Carroll is first in Md. to open new chapter on audio books

MP3 players, digital files available at libraries

August 06, 2002|By Athima Chansanchai | Athima Chansanchai,SUN STAFF

For audio book lovers, technological advances are making those cumbersome boxes of cassettes a relic. Now, books can be heard through devices no bigger than a deck of cards - and Carroll County public libraries are the first in Maryland to have them.

"What boggles my mind is the amount of information that can be stored on something so small," said Kris Peters, a librarian at the county's North Carroll branch who was among the first to test digital audio books on an MP3 player.

The county's five branches have been testing the waters with the new MP3 players - which can play up to 26 hours of the spoken word - since June. Keenly aware of the popularity of audio books, libraries across the state are watching to see if the concept clicks in Carroll.

"We're very interested in seeing what Carroll County's experience is, to see how it works - if there are any glitches," said Susan K. Schmidt, head of materials management for Anne Arundel County's libraries. "The appeal of the format is strong. It has a lot of potential."

MP3 technology compresses hours worth of reading (and tapes) into a data stream that fits neatly into a digital file, which can be heard through a small, portable player. Carroll County libraries will lend devices to those who don't have them.

Patrons will receive a black case that houses a Diamond Rio 500 MP3 player, a pair of gigantic headphones, a cassette converter and an extra battery - all for free. The equipment also lists the costs of each component. The library wants users to handle the device with care.

Time-pressed readers can choose up to four titles (26 hours) from a list of about 50 books that includes bestsellers such as The Greatest Generation by Tom Brokaw and The Red Tent by Anita Diamant.

The response in Carroll - where more than 20,000 books on tape and CDs are in circulation - has been overwhelming. Library officials said the MP3 players - four at each branch - are snatched up as quickly as they're returned.

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