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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Katy Perry Dominates Billboard Chart; Joins the Ranks of Michael Jackson and Mariah Carey

Pop music sensation Katy Perry recently joined a very elite club. When her single “E.T.” hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, it became the fourth track from her current album, Teenage Dream, to do so. Only eight other albums have yielded four #1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart; Perry’s is the first since Usher’s Confessions in 2004, and the first by a female since Mariah Carey’s self-titled debut in 1990.1

Looking at the full list of artists and albums to attain this feat, you’ll see that Perry has joined some legendary artists who have made a great impact throughout their years in the music industry. Teenage Dream is only Perry’s second album; thus, this honour seems to bode well for the 26-year-old artist and her young career.

Although she didn’t take home any awards, Perry was nominated for four Grammy Awards this year, including Album of the Year for Teenage Dream.2 At the time, there was a certain amount of uproar over the nomination. In retrospect, after yielding so many #1 hits, perhaps the nomination was justified after all. Then again, we all know that popularity doesn’t always mean something is “good.”

Certainly Ms. Perry is no stranger to controversy, even aside from the consternation over her Grammy nomination. So what do you think? Leave us your comments on Katy Perry, her music, her accomplishments, and her controversies.


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Audiobooks Everyone Should Hear

Last month, I came across a blog post on Stephen’s Lighthouse about a consensus cloud entitled “Books Everyone Should Read.” This post inspired us here at CVS Midwest Tape to develop our own cloud.

After scouring through critical review sources (like Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Library Journal), award nominees and winners (such as The Audies, Parents Choice, and AudioFile Earphones), and lists from major publications (like The New York Times, O Magazine, US Weekly, and Entertainment Weekly), CVS Midwest Tape noted and tallied the most frequently occurring titles.

From this tallied list, we constructed our “Audiobooks Everyone Should Hear” cloud. These audiobooks have garnered the most critical praise, awards, and popularity over time.

Do you see your library’s most popular audiobook?
What audiobook do you recommend the most? Is it in our cloud?

Click image to enlarge.

Is your library missing anything from our audio cloud? Shop this collection of classics and contemporary sensations now: search “Audiobooks Everyone Should Hear” in SmartBrowse.

Friday, April 22, 2011

IMAX and 3D: In Theaters and At Home

While IMAX theaters and 3D effects have lurked for a long time in the background, recently filmmakers have been using them to revolutionize the movie industry. As moviegoers (and library patrons!) become more aware of these innovations, let’s take a look at what IMAX and 3D mean, both for the general public and for you, the media-savvy librarian.

IMAX, 3D, and the future of film

As home theater technology grows more advanced and box office revenue continues to drop, movie theaters are searching for ways to entice viewers with experiences they can’t get anywhere else. Movie studios are helping theaters step up their game by producing an increasing number of films in the IMAX and 3D formats. These viewing technologies provide moviegoers an intense, immersive experience that is (as of now) difficult or impossible to replicate at home.

IMAX is a video technology that allows images to be recorded at a much larger size and higher resolution than traditional filming. A standard IMAX screen is 72’ x 53’; this takes up most of the viewer’s field of vision, placing them “in the movie” in a way that standard theaters simply can’t. Traditionally, IMAX technology has been limited to documentaries and specialty projects, such as planetariums. One of the first uses of IMAX as an entertainment venture was a Rolling Stones concert film in 1991.

As of September 2010, there were more than 445 IMAX theatres in 47 countries. While this is only a fraction of the number of standard theaters, the format is growing in popularity. In 2010, IMAX raked in a record total of $546 million, over 200% more than their 2009 income.¹

Paramount has signed on to produce a number of upcoming films in the IMAX format. Super 8, Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, and Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol will be shot for IMAX screening. Transformers and Tintin will be shown in 3D as well.²

Film is generally a two-dimensional experience: height and width. As the name implies, 3D adds a third dimension: depth. Most people are familiar with the goofy red-and-blue-lens glasses generally associated with 3D viewing—necessary to produce the 3D illusion; the picture would be nearly impossible to view without them because of the distortion that produces the effect.

An occasional novelty for so long, 3D gained traction as the technology for creating the effects improved and decreased in cost. It exploded into the mainstream in 2009, though, with such films as Coraline, Up, and, of course, Avatar, which has gone on to become the highest-grossing film of all time with nearly $3 billion in box office receipts worldwide.³ Avatar was actually filmed specifically for 3D with cameras developed especially for the project, rather than having 3D effects added in post-production like previous 3D movies. This only further heightened the legitimacy of this theatrical effect.

