Playaway Woes….or the Issue with the All in One

I came in to another two Playaways that had stopped working. It’s been more than 30 days, so of course we can’t send them back to Ingram.  One I can’t even get to turn on and the other the volume has to be turned to maximum to even get the lowest muttering. I could hear it in my quiet office but the possibility of hearing it in a noisy car on a trip would be slim.

These things are supposed to hold up to middle school student abuse, preschoolers antics, etc…and 8 circulations in they’re toast.  They won’t turn on or the volume is screwy or the display screen has flaked out. I’ve heard from the selector for adult audio that she’s having similar issues and somehow I don’t think adults are randomly flinging all of these across the room. When we’re paying $60 a piece for these, we need to get more circulations out if it.

And it’s not like there’s an easy replacement plan–I can’t just send away for a new disc/tape. I have to scrap the entire thing and buy again. Our discount from Playaway is pretty much nonexistent so we usually go through Ingram who, somewhat understandably, won’t let us return them 6 months/4 circs later.  I could ask that Acquisitions Man get them directly from Playaway and then replace them with each breakage but oh–that’d just mean I’m spending $15 in replacements on however many every single year.   My audio budget is already stretched with the ever increasing demand–I need these things to hold up and do their work, not constantly need to be sent back/replaced.

I think I’m going to have to give up on Playaways–they don’t seem to be fiscally responsible as a way to use my library’s monies.

It does raise the “all in one package” question though. If we put everything into one small device, what do we do if that device fails? Jason Griffey had to send his Ipad back recently when the screen failed–but at least with netbooks/ereaders/tablets/laptops we usually have things backed up and can get our data back within a day or two.  Even that often comes with a shipping cost and headache and frustration as we wait without the information we’ve put into the machines. Playaways are supposed to be an easy answer to people not wanting to lost parts and pieces, forget a disc or worry about scratches–but when they fail,  it’s total and complete and I’m up a creek.

I want to like this format–I’ve argued FOR this format–but ultimately I’m faced with high prices and low reliability. And that makes me really crabby.


  1. Comment by Becky:

    The playaway dilema is frustrating! Have you given any thought to MP3 audiobooks? I have noticed a couple libraries in our system have purchased these. The books are on one CD which I would think would be wonderful, however, I am not sure our customers are ready for the format. I think there would be similar issues to DVDs vs. Blu-Ray DVDs.

  2. Comment by Abigail:

    Yes—I talked to a couple of vendors about it in D.C. Bolinda is big on doing mp3 cds. But I agree that the majority of our patrons don’t have the technology to play them yet. I’m not sure “I” have something that would play it–something to look into.

  3. Comment by Alex Knill:

    Hello Abigail,

    My name is Alex and I work for Playaway. I’m sorry to read about the issues you are experiencing with your Playaway collection. I would be happy to replace any non-working units you may have. If you would be so kind as to contact me at or call me at the phone number listed below. I would love to discuss any other questions or concerns you may have surrounding Playaway.

    Best Regards,

    Alex Knill
    Customer Experience Specialist
    D 440.893.0808 x181

    Findaway World
    31999 Aurora Road
    Solon, Ohio USA 44139

    T 877.893.0808
    F 440.893.0809

  4. Comment by Abigail:


    Appreciate the comment–I’ll be in touch. Ultimately though, we need a better product, not replacements…

  5. Ping from Playaway: Customer Service Response and Update : Hedgehog Librarian:

    […] state Playaway representative Mark rang this morning, in response to last week’s post about Playaway Woes. This was after a blog comment response that I’d actually planned to respond to via email […]

  6. Comment by Anne Fescharek:

    I just discovered Playaways recently. I am a disabled librarian so I’m surprised I’ve never borrowed one before.

    What a disappointment! I thought it was an ideal way to “read” while walking but I’ve given up! This is the third one borrowed and I am defeated! And I know what libraries are going through budget-wise.

    I think if I was still working I’d refuse to purchase again unless I had a firm return or refund agreement with Recorded Books. They should have the decency, not to mention the good business sense, to back their product.

  7. Comment by Abigail:

    Recorded Books’ policy appears to be $15 for replacement after I’m not sure on length of time. I need to verify with Acquisitions Man. It is frustrating though…We’ll see how it all shakes out.

  8. Comment by Gina:

    I found your site by searching “playaway just stopped working”, because I borrowed one from my library and it just conked out on me. I changed the battery but that didnt work. It wont come on… I hope I’m not made responsible. I didnt break it. It just stopped.

  9. Comment by Abigail:


    Sorry to hear it stopped working on you. Please do let the library know it stopped working while you were using it regularly (turned it on, pressed play and it died.) I doubt you will be the first person to report an issue with the format, unfortunately.

  10. Comment by Astrid:

    I am a library borrower who loves the concept of playaways but has been frustrated by approximately 1 in 3 units being unreliable. Either they totally die (changing battery to no avail) or suddenly skip to another place in the book! Arrggh!! So hard to then navigate back…
    I hope they can be made into a more reliable format as they’re great to use on the commute after a day staring at a computer.
    Thanks to the libraries for providing these audio books, I for one appreciate your efforts.