I read the monstrous article on this new device in the Cleveland Plain Dealer and have been mulling over this little cutie since. Now I am near a Borders, so B and I went over to pick one up. Ours cost $40 for a 7 hour rendition of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Charlie and the Glass Elevator, not that much over the $30 Itunes download if you don't have a device. Some others are way overpriced: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was $35. The same is $18 from Itunes, the whole Chronicles was $70 on CD. And the Plain Dealer isn't joking about some of the physical problems - the battery door I find impossible. With a pocket knife, B got it right away.
Another problem I hope they work out - that LCD screen is tooo small. I have sharp eyes, but for people for whom reading is a problem because of sight and want to use the device for that reason, it's a real hurdle.
Bonuses over an iPod shuffle (which is what I'm currently using at my high school library job)- ability to control the speed of narration (well, you can make it faster and faster still, I'd also like to be able to slow it down, especially for my readers who really aren't reading well quite yet), ability to create your own bookmarks for easy reference later, and, duh, any screen at all - even if it only tells you what chapter you're on and how much time is to go in that chapter and how your battery is doing.
I definitely see possibilities for libraries, especially for libraries for whom, for whatever reason, circulating ipods or other mp3 devices wouldn't work. They are small and cute and digital, and erase any need for any kind of player. They would also be easier for libraries to circulate, as they fit into a more traditional model of a tangible thing, easily cataloged, easily checked out, easily returned.
The other thing that strikes me, neither good nor bad but just different - the Playway prominently displays the cover of the book on its front. When you attach the (suprisingly very sturdy and super-high quality) lanyard and wear it around your neck, everyone can see what you are listening to. With any other device, there is a level of anonymity - that iPod or Rio signifies nothing other than you are listening. To music, to audio, to podcasts - we don't know. With the Playaway, it's all right there for everyone to see.
And I agree with this former employee's comment about the sharing. That is so cool. Since the Playaway doesn't involve you loading anything onto the device, you are stuck with the book you bought. What to do? Playaway encourages all kinds of sharing. Give it away, loan it, leave it on a bus - that kind of thing. Mebbe they can include - donate it to your library.