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When You Can't Read, Listen: Check Out Audio Books

Here's a good motto: when you can't read, listen. Audio books are now mainstream at the ten branches of the Springfield-Greene County Library District.

"Avid readers are all about books, of course, but when they can't read, they can listen to a book and our collection reflects this," said Lorraine Sandstrom, manager of the Library Center.

According to Librarian Jen Hendzlik, who "listens all the time" during her commute to work, the Library District has, more or less, 9,805 audio books on CD and 7,371 audio books on cassette. The latter, Hendzlik says, are "probably going to be phased out, but they are still popular right now."

Whereas in the past 15 years, audio book titles were limited, now they come in all genres. A quick glance at the newest include a suspense novel, "Killer View" by Ridley Pearson, true crime, "The Monster of Florence" by Douglas Preston, a book of humorous essays, "When You Are Engulfed in Flames" by David Sedaris, and popular fictional author Anne Rivers Siddons's "Off Season."

You'll find lots of popular works, such as Stephen King's "From a Buick 8" and David McCullough's "1776," Amy Tan's "The Hundred Secret Senses" and Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse-Five." Allow me to put a plug in for one of my favorite recent reads, "Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Fight Terrorism and Build Nations—One School at a Time" by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin.

f audio books are now common, digital media is the next phase in mobile reading, says Lynn Clark, reference supervisor at the Library Center, where you can download adult, teen and children's titles into your Ipod or other portable device. You can also download from home through, clicking on "E-books" on the left side of the home page.

That will take you to "download digital media" and a guided "tour" created by OverDrive, the company that provides downloadable service. The tour "walks" you through the basics, from getting started to downloading to burning to a CD. Ten titles may be checked out from the digital library, each for 14 days; after that time, the titles automatically return to the library's collection.

With an even newer technology, Playaways, you don't even need to check out a CD or cassette. Choose from the library's collection of the self-contained portable audio books through the computerized catalog, check out the credit card-sized device, install batteries and plug in ear phones and, as Clark says, "the mobility of it all is wonderful."

-Jeanne Duffey, Community Relations Director, Springfield-Greene County Library District.

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