Burnham-On-Sea and Highbridge library members can now download hundreds of audio books for free following the launch of a controversial new online library service this week.

The new service is being provided to library users across Somerset by a consortium of South West libraries and can be accessed here.

It lets residents choose from over 600 titles, then download them for three weeks to a PC, mobile phone or MP3 player.

All titles are unabridged and available simultaneously so there are no waiting lists, and loans automatically expire after three weeks so there are no late fees.

The launch is controversial since it comes during Somerset County Council’s ongoing consultation about closing six libraries – including Highbridge’s.

Critics say this week’s launch is no more than a cost-cutting initiative aimed at further reducing the costs associated with lending physical books.

“All you need is your library membership card and a computer, iPod or MP3 Player to enjoy this exciting new offer,” said Councillor Christine Lawrence, Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Services.

“This new service is easy to use, available 24/7 – and best of all, it’s free.”

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