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Listening library
Live Oak offers audiobooks online
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HEARD ANY good books lately? If not, Live Oak Public Libraries has a deal for you.

Georgia Download Destination is a service that allows customers to download audiobooks for free. Diane Bronson, collection development coordinator for the Live Oaks system, said the program is a resounding success.

“It opened about May,” Bronson says. “We’ve had a really good response.”

Despite the newness of the service, local book lovers have already taken it to heart. “Chatham County, Effingham County and Liberty County represent about a quarter of the checkouts for the entire state,” Bronson says. “Our residents have been making the best use of it, and I’d love to see that continue.”

Twenty library systems throughout the state have come together as a consortium, sharing the costs of implementing the system. The system is user-friendly, and even has an online tutorial to walk users through the sign-up process.

“I’m a Mac person myself, so I can’t use it because it works solely with Windows,” Bronson says. “But my sister has a PC and when she downloaded the program, she didn’t have to ask me any questions.”

Even persons with dial-up connections can utilize Download Destination. “You don’t have to download the whole book at one time,” Bronson says. “You can listen to Part One while downloading the rest of the book.”

Different vendors provide books for downloading. “It works just like Amazon,” Bronson says. “You pick out the books you want and put them in the cart. You use your library card number to check them out.

“Some of the vendors will allow you to make several copies of a book,” she says. “Some will even let you burn them to a disc.”

Customers can check out as many as five audio books at a time for seven days each. “It goes onto the computer and after a week, stops being usable,” Bronson says.

If your computer does automatic updates, the program will be eliminated. However, if you do updates manually, the program can stay on your computer indefinitely, Bronson says.

Right now, customers can choose from 500 titles, a number that is going to increase. Also, Mac and iPod users will be able to utilize the system eventually.

“We’re waiting to get MP3 titles,” Bronson says. “With the popularity of iPods, we’d like get some MP3 titles on.

“The company that provides this service is Overdrive,” she says. “Last spring they made the announcement that several companies have decided to offer MP3s.”

The number of downloads is set differently by the vendors. “The smallest number I’ve seen is three, and with some, it’s 50,” Bronson says. “You can keep downloading as many times as the vendor lets you.”

Because the service is so popular, as many as 90 percent of the titles are checked out at any given time. But if the book you want is checked out, you can place a hold on it.

“When it comes in, you’ll get an e-mail message,” Bronson says. “You have 24 hours to pick it up. It works very efficiently.”

Even with 90 percent checked out, there are many titles to choose from. “You can look up titles that are available now,” Bronson says. “There are lots of different things -- romances, history, foreign languages, current events, thrillers, even children’s books and classics.

“You can browse by subject, or look for an author,” she says. “You can search like you can a regular library catalog.”

Even though Bronson uses a Mac, she has tried the new service. “I downloaded one to my computer at work to walk myself through the process,” she says. “It’s really easy and fun.

“I think it’s a great service, one of the most innovative things we’ve done in a while,” Bronson says. “We received some extra funding from the county and one of the projects we want to help support with it is this one. We’ll be adding new titles every month.”