Quick Look: The Playaway - InformationWeek

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IoT
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Infrastructure // PC & Servers
Commentary
2/26/2007
04:36 PM
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Quick Look: The Playaway

It may come as a shock to those technophiles who wouldn't be seen in public without their earbuds firmly attached, but there are folks out there who do not own an iPod (or alternate MP3 player). There are even people out there who don't know (or don't want to learn) how to download MP3 files. Most of us would simply leave those benighted souls to their AM radios and clunky CD players -- but at least one company sees them as a possible source of income.

It may come as a shock to those technophiles who wouldn't be seen in public without their earbuds firmly attached, but there are folks out there who do not own an iPod (or alternate MP3 player). There are even people out there who don't know (or don't want to learn) how to download MP3 files. Most of us would simply leave those benighted souls to their AM radios and clunky CD players -- but at least one company sees them as a possible source of income.Findaway World has come up with a product called the Playaway, a disposable (in the same way that a book is disposable) digital player that comes pre-loaded with an audio book or music. It's certainly an interesting concept. Rather than downloading audio into an existing player, you buy the Playaway in the same way you'd buy a hardcover book (and for about the same cost).

Each Playaway is small (about 2-by-3.25 inches), lightweight, and obviously designed for the technically challenged. There are buttons for on/off, play/pause, forward, back, louder, softer; you also can choose one of several equalizer settings, and use an SP button to either change the speed of playback (if you're listening to a book) or shuffle play (if you're listening to an album). The lightweight player comes with a set of earbuds, a lanyard (so you can hang it around your neck), and an extra AAA battery.

And that's it. When you're finished with the book, you can put it aside for future re-reads, give it to a friend or a library, or drop it in the nearest trash can. You also can subscribe to RePlay Rewards, where you ship the book back to the company for a 50% discount on your next title. That's 50% of prices that range from about $30 to $50 -- not inexpensive by anyone's reckoning. For example, the novel Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill; 2006) costs $35 at Playaway, but a little under $25 at audible.com. Of course, the latter assumes you've already got the hardware, but if you're a constant listener, it's not going to be very cost-effective.

However, this is useful way to supply audio books to people who are otherwise not comfortable with the technology.

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