When it comes to audio books, my library offers traditional books on tape and CD, digital downloads through Overdrive, and also Playaways. But now we're faced with another format/media combination, mp3 files on a CD, or MP3-CD.
Patrons understand books on tape and CD. And after a little explaining, they caught on to (and are enthusiastic users of) digital downloads via Overdrive. Playaways some people still have trouble with ("so the book is on this thing, and I have to download it to what now?"), but they're catching on slowly, too.
So far, "traditional" media (cassette tapes and CDs) have been separate from the "new" formats (mp3, some DRM version of an mp3, or an mp3 on a Playaway). But these MP3-CDs are kind of a crossover, and I honestly don't know how patrons will react to them.
I think as an introduction to the format, Tantor Media sent us two sample MP3-CDs (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Call of the Wild). Both disks included an unabridged DRM-free mp3 copy of the book, and also an eBook version as a pdf file.
I like the idea of multiple formats, but it seems slightly counter-productive to have an electronic format that still requires the patron to physically visit the library. I understand that an mp3 version of the book takes up just one CD whereas the regular wav audio format might be two or three or fifteen, and that is a good savings. But mp3s aren't native to CDs - they're native to computers and mobile devices, so putting mp3s on CDs is kind of confusing.
I'm not sure if patrons will understand that in this case, very likely the CD itself is just a transportation medium, and they still need a computer or mp3 player to play the book. I know lots of CD players are mp3-compatible, but not all. I have two CD players - a stereo at home and one in my car - and neither one plays mp3s.
So, our dilemma is whether or not this is a format we should shelve. And if so, how? With the books on CD? Under an entirely new call number? What I would prefer is to circulate these mp3 files electronically, and not keep them on the shelf at all.
I wasn't sure about the legality of this, so I called Tantor Media directly to see what they thought.
The customer service person I got wasn't completely clear on all of this, so there were a few times she put me on hold to ask someone else for an answer. But what it boiled down to was that, as of right now, they are putting no restrictions on how these mp3 files can be used. When I asked her if it was okay for us to link to this mp3 file for download from our catalog record, she said the company would prefer us to circulate them through Overdrive or NetLibrary or some established interface, rather than on our own. But again, she said they currently aren't placing any limits on simultaneous users or any kind of DRM nonsense.
Which, I think, is just fine. I know Overdrive allows us to upload files to circulate through their system. I'm not sure how much we pay per Overdrive title, but most of them are still single-user, DRM-y, and non iPod-compatible. I keep hearing this is changing, but I haven't see the change yet.
The Tantor website lists their titles at a discounted price of $15.99 - $19.99, which isn't too bad. They also have a nice page devoted to how to move mp3 files from CDs to mp3 players, including iPods.
It will take some discussion before my library does anything with this format, but I am very interested to hear if other libraries have been purchasing MP3-CDs, and what you're doing with them.