or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk




What To Do With MP3-CDs

   September 25th, 2008 Brian Herzog

Tantor Media logoWhen 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.

The Call of the Wild cover, with eBookI 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.



Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,



Reference Question of the Week – 4/6/08

   April 12th, 2008 Brian Herzog

Windows Sound RecorderOne of our regular patrons has a radio show on a local station. He found some copyright-free songs on YouTube, and wanted to know how he could record them to play on his show.

Huh.

Of course, there are lots of ways to do this, including this how-to video on YouTube:

However, most of the usual ways require more access to the computer than we allow the public to have. Patrons cannot install software or get to Windows Sound Recorder, so he wanted something easier.

An internet search lead us to the website vixy.net, which is exactly what he wanted. Enter the url of the online video you'd like to record, choose the output file type (mp3 is an option), click start, wait, and then download the audio file. Nice.

The system is still in beta, and lists right on their homepage some of the errors you might encounter (after working with it awhile, the patron said he got an error on about one in three attempts). But when it works, it works, and it gave the patron exactly what he was looking for - mp3 files he could save to his flash drive.

But let me leave you with what I told him: just because something is possible doesn't mean it is legal. It is up to you to check to make sure the copyright on published work allows for this type of recording.



Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,



Another Announcement from OverDrive

   April 1st, 2008 Brian Herzog

OverDrive logoHot on the heels of its announcement of mp3-based and iPod-compatible audiobooks, Overdrive is introducing a new product line: Large Print Audiobooks.

Designed to cater to the elderly and vision-impaired library patrons (just like our print large print collections), OverDrive has contracted with various large print book vendors to convert their catalogs into large print audio versions.

I think it is great that vendors aren't always trying to cast wide nets to scoop up as much profit as possible, but instead are providing products based on the needs of our smaller patron groups.

The only catch is that, like large print books, the audiobook files will be larger than their normal versions. Also, larger headphones are required, too, to accommodate the extra sound.

Still, it's great. You can keep up with more announcements on the OverDrive News page.



Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,