Friday, January 14, 2011

E-Books at the Library: A Review

By Chip Schrader
Reviewer and Staff Columnist
Participating libraries in the state of Maine now hold an online database of e-Books available to lend for compatible readers and computers. Some libraries will lend the readers, as well, but any library that subscribes to the State’s initiative for electronic resources also has the capability to lend out titles to owners of the Barnes and Noble Nook, Apple iPad, PCs, and Macs. Currently, the Kindle is not compatible with this library service, as Amazon has worked to retain their right to sell each title they have.
This digital download service is provided by a company called Overdrive, and many current online library users might recognize this as the same company that has provided audio books over the past year. With the demand of digital content increasing, they have expanded their services into e-Books.
If a library subscribes to Overdrive through Maine Infonet, the state-funded online library service, the patron just needs to log into the Maine page ( on Overdrive using their name and library card number. From there, titles for e-Books and Audio books may be browsed with full color images of the books’ covers. The borrowed titles will expire after a specified amount of time, and erase themselves from the device automatically, so late fees are not a hassle with this method.
Some users will need to download software in order to work with Overdrive’s formats. PDF is one of the more common file formats that allows the documents to be read on Mac or PC. Many users find e-Readers convenient for travel and commuting, as these readers may hold several books within their slim design. The display has improved over the years to eliminate glare and reflection.
The great debate is, “Will e-Books replace libraries?” The answer: only if libraries ignore e-Books, and they have not. Libraries have embraced the emerging technology over the last decade. Internet and word processing stations are a popular attraction to libraries. Most libraries provide high-speed internet access, also courtesy of the state of Maine, and many endowments and grants, including those from the Gates Foundation, focus on libraries stretching their budgets to make digital information available to everyone.
E-Books’ convenience increases as they may be downloaded from any computer, and a visit to the library’s webpage is the only necessary visit. Each library pays a flat subscription and will be credited with statistics for the number of downloads their patrons retrieve. So, it helps circulation statistics and proves the online service’s use to the library.
The overall idea of adding e-Books to the public library has been a long time coming, and will bring about a wider range of interest in the format, and in public libraries. As libraries reach further into cyberspace, techies, bibliophiles and busy professionals can find themselves at home within their local library, or at least their library’s homepage. A 5 out of 5 star idea from the state library!
Photo caption: The Barnes & Noble Nook is just one of the e-readers compatible with Maine’s library e-Book program. (Courtesy photo)