In this age of ever-tightening budgets and reduced services, our local libraries have found a way to continue providing free access to current-release books and, in fact, to make them available to more patrons than ever before. The e-book lending programs, powered primarily by Overdrive and additionally by NetLibrary (in process of purchase by Ebsco), allow users to order digital books from their home computers, then side-load them to an e-reader such as Nook, to a smartphone or tablet, or to simply read it on computer. Los Angeles resident, Theresa Wollenstein said, “I found out about Overdrive e-media library lending via a friend in DC on Twitter – although I’m a regular library user, and I use the website to reserve books, I had never heard about it!”
Getting ready to borrow e-books from the local library is quick and painless. First, each user needs a valid library card, which must be obtained in person from a participating library. Participating local libraries include local branches of Los Angeles (city) Public Library; County of Los Angeles Public Library; Pasadena-Glendale Library; Santa Monica Library; Long Beach Library; and Southern California Digital Library members: A.K. Smiley Library, El Segundo, Glendora, Mission Viejo, Newport Beach, Ontario, Placentia, Rancho Cucamonga, Redondo Beach, Sierra Madre, and Upland Libraries.
Next, users will need the appropriate version of Overdrive Media Console (free download), which supports Windows and Mac OS computers, and mobile devices running Android, Blackberry OS, iPhone/iPad, Windows Mobile, and Windows Phone 7. The Console is available on each library page, along with some basic support for installation. Currently, the Kindle is not supported by these services, however Overdrive’s website states that the company expects to support Kindle later this year. Please check the Overdrive website for compatibility information on specific devices and models.
Once set up, users can browse the digital catalog, ranging from current releases to classic literature, children’s and young adult books, language learning programs, audio books, and some reference books. Selection varies by library. Libraries pay for licenses to use the e-books, in the same way they would have to purchase copies of physical books, so it may be necessary to wait on a list for more popular titles. The system sends the user an email when his turn comes to borrow the book. Lent e-books are protected by a Digital Rights Management (DRM) software, which will disable the file after its assigned loan time (typically 3 weeks, though this varies by library), unless the user renews the loan online before it expires.
Wollenstein continued, “The LAPL system is very easy to use from my phone, tablet, or computer for searching and reserving books, and the email alerts when a new download is ready is great. My only complaint when I first started to use it was that I added a lot of books to my waitlist – I wasn’t able to see how long the waitlist was – and I ended up having more books than I could read become available at the same time. Some kind of waitlist estimate would be helpful – sometimes if a physical book is available I’ll reserve that instead.
The selection has been a little hit-or-miss. Sometimes they’ll only have one book in a trilogy, for instance, or one as an audiobook and another in ebook. The “Featured” books whenever I log in are romances. I would really like a way to view recent releases that are available as ebooks (separate from recently released ebooks, which could be books of any age).”
Well, it’s a work in progress, but the technology and catalog are developing fast. They do accept requests from patrons as to which books to purchase next. It’s fast. It’s easy. It’s free. What could be better?
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