Avatar’s creator, movie mogul James Cameron, sees a bright future for 3D. “My guess is that within the next five years we'll be almost completely in 3D in theatres,” he said in a recent interview with the Sydney Morning Herald. He’s currently preparing his epic Titanic for a 3D rerelease in 2012.⁴ Additionally, George Lucas has announced plans to rerelease the entire Star Wars saga in 3D, beginning with Episode I: The Phantom Menace in 2012.⁵

Merging of IMAX and 3D
With the increased revenue seen by IMAX and the success of 3D films like Avatar, it’s obvious that the future of movie theaters lies in these advanced technologies. So why not combine the two? As it turns out, that’s exactly what’s happening. Again, Cameron was on the leading edge with the 3D IMAX documentary Ghosts of the Abyss in 2003. Feature films have followed; in fact, nine out of the thirteen films slated for IMAX release in 2011 will be in 3D.⁶

Home Theater
The goal of all this, as mentioned previously, is to get viewers to visit theaters by offering them a movie-watching experience they can’t create for themselves at home. Televisions and Blu-ray players capable of producing the 3D effect are on the market, but they remain a niche product for now. One recent survey predicts that one-third of American households will have a 3DTV set by 2014, so we’re still a few years away from 3D being a mainstream home technology.⁷ And as for IMAX, forget it. Even the largest HDTVs and 3DTVs can’t come close to duplicating the experience of a giant theater screen.⁸ Still, I’m sure those in the home theater business won’t give up on trying to replicate the moviegoing experience as closely as ever-advancing technology allows.

Effect on Libraries
So, what does all this mean for you, the librarian? With 3DTV in its infancy, demand for 3D Blu-rays is likely to be limited for now. As with any fledgling technology, demand will increase with time, so it’s something to keep an eye on. Have there been any patron requests for 3D Blu-rays at your library? Or have you heard any feedback on why patrons have or have not adopted the technology in their homes?


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Enhancing Summer Vacations with Audiobooks

April showers may bring May flowers, but it also brings spring break for school kids and the fleeting thoughts of imminent summer vacation. While children look forward to a lengthy break from school, we all know that the cries of “I’m bored!” aren’t far behind. One solution to this familiar complaint? Audiobooks. Libraries can provide relief to kids and adults with their robust selection of hot new titles and familiar favorites.

Versatile Entertainment
The great thing about audiobooks is that you can listen to them anywhere. Both kids and adults alike can pick one out to listen to around the house or take them along on the go. While a multiple-disc audiobook itself may be a little unwieldy, it can always be loaded onto an MP3 player; or there’s the convenient Playaway format.

Of course, “I’m bored!” is just one of the dreaded cries of summer vacation. For families that may be taking long car trips, another is “Are we there yet?” Audiobooks are a great way to make the miles pass more quickly. Instead of everyone being isolated their own earbuds, smartphones, or games, an audiobook played on the vehicle’s stereo system is something everyone can enjoy and engage in. Then the cliché that getting there is half the fun will inspire smiles and nods instead of eye-rolls and grimaces.

More than Just Entertainment
Audiobooks can provide more than entertainment, though. One obvious advantage of audiobooks is that they’re accessible even to those with sight or reading disorders. Studies have shown that listening to audiobooks increases the reading accuracy of children with developmental dyslexia, which in turn improves their overall school performance and behaviour. Also, listening to audiobooks helps ESL students with fluency in English, which includes many of the same benefits.

However, audiobooks also benefit children without reading disorders and for whom English is their native language. It’s well known, for example, that reading to children from an early age is vital to their success as they learn to read themselves. While nothing can replace the one-on-one interaction between a child and a parent (or another loved one), audiobooks can serve as a fantastic complement.

As reading skills develop, using audiobooks while reading along can increase a child’s comprehension. This is particularly true for works that depend on dialects (like those by Mark Twain) or depend on older forms of the language (like Shakespeare). As they listen, students get the sense of the rhythm of the language, and thus become better equipped to read aloud themselves.

Listening to audiobooks also increases a child’s interest in reading, both via audiobooks and regular printed books. In that sense, children who start with audiobooks often become lifelong readers.

It’s important to note, too, that audiobooks offer advantages for adults as well, aside from being something they can share with the family. You can listen to them to pass the time on your daily commute or workout, or slip into your earbuds when you need to escape from the rest of the world for a few minutes (or more). Readers with failing eyesight can continue to enjoy audiobooks. And studies have shown that engaging the mind through reading or listening to audiobooks can decrease the risk of memory loss by 30 to 50 percent.

Spread the Word!
Unfortunately, the use of audiobooks as an educational tool is often limited because parents and even teachers are unaware of the benefits. You can help them out simply by promoting your library’s audiobook collection. How about a display of great summer listens or audiobooks that may be on local school reading lists? Let Midwest Tape help! Check out our collection of 2011 summer listening for kids from AudioFile magazine.

Do you know of other audiobook benefits we didn’t discuss? Are audiobooks a part of your summer reading program? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Five Ways to Recycle Damaged Jewel Cases

Jewel cases crack; their hinges snap; and their disc teeth break. It’s no wonder so many of our customers are signing up for case transfers, requesting their CDs arrive repackaged in more durable, drop-box-safe cases. But what do you do with all the broken Jewels you have back at your library? In honour of Earth Day, we decided to research and share with you how to recycle your Jewel cases.

