Libraries: The Ebook Way

4885-libraryviewI don’t have an eBook reader, mainly because I don’t buy enough new books to justify the cost.  But when I checked back to the Toronto Public Library recently, lo and behold they’ve instituted an eLibrary.

Which makes me absolutely chuffed.  I live exactly 14,242 kilometres away from Toronto, and yet my resident status allows me to borrow books from the library as if I were still there.  This makes up for all the deficiencies, of which, I’m sorry to say, there are quite a few.

Most of the problems involve the nuts and bolts of e-borrowing.  The formats.  The lending periods.  The hold notification system.  And the fact that you can’t return anything unless it’s in Adobe EPUB or PUB format, which is bloomin’ annoying.  Yeah, I know it’s a copyright issue.  But it’s still a pain in the ass.  There’s also the fact that since I don’t have an eReader, my reading is limited to my computer screen, and it is hell on the eyes.  And I mean hell.

The other big issue is the selection, powered by Overdrive, which is growing but still nowhere near satisfying.  The audiobook collection is quite extensive, but the TPL Overdrive popular music selection numbers exactly six, of which five are Sarah McLachlan.  (Don’t ask about the movies.)  I’ll also mention that of the 119 romance novels listed, I’d say about twenty don’t qualify as such.  Paulo Coehlo?  Uh, no.

Doing a little research, it seems that the larger cities also use Overdrive.  At the last count the Los Angeles Public eLibrary listed 257 romance novels, Chicago 419, New York over 1300, and Seattle (bless their hearts) a whopping 2376.  I’ll be patient, because I can tell Toronto is adding new books every week, and it takes time and money to acquire books.

Now obviously, if you have an eReader or live in a different city then some (or even all) of these problems will disappear.  But honestly, despite all of this, I don’t care.  For libraries, eBooks represent near-eternal shelf life.  And for readers, we can still do the main library stuff – borrow, return, and even copy audiobooks and music CDs – as if you borrowed the item itself.  When you get down to it, that’s all that matters.

Does your library have eBooks available?  Do you/would you make use of it?

- Jean AAR

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33 Responses to Libraries: The Ebook Way

  1. farmwifetwo says:

    Many of the Ontario Libraries have ebook and audiobook downloading capabilities. Even my rural system. We also have an amazing ILL system and most of my backlist hqn’s tend to come from the GTA.

    Now everyone is getting “Tumblebooks” Peterborough was the first, ours now has it too. Online visual and audio books for children. My youngest loves it.

  2. Tee says:

    Michigan has had an eLibrary for quite some time now and our coop system is tied into it. I’ve never made use of it, since I don’t have a Kindle or anything like that to view books. It would have to be my computer screen; and even though the screen is quite large, it would drive me crazy to read a book that way.

  3. Regina says:

    Jean –
    I have an ebook reader and don’t use the ebook library system available to me. I’m just not positive how it works and until I join (there’s a yearly fee because I don’t live in the ‘right’ place) there is no explanation.
    I just don’t get how you can ‘return’ an ebook.
    It’s just a PDF file right?
    Does it disappear or lock or something?
    Wouldn’t I just download it like i do at B&N?
    I wish someone could help me out — does anyone use the Maryland Library eBook system? (I hear they have audiobooks, too…)

  4. Ellen AAR says:

    We do have an eLibrary here, but I’ve never used it. Yet. I might have to bite the bullet though. I got my arm twisted at the local B&N yesterday re: The Nook and they are even hiring an e-associate who will specialize in all things electronic and literary.

  5. Kara says:

    I would love to have an eReader!!! Hopefully finances will allow it this year. Yes, our library has an eLibrary and I use it extensively. Right now I read eBooks on my laptop and my Palm TX.

  6. Gail says:

    I made one attempt to use the e-book option my library has. The DRM laden software was such a pain I gave up. The bit where it was requiring me to uninstall a current version of an application because it would only work with an older version was the last straw. I haven’t been tempted to try again yet.

  7. Danielle D says:

    We have the eLibrary here and my friends who has a Sony Reader downloads books all the time from her library to her reader.

  8. LeeB. says:

    Jean: I have noticed my library (Seattle) has tons of ebooks — romance and other genres. Though I don’t read ebooks, I’m glad to know my library has such a large selection of romance titles. Fortunately they do order lots of paper romance books too.

  9. Lynn M says:

    I haven’t tried ebooks yet, but given the struggle I’ve had trying to check out audiobooks, I’m not inclined to get excited even though my library offers them. It’s simply too much hassle.

    My father is in poor health, and my hope was to download some audiobooks for him to listen to while in the hospital. First, I couldn’t do anything on my Mac because the software is not Mac compatible. Then I run into all kinds of copyrighting issues which nets down to not being able to listen to the book on anything other than the original computer where the file was downloaded (can’t copy the files to a flash drive and take it to my dad so he can listen on his own laptop) or by downloading on to an iPod or MP3 player.

    I get the whole problem with pirating and the efforts needed to keep it from happening, but there is a point where it gets ridiculous. It seems the case is that a few bad apples are spoiling it for the rest of us.

  10. Tacilija says:

    My library has them, and since I don’t mind reading ebooks on my computer, I tried several, but – like Gail – it was so complicated that I gave up.

