Roaming Librarian’s Holiday Gift Trick

We’ve all been there: it’s Christmas Eve and you haven’t gotten a gift for somebody yet.  This was exactly my predicament for my dad this year.  However, I came up with a great late-gift solution.  It’s not just for Christmas, it can be used for New Year’s presents, Valentine’s, birthdays, and so on.  However, even though I was down to the wire, I wasn’t worried.  Because in addition to loving books, loving talking about books, loving to talk about libraries, I love giving gifts.  The holidays are therefore largely non-stressful for me (unless we are talking about fielding patron complaints about how when & why the library is closed).  And as a Christmas celebrator myself, I’m a nogg-drinking, holly-hanging, cheer-flinging, bow-tying, carol-caterwauling, cookie-cutting machine, folks.  A library card isn’t the only thing I know how to sling around, I can assure you.

However, one thing that can get tricky is figuring out what to give the Book Lover in your life.  Another hardcover just seems a little uninspired, doesn’t it?  In fact, I can just imagine the brief yet tangible wave of boredom crossing the face of some of my book-wormiest friends.  This is exactly the conundrum I’ve been pondering for my old man.

My solution for throwing a little zest into the tired B&N shopping routine?  Give a digital book!

Daaaaaaaang, what?  I know.  While for this exercise I focus on audiobooks, I’m also not opposed to recommending the giving of e-books,  despite my personal qualms, despite the crooked e-publishing industry, despite the frustration many patrons face when they realize libraries can’t buy the damned expensive things (yes, expensive.  If you do your research, you’ll see they are just as expensive as a physical book, and you don’t get to keep them forever.  But that’s for another post).  However, like it or not, all of us either have or know someone that has a smart device or e-reader, and helping them out might be just the spark for your seasonal gifting.

Additionally, this solution takes a little bit of sneakiness & recon, which always is the best part about giving gifts.  Surprising people is another one of my favorite things.  Here’s the information I gathered in order to figure out if I’d be able to pull off gifting a digital book:

1.  My recipient has a smartphone (not of the Apple variety, so those of you seeking something useful on the Corporation of Evil’s products need look elsewhere).

2.  My recipient enjoys audiobooks (not so much for e-books).

3.  My recipient does not need to enter a password to download e-reading apps.

4.  Therefore, I can temporarily spirit away said smartphone and download the Audible app in secret (the fun part), a service for purchasing and using audiobooks on smart devices.

5.  Because the recipient’s phone is crowded with apps and other things (possibly like those of your loved ones), I’m fairly certain that he will not notice the app until I point it out on Christmas morn!

I chose to use Audible because they have a wide selection, but there are quite  a few out there you can use (check out this guide on audiobook apps from AppAdvice).  For my giftee, I’m downloading the latest Thomas Jefferson biography through an account I made on the phone itself.  However, Audible will also link with an existing Amazon account you may have, making it even easier to keep your purchase info in one place.

Basically, I downloaded the Aubdible app to his phone, logged in with my Audible account, searched for the book, and voila!  Problem solved.  Now to return the phone to its owner’s pocket, and leave the reveal for the morning of.

There is a handy library version you can use, too.  Most libraries get e- and audiobooks through a service called Overdrive, which has an app you can use with your library card.  However, check with your library first.  Some institutions have their own digital collection, and some may use a service called Axis 360, which has an app called Blio.  These suggestions are the Audible equivalent if you’re on a budget this holiday season, since they and the materials you can access through them are free through your library!

However, if all else fails and you can’t figure out how to stealth-gift an e- or audiobook, maybe the best gift you can give is a library card!

(Come on, you saw that coming.)