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Knox County Public Library kicks off ‘downloadable books’

Residents of Knox County are the first in Tennessee and among the first in the United States with the option to download audio books for free.

The only requirements? To be a cardholder at the Knox County Public Library and have access to a computer with Windows Media Player (version 9 and above.) Cardholders with a personal digital player, such as an MP3 player, can transfer their downloads and take their audiobook with them wherever they go.

“You can sit there on your lunch hour and learn French,” said Mary Pom Claiborne, communications administrator for KCPL.

Foreign language education including Spanish, Greek, Albanian and Portuguese is one of the audiobook genres, which has been a popular choice for Knox County library card holders since the service began last month. Currently, cardholders can choose from about 1,000 audiobooks, but their collection is growing, Claiborne said.

In addition to current bestsellers, titles include such classics as “Crime and Punishment,” “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” “The Adventures of Robin Hood,” “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes,” “Anna Karenina,” “Last of the Mohicans” “Robinson Crusoe” and “The Count of Monte Cristo.”

History lovers might choose “45 Letters from Jefferson;” science enthusiasts the “ABC’s of Science,” and theater aficionados “The 14 Gilbert and Sullivan Plays.” Fans of Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code” can download his “Angels and Demons.”

Simultaneous publishing of audiobooks allows library users to download an audiobook as soon as the print version is available.

KCPL provides this service through NetLibrary, a leading provider of eBooks that partnered with Recorded Books, the world’s largest independent publisher and distributor of unabridged audio books. Companies such as Audible offer the same kind of service to private customers for a fee, which starts at $15 per use.

KCPL pays about $18 per title, Claiborne said, which is saving the system money.

“Unabridged audio books are extremely expensive,” she said. “Sixty to seventy-five dollars each. … There’s been a lot of effort to do things smarter here and be more efficient. Technology has been a big part of that.”

In addition, the service is more economical since KCPL will save money buying fewer duplicate copies and replacing damaged materials.

The library will continue to maintain physical copies of audiobooks; however, the service allows an unlimited number of patrons to simultaneously download a title at one time.

Since the service began, Nelda Hill, manager of KCPL Sight and Sounds department, said she’s heard a few reports of patrons having problems with the service — one being certain anti-virus software interrupting a download. KCPL can help with some technical questions; most will be directed to NetLibrary.

The size of audiobooks average from 13 to 217 megabytes; patrons have the choice to download them as radio or CD quality. To transfer downloads to a digital media player, patrons must choose CD quality — a format that will require more storage space on the player.

Digital media players range in price from about $90 to more than $500. Sizes are from about 120 megabytes to 60 gigabytes.

To download an audiobook, log onto from a home or personal computer. Apple iPOD does not support the format. The service is not available on branch libraries’ computers. Cardhold-ers use their library number and pass code to access the system and can download up to six books at one time. They then have three weeks to listen to the audiobook and can renew their “license.”

Once their license(s) is over, the download “expires … like ‘Mission Impossible,’” Claiborne said. “There’s an expiration date built into the code.”

For more information, call 865-215-8750.


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