A few weeks ago, CHOICE Technology team leader, Steve Duncombe, and I visited the Bowen Library in Maroubra (Randwick City Library Service) in New South Wales to give a talk on eBooks and eBook readers.
Steve’s talk was well-received and there was a lot of discussion on eBooks and eBook readers, which ones are best and the different quirks they have. We had a selection of the ones that came at the top of our testing results, which everyone was happy to take a look at.
The discussions and questions were very illuminating for us as technology testers and writers, as we had an insight into what people read in the press and what influences their buying decisions. A number of interesting points came up in discussion, including;
- Dust resistance (as much as any other electronic device)
- Proprietary management of eBooks (only the Kindle doesn’t accept the ePub format yet)
- Radiation (emits no more than any other electronic device)
- Using smartphones to read eBooks (limitations of the small screen and backlighting)
- Reading on planes (you need light for eInk eBook readers)
We were particularly interested in an investment the library had made in sourcing eBooks for its members, using a system called Overdrive. While the system has been around for around 10 years, it’s only recently that some libraries are beginning to deploy it in Australia.
Overdrive essentially works like a library via the internet. If you’re a member of a library that has the Overdrive system in place, you can find a book online via most devices, such as smart phones, eBook readers (aside from Kindle for the ePub format), or tablets like the Apple iPad and download it to your device with a minimal amount of fiddling.
My recent purchase of a smartphone is a good example. I had a library membership, downloaded the Overdrive app to my phone, plugged in my membership number to it after finding the library and started downloading.
The loans last for 21 days and the countdown is displayed day by day. After 21 days it expires and you can delete it from your collection. For an eBook reader you need to download the eBook to your computer first so you need Adobe Digital Editions (ADE) installed on your machine. After you login to the library system and download your book, you add it to ADE and drag it across to your eBook reader. For a tablet with internet access (WiFi or 3G), the process is much the same as a smartphone.
The book selection through Overdrive is large and you can ask your library to add more of the books you want. You could even ask them to implement the Overdrive system if they don’t have plans for it already.
While it’s expensive, the benefits for members are great, including no overdue books, no late fees, no damaged items and the library is open 24x7 and can be accessed anywhere in the world, plus it complements the hard and paperback systems currently in place. Some libraries are banding together to offer the system as a conglomeration rather than as individual libraries which makes it less expensive for them.
Does your library have eBooks available? If not, do you want them to? If they do, have you found the system easy to use or have you encountered issues?