MP3 Players for the nearly blind (with a budget!)
October 6, 2013 5:25 PM   Subscribe

I have a large collection of audio books that I would like to send to a relative in a format that is easy for her to listen to while in recovery.

One of my relatives will be having a series of eye surgeries over the next 6 months. These surgeries will leave her vision blurry for a long time (although hopefully her vision will become clearer). I have a large collection of audio books that I would like to send to her in a format that is easy for her to listen to while in recovery. All of the books are over 80 minutes. She requested that I send them in CD format. I have looked up the model numbers of the cd players she owns, and she does not have one that will read data cds, just music cds.

Am I correct in thinking that the best solution is a good MP3 player? If this is correct, I am looking for one that is in the sub $100 range with a large screen and easy-to-use buttons. I love my Sansa Clip, but the writing will be much too small for her to read. I need the easiest possible device for her to use. I will be loading the books on the device, if we go this route, so it doesn't need to be easy to load.

If I am not correct, what other solutions (under $100) can you think of? Please exclude solutions that require her to use a laptop or computer.
posted by studioaudience to Technology (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You can probably get an old iPod Touch or old generation iPhone for this amount of money and load it with all the books. The upside is that you can put the books on playlists so that she can browse shelves (either with her blurry vision using Apple's accessibility features to make the text large and high contrast or with the VoiceOver features activated). There aren't many good MP3 players that allow decent navigation through a large number of items in a way that wouldn't, to my mind, be somewhat frustrating. Another alternative, even though I know it sounds weird, is a cheapie tablet that just has most of the icons removed and a good audio player (and again, playlists) on it. A more retro solution is to make the CDs and then just give her a CD player that can play them. They are quite inexpensive. If she wants them in CD format and is already dealing with some annoying challenges, a new technology item may not solve a problem for her, however well-intentioned it is.
posted by jessamyn at 6:10 PM on October 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you for the suggestions. You might be right that new technology is not the best solution for her.

Additional question: What search terms should I use on Amazon to find a CD player that will play data cds? This is not my strong suit. Thank you!
posted by studioaudience at 6:47 PM on October 6, 2013

Best answer: In a similar situation, I used software to split audio books into parts that will fit on a standard CD (in 'music' format, not data) and then burned a bunch of CDs. Any kind of new tech will be too challenging. Example: if you press the wrong button on a mp3 player, you may lose your place completely, skipping to a different book or to a random chapter in the current book. It's very hard to go back if you can't see clearly and aren't familiar with the player. With a CD, the worst that can happen is you have to play it from the beginning and wait about half an hour or more or less to get back to where you left off.

after your update: 'data' cds are generally in Mp3 or similar format. So you'd need a combined cd/mp3 player. (i'm not sure if that's the right search term.)
posted by gakiko at 11:20 PM on October 6, 2013

Best answer: If you look for "MP3 CD players" on Amazon, there are lots of good results for around $50 that should last her through her recovery. When I was using them to listen to audioboks on mp3 cds all night long, one would typically last about a year or 18 months before it died of overuse. They are nice because it is a boombox that you just have to pop the cd into, and it plays like any cd, just for a lot longer.

Then search "How to make an mp3 cd" and you can get instructions for how to make playable mp3 cds in itunes or Window media player or even Nero (if you still have it). It is best to use a program to make the mp3 cds specifically as mp3 cds to be sure that they are "closed" and playable, because plain data discs are NOT playable by dumb devices (mp3 cd players instead of a computer). Burning mp3 cds doesn't take any longer than an audio cd, and will save you lots and lots of discs and time. Trust me, I've spent lots of time over the past ten years messing with audiobooks. And splitting up audiobooks digitally takes even more time. And hassle and software. And eventually you'll want to stitch them back together...

If you have any specific follow up questions, feel free to memail me.
posted by monopas at 11:27 PM on October 6, 2013

Best answer: You might want to look at players that play mp3s from a USB stick. There are many that are specifically designed for blind people to listen to audio books and are as easy to use as a CD player (maybe easier since it's harder to put a USB stick in upside down). The boombox plus is popular in the UK, it's not too much money, it sounds good and looks good, it is really easy to use, and it can bookmark your place. I don't know if they ship abroad, but there might be similar products where you are.
posted by Helga-woo at 5:52 AM on October 7, 2013

Best answer: I have one of these portable DVD players for when I have to drive long distances with young kids. I recently discovered that it also plays CDs, including mp3 CDs. It can also read from a USB drive or an SD card. You can probably find a plain old CD player to play the data CDs for cheaper, but the screen on a DVD player might be easier for your relative to navigate around, and it's only $50. If you search around Amazon there are other brands/models that are fairly inexpensive as well.
posted by bluefly at 12:52 PM on October 7, 2013

Response by poster: I was overthinking this when I posted this, because I was worried about the surgeries. (The first one went well.) I ended up getting a CD player with mp3 capability and burned books as mp3s on CDs. She was able to instantly play everything without getting stressed about learning something new. Since my gift ended up arriving right after the surgery, this worked out perfectly for her. I'm marking all of your answers as best answers, with special thanks to monopas for the detailed information and offer to answer questions!
posted by studioaudience at 8:27 PM on November 9, 2013

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