, but I can’t help but feel a little sad at the end of the audiocassettes. They served the public well. And I hope they will find good homes with people who have the technology to enjoy them.