Saturday, May 24, 2008

Join the Playaway Club!

Feeling Lazy? Join the Playaway Club!

Tracy, our children’s librarian, told me about this rating system she uses for movies. It’s pretty awesome. Instead of ranking movies with stars or upward- or downward-pointing thumbs, she uses a system of her own. Below is the basic Tracy rating system, ranging from one to five:

  1. I would pay ten dollars to see it at the theater.
  2. I would pay five dollars to rent the DVD.
  3. I would watch it, but only if I could check it out for free from the library.
  4. I’d watch it if it was on TV (not free!).
  5. I’m not wasting my time on that nonsense.
I am a movie freak, I admit it. However, I'm also a book addict. Tracy’s rating scheme works a little different with books than it does with movies. Let's focus on two categories relating to books:

1. I like this book so much I’d buy it at the store ($!).

If you always need to have a copy around in case you want to reread it then it's probably one of these. I bought hardcover editions of Ray Bradbury's short stories as well as my favorite collection of Raymond Carver stories.

2. This book sounds great, but too involved to sit and read...yet.

I think we all know that some classics are more of an undertaking than others. In their near-forgotten dialects and flowery prose, they take more time and concentration than a weekend at the beach can provide. I've been guilty of this and I'm not proud of it. The Brothers Karamazov is over a thousand pages with a thirty-five page introduction! Canterbury Tales is like reading a 646-page tongue-twister written in an oblique English dialect from the 1380's. WHAT!? I've been to Canterbury and I still haven't read the book all the way through. I do plan on it some day.

This body of literature might completely fall by the wayside if there weren't an attractive media to present it pleasingly. Well... [drumroll] .... This media is now available at a magical place (Watha T. Daniel Interim Library) where everything is free: books, DVD’s, music CD's and, the focus of this rant: Playaways (pictured below). These units are basically mini-iPods, each with one or more recorded books stored on the attractive little media player. VERY cool). You just wear it around your neck, plug in and go. I listenend to The Collected Stories of Edgar Allan Poe on the bus this past winter, as well as a comprehensive volume of Greek Mythology. A kid on the bus asked me what I was doing and I said, "Reading!" You borrow books and other items and try them out like test-driving a new car. I use as a testing ground--I could try any authors I wanted, from Dostoyevsky to Twain and everything in between. And it's free! Isn't it worth a shot? I think it’s a no-brainer.

Owning books is great, but ask yourself whether you really need to have that copy of Paradise Lost when there's a library in your neighborhood willing to let you test-drive it for free!

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