JULY PAGE TURNERS: A case for e-books and audiobooks by Aaron Oliver, LOL contributor

Wow, it’s been five years since I began writing this column. Time flies. Please, enjoy this month’s article by my husband, Aaron Oliver, as I take a vacation.
Happy reading! —Janet Oliver
It is not often that I need a lawyer, but a family matter had me consulting one. During our one and only meeting, I mentioned my wife was a retired librarian and provided reading suggestions monthly for LOL. He stated his mother had been an avid reader, but her failing eyesight had robbed her of this pastime. It had been only a few weeks ago that the same topic had arisen with an elderly cousin in Florida.
I could not resist the opportunity to extol the wonders of the audiobook. He was astonished to learn about the ease of downloading, and the wide genre choices available in the audio format. Most of all he was thrilled with what he could get—free—with a library card.
During my wife’s tenure at the library, she gave lessons, provided telephone assistance, and one-on-one help to thousands of patrons regarding audiobook downloading. Therefore, it still amazes me when I discover individuals so unaware of the giant literary industry.
The spoken wordbook dates back to 1877. One of Edison’s visions for the phonograph was the creation of phonographic books for the blind. By the 1930s, the government was producing “talking books,” but it was the 1970s, with the evolution of the cassette tape, that “audiobooks” came into their own.
Now my wife was not always a big fan of audiobooks. She was much more of a purist when it came to reading—as many still are with regard to e-book technology. I embraced the book-on-tape concept with zeal. My job required me to travel to Whiteville, Lumberton and Elizabethtown quite often, so audiobooks filled in perfectly for spotty radio reception. I once found myself so involved in a mystery while listening, I missed my turn.
Unfortunately, many times the reading was carried over to the home. I would walk around the house, carrying a little radio cassette player combo with headphones to listen to novels. For my wife it was rather maddening when she was trying to have a conversation with me. TV seemed enough of a distraction—now, this.
However, a road trip to the mountains one year got her hooked. As the industry was transitioning to CDs, and her new car allowed for the loading of five disks at once, she joined me as a full-fledged audiobook enthusiast. Today we both have audiobooks seemingly always playing in the background of our lives—while running errands, sewing a quilt, soaking up some sunshine, mowing grass, walking dogs or taking a trip. Both of us use a host of different devices to download and listen. My wife uses her iPad, iPhone (Bluetooth in her car), and portable CD player. I still have an old iPod Shuffle, and saved my old iPhone 5, which I use as a playback device.
A Case for Books on CD
Before we move on to the steps for downloading audiobooks, I want to take just a moment to make a pitch for the CD format. The players are still available in most cars, and personal portable CD players can be ordered online from Walmart and Amazon for under $20. While somewhat cumbersome in our new digital age, CDs can be easier to manage for shorter reads. As a rule each disk is divided into 2 to 3 minutes per track. Thus it helps with bookmarking, or finding a point where listeners left off or maybe dozed off in the warm glow of the sun. There are many great reads on CD that never made it to the evolutionary change to downloadable format. Do not pass up a great read just because it is not downloadable—or for that matter if it is only in book form.
Downloading a Book
Now CDs have to be collected and returned just like old-fashioned books, while we can manage our digital downloads from the deck of a cruise ship. The process locally is easy. First and foremost, get a library card. After that just take a trip to the library’s website, www.nhclibrary.org
Click on the “eResources” icon on the right hand side of the page to access the library’s full assortment of electronic resources. Browse around to see what’s of interest. However, for this article we want to look at “eAudiobooks,” which is linked on this page on the right hand side. Give it a double click.
Helpful Help
Now, I am not going to spend time walking through all the steps for downloading. Their page has a wonderful help section to answer all questions. What I will say is, the playback device does matter. Sadly, there is no universal format for audiobooks. Therefore, the help section is important to find out what apps or software are needed for which platform. Each device has its own requirements, so pay attention else the frustration level with the process will be high.
A Tale of Two Downloading Sites
The New Hanover County Public Library offers two sites for downloading audiobooks: The North Carolina Digital Library and One Click Digital. Both offer an excellent selection of titles with surprisingly minimal overlap.
Surprisingly, while digital, there are not an endless number of copies of each title. Library’s buy a set number of titles of each book, just like the ones on the shelves in the brick-and-mortar buildings. When all the titles are checked out, it important to sign up on the waiting list. Digital audiobooks are only checked out to patrons on either a 7- or 14-day loan period. Once readers go over their loan periods, the book can be retrieved from the device before its finished.
To use the North Carolina Digital Library, download the program “OverDrive” to all the devices used for audiobooks. The program is free, and can be acquired as OverDrive Listen or as the OverDrive App. Listen allows playback right from the web browser (like Chrome and Safari); it’s great for laptops or even iPads. The OverDrive App provides playback of MP3 files, which allows for the transfer of an audiobook to an iPhone, iPod Shuffle or other MP3 player. The app works with Windows 10, Mac, Chromebook, and most mobile devices.
The other site, One Click Digital, has its own media manager. Download either the Mac or Windows versions for the appropriate playback devices. The thing I like about One Click is their media manager does it all. Playing the audiobook or transferring it to another device happens all from the single platform.
Downloading Tip
Pay attention to what is being downloaded. Both sites offer e-books and e-audiobooks. Make sure the right icons appear on the link, so it indicates “audio” or “book.” I have gotten overexcited more than once and thought a book was available in audio format, only to realize it was an e-book.
The two sites have their own management style. While searching on the North Carolina Digital Library site, it’s clear to see if a book is available to borrow, while on One Click Digital, a direct hop over to the book’s main page will help discover if the title can be checked out.
I fell in love with audiobooks, as a direct result of my love for old time radio. That 1930-’40s theatre of the mind inspired my creative side. Audiobooks give me the same thrill. I’ve told my co-worker there are times when listening to a book with a great reader makes the story so incredibly real.
On that note, happy listening! LOL
Janet Oliver is a retired librarian for NHC Public Library. Follow her on Twitter: @LovelyThingsNC