Hunting Down an Elusive Audiobook? Try WorldCat

AudiobookerWith WorldCat as your Watson, there’s no need for Sherlockian skills in the oft-frustrating search for audio editions.

Consumers, as well as students and library patrons, often turn to large online vendors like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Audible to see if a title is available in audio format, but these sites don’t provide a complete picture. How could they? Some audiobooks come out as both retail and library editions—often through different companies, with different narrators, and as abridged and unabridged versions. Searching one particular online vendor might yield just one edition of a given audiobook—or none at all. Many titles are released as digital-only products; often, Amazon’s Audible.com and indie publishers publish or distribute proprietary audiobooks unavailable to libraries (as was the case with the first release of Andy Weir’s The Martian). Some audio publishers have both a public library division and a school division. Some formats, such as Playaway, may be available for the school market through one channel, through another for public libraries, and, for consumers, directly from a manufacturer’s website. Further, non-commercial recordings made for people who are blind or otherwise print-disabled are typically unavailable through commercial vendors.

worldcat-searchFortunately, a simple solution to edition- and format-overload exists: WorldCat, a terrific, free resource from OCLC. In addition to its primary use as a worldwide, online library catalog that lists the public and academic libraries that own a particular title, WorldCat allows users to narrow their search to libraries near their zip code and find the closest place to pick up a title or request an interlibrary loan, even from university libraries. WorldCat links to a library’s website, allowing users to see if a title is on the shelf and to reserve it online. What’s more, users can create WorldCat lists, or—my favorite trick—get citations in five common styles, then export them to a variety of formats that include EndNote and RefWorks. It’s an instant works cited, even without titles in hand.

WorldCat offers unique perks to audiobook fans. Those who create lists on LibraryThing or GoodReads can, with only an author and a title, get information about audiobook editions from WorldCat. School and public librarians can search for a given title, then narrow the format parameters to audiobook, CD, or e-audiobook. The results show a full range of formats and editions held in libraries around the world, including international editions and foreign-language audio versions, as well as audiobooks available through Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic. These results can be further filtered by their availability through commercial sources, school and library wholesale vendors, and the publishers of particular editions. In this way, schools and libraries may opt to purchase and repackage lower-priced, retail consumer editions of a given title, or purchase an audiobook directly from its publisher in order to take advantage of sturdy library packaging and lifetime free replacement of physical media. (Please note: AudioFile has an excellent audiobook reference guide with detailed listings for publishers large and small, including web links and other contact information. If you desire a format currently out of print, there’s a possibility that a publisher has a small number of it in stock—but you’ll never know unless you contact them directly.)

It’s time to throw away your deerstalker cap and turn to WorldCat for audiobook discovery.

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About the Author:

Mary Burkey is an independent library consultant in Columbus (OH). An enthusiastic audiophile, she has served on all four of ALA's audiobook award committees as well as the Audies. In addition to writing the "Voices in My Head" column for Booklist, she is the author of Audiobooks for Youth: A Practical Guide to Sound Literature (ALA, 2013). Follow her on Twitter at @mburkey.

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