10 September 2019

Take your reading habit out with e-books and audiobooks

| Jesse Rowan
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Audiobooks are becoming increasingly popular, and are available at many libraries. Photo: Jesse Rowan.

Leigh Sales reminds us it’s OK to be a “smart, well-read and nice person”. She was speaking about her popular podcast with Annabel Crabb, Chat 10 Looks 3, where books are an essential part of the chat. But how do we make time for reading in our often hectic schedules?

Donna Lawrence, team leader at Moruya Library is excited at the way libraries are adapting to meet the changing technological needs of their users. Eurobodalla Libraries have joined with other libraries in south-eastern NSW to expand the collection to over 20,000 e-books and e-audio books.

“Thirty per cent of our active members use e-resources and this number continues to increase,” says Donna. “At Eurobodalla in 2016/17 there were 5,242 CD/MP3 audiobook loans at the library and 5,998 e-audio book downloads, meaning e-audio downloads are over 50 per cent of audiobook borrowing.”

Eurobodalla libraries use three main e-book borrowing platforms – BorrowBox, Rbdigital and Storybox. These enable downloads on a wide range of devices, including iOS and Android smartphones and tablets, Amazon Fire, Kindle, as well as laptops and PCs.

BorrowBox has been developed by Bolinda Audio, an Australian company based in Melbourne who have published audiobooks for over 25 years. Up to 5 e-audio and 5 e-books can be reserved or borrowed through Borrowbox. The maximum borrowing time for these is currently 14 days plus two renewals of 14 days each – up to 42 days.

The app keeps track of where you are up to, even when you switch your phone off. You can browse, reserve, borrow and return books on your own device anywhere, at any time. The app shows the loans you have out, when they are due, and which books are on reserve. A notification email is sent and the item will appear in your loans list in the app. Then you download the chapters to listen to it.

Audiobooks vary in size but are usually around 350 – 400 MB when downloaded through the app on your smartphone. This is nullified when using Wi-Fi. People with limited data to download can use the free Wi-Fi at libraries.

The BorrowBox platform alone offers Eurobodalla Libraries access to 14,555 e-book titles and 3,827 e-audio titles. This includes new releases, with new titles being added every month. Rbdigital’s offerings expand on this, too.

Bolinda Audio explains how authors are paid royalties on units purchased by the libraries: “We enforce a one copy, one user borrowing system through the app, meaning that only one person can loan a title at any given time. Should libraries wish to stem ‘queuing’ for popular titles, they have to purchase multiple copies of popular titles.”

“Customers regularly comment that they prefer Australian and British narrators, and that the quality of the narrator is significant in whether they listen to an audiobook. In fact, customers talk about the narration and narrators as much as they discuss the books themselves,” Donna tells me.

My favourite audiobook so far has been Kate Grenville’s ‘One Life’, read by the author. It’s the story of her mother’s life, told in her voice. Nance is an inspiring, brave and gutsy woman, and her insights show a picture of Australian life from her birth in 1912, through the poverty of Depression and later years when women struggled to find an identity other than mother and wife.

Audiobooks take your reading habit anywhere – even the gym! Photo: Supplied.

Through the Rbdigital borrowing platform, Eurobodalla libraries offer a further wide range of e-books, e-audiobooks and more than 370 full colour, interactive digital magazines with no limit to the number of magazines you can download. You can borrow a further 5 e-audio and 5 e-books.

Storybox is aimed at primary school-aged children and offers videos of children’s books being read aloud as each page is viewed on the device. Filters such as children’s ages, storytellers, authors, indigenous stories or other subjects can help your search.

Audiobooks on CD and MP3 are still available through libraries, with about half of audiobook borrowers using these. “This is a good option for people in our community who don’t own a smartphone device or are not comfortable with new technology.”

A Few Helpful Hints:

  • Check your library card number for whether it has zero (0) or a capital O – if it’s wrong you won’t gain access!
  • Try to download audiobooks using WiFi to save using your phone’s data allowance if your plan is limited. Download more than one book to give yourself a spare.
  • Library staff will happily help you get started. Eurobodalla libraries regularly offer workshops on building technology skills, such as Be Connected and Tech Savvy Seniors workshops.
  • Membership to Eurobodalla Library Service is free to those who work, live or study in Eurobodalla. Click here for further information.

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