Thursday, December 16, 2010

Thursday Thoughts: E-books At the Library

It seems like this holiday season, the number one question I have been getting in the library has been about e-books and e-readers.  Many patrons are coming in and wanting to know if our library has e-books and if so what e-readers they can use.  We have had an e-book collection for a number of years now, and it still surprises me how few people know that we offer this service.  We have done an excellent job promoting our downloadable audio books that we have through the same service, but some how our e-book collection has been overlooked. 

Now with the market running wild with e-readers, we have library patrons coming in and saying to us, "I want to get an e-reader for Christmas.  Does the library have e-books?"  Our answer is "YES!"  We do have e-books.  Now this may not be true for every library, so be sure to ask your local librarians, but our library does offer e-books.  In fact, we have two different sources for e-books at our library.  Netlibrary and Overdrive are our e-book resources.  Right now we aren't able to download e-books from Netlibrary to other devices, so at this point I am going to focus more on Overdrive.

Overdrive Digital Media is our source for e-books and downloadable audio books.  We have worked with them through a state consortium for several years now, and have been pleased.  When patrons come into our library, we are happy to be able to tell them that we do indeed have e-books that they can download to their e-readers. 

The next question is the question I dread however "Which devices are compatible with Overdrive?"  I don't dread it because it is hard to answer.  In fact Overdrive has made it increasingly easy to tell patrons what devices are available through their website http://www.overdrive.com/resources/drc/.  The problem is, one of the biggest devices on the market right now--the name that people are starting to ask for when they think e-readers does not read EPUB or PDF documents. 

I don't see this as a problem with Overdrive, in fact I have been very pleased with Overdrive's service.  I see this as a fault of the company that manufactures this e-reader.  People want to be able to get a variety of e-books from many sources.  They want to be able to check out e-books for free on their e-readers, or to buy at the store with the best price.  By making their software so exclusive, this specific company eliminates the consumer's choices.  It is their device, and it is their choice to make their software incompatible, but I would warn that manufacturer, that they should consider this when they make their next device.

The moral of this long and drawn out story.  Some libraries are now getting into the e-book market.  Does your library offer e-books?  Ask them.  But most of all, before you purchase an e-reader with the intent to get books from the library, make sure your e-reader is compatible and will read the software (usually PDF or EPUB) for the e-book distributor your library uses, or you might spend a lot of money and not get what you really want.

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