Unfortunately, recycling your Jewels isn’t as simple as tossing them in your city-issued big blue recycling receptacle. Jewel cases are made from brittle polystyrene—a type of plastic that takes a very long time to biodegrade. Because of its light weight and low scrap value, polystyrene is not easily recycled, thus most curbside collection programs do not accept it. Many people then turn to simply tossing their polystyrene—like Styrofoam, yogurt cups, and disposable razors—into the garbage, ultimately contributing to beach and ocean debris as well as incinerators and permanent landfills.

Most recycling centers encourage people to reuse their Jewel cases if possible—like as a lamp, a birdhouse, or bookends. Has your library done an activity that involves reusing Jewel cases? If so, what creative things did your team and/or patrons make?

If your cases are destroyed, though, and therefore not reusable, there are a handful of recycling options:

1.) CD Recycling Center of America advises people to box up all their damaged Jewel cases; mark the box “Cases Only”; and ship the box to:

The Compact Disc Recycling Center of America
68E Stiles Road
Salem, NH 03079

They’ll recycle the damaged cases for you, and while you’ll have to pay for shipping from Canada to the U.S., you’ll generate less trash, contribute less to landfills, and decrease the amount of incinerator emissions polluting our air. CD Recycling Center of America suggests your library make a campaign of it and encourage patrons to also donate any damaged cases.

Note: CD Recycling Center of America also recycles damaged discs. You can box up your discs and mark the package “discs only” and ship it to the same above address.

2.) CD Recycling Central also accepts shipments of unwanted Jewel cases. To mail your damaged cases, simply box them up and ship them to:

Polysource International Inc.
401 S. Euclid Ave.
Ontario, California 91761

Once again, you pay for shipping, but you can also toss any damaged discs you want recycled into your box as well. Discs and cases do not need separated.

3.) also offers CD case recycling. Simply box up your unwanted cases and mark the package "for recycling." Libraries can mail or drop-off their discs at CDwest's Shipping and Receiving Department.

Unit 116 - 19292
60th Avenue
Surrey, British Columbia V3S 3M2

The only fee with this Canadian option is shipping costs.

4.) GreenDisk also offers Jewel case collection as well as a slew of other “technotrash” (like discs, ink cartridges, cell phones, videotapes, pagers, and PDAs). After packing up your damaged cases and weighing your box, you can purchase and print a shipping label through GreenDisk’s site.

GreenDisk differs from the other two companies above in that a small fee is worked into the shipping amount you purchase. However, you are able to box up other “technotrash” in your case box and have GreenDisk take care of recycling all of it.

5.) Visit, and enter “#6 Plastic (Polystyrene)” and your library’s city or postal code to search for nearby drop-off recycling centers. You can then follow packaging and drop-off instructions provided by the listed nearby centers. link

How CVS Midwest Tape Recycles Cases
We here at CVS Midwest Tape are really big on recycling too. In 2010, we recycled 262,050 pounds of plastic DVD and CD cases. We work with a local plastic solution company that collects and recycles our Polystyrene for use in underground utility boxes.

Now that we’ve reviewed ways to recycle Jewel cases, let’s get your insights. Know of any other ways to recycle damaged cases? What else does your library reuse or recycle? How are you celebrating Earth Day?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

CVS Midwest Tape Launching Playaway View

We here at CVS Midwest Tape are all a-buzz, and it isn’t just because spring is finally here. It’s the Playaway View—the first and only pre-loaded video player available exclusively to libraries!

Circulation Ready
The Playaway View has a built-in speaker, so no ear buds are necessary. (It does have a headphone jack for patrons who’d prefer to listen to the device with their own ear buds.) The View also doesn’t require standard batteries. Featuring an internal lithium-polymer battery, the View provides over 8 hours of continuous play and can be charged with its included AC adapter. To enhance its shelf-readiness, the View comes in a One-Time™ Lock compatible package similar to Playaway Audio’s cases.

Kid Friendly
The Playaway View is not only portable, but also extremely durable. Specifically designed to withstand drops, the View weighs only 5.4 ounces and features a shatter-resistant acrylic screen cover, making it the perfect entertainment device for kids.

Variety of Programs
Pre-loaded with multiple videos, the View will offer titles from such studios as Sesame Street, PBS Kids, TumbleBooks, National Geographic, Weston Woods, Spoken Arts, TMW Media Group, Schlessinger, 100% Educational Books, and Nickelodeon. Each player will feature three to seven titles bundled together.

Utmost Usability
The View features a 3.5" full-color LCD screen for vibrant video viewing and has a simple 7 button functionality. Ensuring the quality of your product is easy too! The Playaway View features the same one year warranty as Playaway Audio devices.

The View will be available to CVS Midwest Tape customers starting in May. Stay tuned to to learn more about availability and ordering.

Got View Qs? Post them here as comments or contact Customer Service at 866.698.2231.