  11. willaful says:

    My library has several ebook and audiobook options and despite the fact that my husband is a computer programmer and we have multiple computers of every type, we have never been able to make it work. Sigh.

  12. GSM says:

    I use my library’s ebook section quite a bit. I’ve loaded Adobe Digital Editions onto my laptop, and I’ve had no problems downloading, reading or returning books. I just checked my 2010 book log, and of the 50+ I’ve read this year, 20 have been library ebooks. If the book is available in both paperback and ebook, I’d rather read the ebook. The type is significantly larger and that lets me read a lot quicker. Also, fewer folks borrow ebooks, so the wait list is much shorter. I think it’s great to have the option.

  13. Peggy P says:

    I’m lucky enough to belong to two library systems which are both excellent (south of Cleveland, OH) and do get ebooks and audiobooks from them both. I do hate reading on my laptop now that I have a Kindle but the audiobooks are great. Yesterday I downloaded the new Linda Howard “Blood Born” (that was also the release date) and transferred it to my MP3 player, today I downloaded an older Nora – “Entranced” and will transfer it to my player also. Wait periods are kind of hit or miss, I’m always amazed when a newer release is just sitting there waiting for me to click it and go!

    I hope one day that ebooks will not be all tied up with DRM from the libraries and we will all be able to transfer them to any device – wishful thinking, no doubt.

    When I read a great review of a book I always check my libraries first, then check Audible, then check for the Kindle version, then check other sites to buy. Yeah, it’s a process but I’m so damn happy when I find it at the library sites first thing, it just makes my day.

  14. I have used my library to download audiobooks, and I’ve done pretty well. The trick is learning how to search for only titles that are available and that use the file format you want, etc. — which is true with e-books as well. With audiobooks, the files on your computer expire when your lending period is up, but the files you transfer to an MP3 player don’t expire. However, you are supposed to delete the files from your MP3 player once they expire. (But if you’re in the middle of the story… Ahem.)

    I haven’t had as much luck with e-books. I always set the search engine to find files in ePub (because those files work on my nook). I couldn’t open the one book I borrowed on my nook, but it may have already expired. I might have to try again. For now, the trouble with e-books is the selection. I search for “always available” content, and usually find less than 20 e-books available in ePub at any given moment. I think that will get better as time goes on.

  15. Jean Wan says:

    Regina – You return an eBook from the programme, Adobe Digital Reader. And the file itself is locked after a certain date, which depends on how long you’ve checked it out for. I’ve tried opening files that remain on my computer after I’ve returned them, and I can’t. However, you can only return Adobe files – you can’t return Overdrive Mobipocket and audiobook files, which is a bloody pain. A lot of my experience comes from trial and error, and reading the library website – where in Maryland do you live?

    Definitely, the selection is pretty limited. A lot of the big romance books are missing, but that’s just Toronto. As I said, Seattle’s selection is freakin’ amazing. And they’re adding new stuff every day, so it’s all good.

    Much of my enthusiasm comes from the fact that I live in a place where residents have to pay an annual $80 subscription fee to the local library. This pisses me off. So if I can get my books – any books – for free, I will.

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  17. Jane AAR says:

    I live in Washington, DC, and we have a good selection of romances available for download. My gripe is that the bigger names– Lisa Kleypas, Nora Roberts, Julia Quinn, SEP, etc.–only come in Audio downloads which, as a Mac user, I don’t have access to. But it’s a good source of series romances, which I typically don’t buy and libraries don’t carry in physical book form.

    One of the biggest coups was last fall, when An Echo in the Bone was out in the US, but not the UK (where I was at the time). But lo and behold, an eBook version was available and I was able to read it on my computer.

    Laptop reading will never come close to the pleasures of reading a physical book, but it definitely has its benefits.

  18. RfP says:

    My library system has a good selection of e-books, and I’ve found them easy to use. The library’s help desk answered some questions for me early on.

    I love the e-book collection for new books. However, I also read older books and nonfiction, and those are only in the library’s paper collection.

  19. Katie Mack says:

    I got a Sony Reader last October, and absolutely love it. One of the reasons I chose that e-reader is because I could check out ebooks from my local library. I use two library systems — the one where I live now, and the one where I used to live — and while they each only have about 500+ romance ebooks, I’ve noticed that their collections are growing pretty fast as more and more patrons use the service. Personally, I’ve found the system pretty simple and easy to use, so my only hope at this point is that the ebook selection eventually becomes comparable to the print book selection.

  20. DebbieQ says:

    My library system has an extensive ebook collection and I use it A LOT. Easy to download and then side load to my Nook. The only issue is that I can’t renew the book if for some reason I don’t finish it before the end of the lending period. But other than that I have been happy.

  21. Jean Wan says:

    Katie – The fact that my library now has eBooks is a HUGE incentive for me to shell out money to get a Sony Reader. And they just added 40 new books, so it’ll only get better.

    DebbieQ – I noticed the renewal issue, but I’m not complaining because I go through books pretty quickly anyway.

    Anne Marble AAR – I haven’t had any luck with music, video, or Audiobooks because there’s something wrong with Overdrive, and I can’t open any of that stuff. Stink.

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