Inspiration Lab

More from the library. This one’s for local readers.


So my mom kept my first audiobook set from the 1980s!

It’s a preschool boxed set called Early World of Learning. The stories are about a rabbit named Amy, a monkey named Zak, and their 26 Alphabet Pals. The set included 10 audio cassette tapes and 19 books (unfortunately we lost the Amy and Zak puppets).

I definitely remember listening to and “reading” along when I was about 3 or 4 years old. I loved this series. I couldn’t wait to share this piece of nostalgia with my own daughter. The only problem was finding a cassette player.

Cue the Inspiration Lab at the Vancouver Public Library. If you want to digitize old cassette tapes, VHS tapes, or photographs; if you want to record or create your own audiobooks/podcasts or eBooks, this is the place to do it.

I used the audio cassette tape station to convert my set into MP3 files, which I can now take with me anywhere. It did take me 6 hours as the recording took place in real time. But the results are worth it!

alphabet pals

And my daughter now loves Amy and Zak too!




Another subscription digital library that’s on my list to try is Scribd.

Scribd gives you access to eBooks, audiobooks, and magazines. Even sheet music! To be honest, I’m not sure how many kid-friendly titles there are, but I like having adult options too.

The cost is $8.99 per month, and includes access to 3 eBooks and 1 audiobook per month from their library of titles that require a credit for full access. There’s also unlimited access to magazines, documents, and other books.

Yes, of course there is a free trial too (30 days free). I can’t give a full review yet, since I haven’t had time to try it, but it looks intriguing. I will re-post once I’ve signed up.



This summer, I discovered Epic! It’s a subscription eBook library for kids that offers access to thousands of eBooks, read-to-me books, audiobooks, and videos.

The cost is $7.99 per month, but free for elementary school teachers and librarians. If you happen to be an educator, by all means, get this app! For everyone else, you can also do a one-month free trial, which I am now checking out.

My review. I think this app would be nice to keep if we didn’t already have free access to Overdrive and Tumble Books through our library. Many of the titles overlap. Yes, there are a massive number of eBooks, but my kids are not reading independently yet, and I don’t really want to read to them off a screen. I downloaded the phone app to play audiobooks off of. However, the app does not run in the background (unlike how my other music and podcast apps operate). So the story shuts off if I try to do anything else on my phone or even turn the screen off to save power. Largely because of this, I’m finding I haven’t been using my free trial time as effectively as I’d like. I have played a few of the audio stories off my PC, and that’s been fine. It’s the not-so-great phone app (for me) that’s keeping me from fully recommending it.

There is definitely no harm in signing up for a free month though, and if you don’t have another source for digital audio stories, this might be the subscription for you!



I’m sure most people have heard of Audible by now. It is the place to purchase and download audiobooks. Real audiobooks are amazing because unlike a CD or MP3, they bookmark exactly where you stop listening, and start at the same spot next time, even if you change to music or a different selection.

I did a promotional trial of Audible last year. While I loved the books that I received, I do think the regular price is a little cost-prohibitive at USD $14.95 per month, which gets you 1 credit (or 1 book choice). I’m in Canada, and our exchange rate right now is awful! If you can wait until the next Amazon Prime day in July, there are typically promotions for new members. If you can’t wait that long, you can always sign-up for a free 30-day trial, and receive two free books as a new member.








So what did I get? Feeling thrifty, I decided to go for quantity as well as quality, and found amazing value in one of my favourite children’s authors, Beverly Cleary:

  • The Ramona Quimby Audio Collection contains all 8 books, and clocks in at 19 hours. It is performed by Stockard Channing (best known as Rizzo from Grease), who is spunky and the perfect narrator for this series.
  • The Henry Huggins Audio Collection contains 6 books, and is 15 hours longs. This is performed mostly by Neil Patrick Harris, so awesome as the earnest boy-next-door.

Despite the lengths of these collections, they don’t feel too ambitious because they are broken down into individual books, and then short chapters. My older daughter loved them on first listen at age 4.

Back to Audible, I ended up purchasing three additional discounted credits, and picked up a couple more books on sale. When I tried to cancel my membership the first time, Audible offered me $20 to stay! Another nice feature is you can pause your membership for up to three months, but still see the daily member specials. There are different sales at different times of the year too.

One last thing to check monthly is the free Kindle eBook on the Whispersync for Voice page. It’s a different classic book each month. You don’t need a Kindle or even ever read the eBook, but once you have “purchased” the eBook through Amazon, you can pick up the Audible version for free (or at a huge discount). Not typically books for children, but a great way to add to your own stash.

Eventually though, I did end my membership, but walked away with a nice little collection. I tried to choose books that my library did not carry. I would seriously consider re-joining Audible in the future if the right promotion came along. And I will definitely post about any deals I see in the future!

Tumble Books


Maybe you need a little screen time for your younger child, but want an alternative to regular television. Check if your school or town library has a subscription to the Tumble Book Library (I am definitely lucky that Vancouver Public Library has so many digital resources). Tumble Books are interactive, talking picture books complete with animation, text, narration, and music! You read along on your computer or tablet. I haven’t fully explored all the features yet, but there are puzzles and games, books in other languages, National Geographic videos, graphic novels, and more.

tumble book cloud jr

Slightly older children may enjoy Tumble Book Cloud Junior, same idea but meant for children in grades 3-8. My kids aren’t in school (yet – almost), so I haven’t gone through the content in great detail.

And of course, there is Tumble Book Cloud for teenagers and adults. Yes, something for everyone! Did I mention this is all free through our library!?

The Library

I love the library. I’ve always felt safe and at home there. This is my dream library…


So of course, I went straight to my local Vancouver Public Library branch when I was looking for free and easily accessible road trip entertainment.

I first checked out the Books Plus CD section of the kids’ area, and eventually ventured over the Audiobook CD section. The Books Plus CDs are mostly shorter picture books, great to start out with, but only about 5 to 10 minutes long. I also needed to help my daughter turn the pages, as not all the CDs have cues, and she doesn’t know how to read yet. I now much prefer to borrow Audiobook CDs by themselves. M doesn’t seem to mind not having a book to follow along with. The stories are more complex and they are usually 60+ minutes long so I can actually get things done while she’s occupied.

Next, I discovered my library’s Digital Library online! Even better. I can browse titles from home, and no scratched and skipping CDs! I download titles onto an MP3 player and we take it everywhere. At the end of the loan period, the books are returned automatically so nothing is ever overdue!

The most common digital libraries (at least in Lower Mainland of Vancouver) are:

Check and see what your local library offers. To listen, you can usually either download the audiobook file, or download the app on your phone and stream your story! Just note that digital audiobooks and eBooks are typically only accessible to residents of that city, whereas I am able to borrow physical books and CDs from any of the nearby suburban libraries if there’s an elusive title I’m looking for. And this is just the start of all the library has to offer…