What if you could instantly access the latest James Patterson novel and settle into the folds of the sofa without shedding your weekend pajamas or venturing outside?
In today’s virtual world, it’s possible.
Couch potatoes and book lovers alike are now able to download and check out e-books from the comfort of their homes at several public libraries.
The Huntington City-Township Public Library recently expanded its operation to include electronic services such as e-books and audiobooks.
With a library card and PIN number, patrons can browse the digital collection and check out items on a computer or mobile device. Those items can be downloaded to enjoy immediately or saved for later, according to library Director Kathy Holst. Some audio titles also can be burned to a CD, Holst said.
Free access software for downloading the items also is available on the library’s website at www.huntingtonpub.lib.in.us.
We’re very excited about the release of our digital services, Holst said. Patrons are able to download e-books and audiobooks directly from our web page.
Huntington City-Township Public Library will host two free classes in September and October to show how to use the library’s digital services.
The library has partnered with four other public libraries in northeast Indiana to form the Northeast Indiana Digital Library. Other member libraries in the consortium are Berne Public Library, Nappanee Public Library, Wells County Public Library in Bluffton, and Eckhart Public Library in Auburn.
Since Allen County Public Library began offering e-books in January, 38,191 e-books have been checked out and electronic circulation continues to grow. The library’s e-book collection now includes 16,937 titles.
The library began in 2008 by offering audiobooks, and that collection now includes more than 3,500 titles.
The electronic segment now accounts for 30 percent of all circulation at the library, according to Sean Robinson, the library’s bibliographer and IT manager. By July, electronic circulation was already 13 percent higher than last year’s numbers at this same time, he said.
From January through July, the library loaned 38,191 e-books and 19,283 audiobooks, according to a recent library board report. Overall circulation of all items was 5.1 million with electronic items accounting for 1.5 million of that total.
Robinson said the advantages of electronic products include librarians spending less time returning books to the shelves or tracking down missing copies and patrons having the option to keep the e-book 7, 14 or 21 days. At the end of the checkout period, the e-book is automatically returned to the library – the patron does not have to worry about a return or incurring late fees. The e-book is available to only one customer at a time because of publishing agreements.
Obviously, a big advantage is saving space, Robinson said. We can make our collection larger without adding walls or shelves.
But the biggest advantage is instant access. In the library’s Genealogy Center, for instance, instead of traveling to Fort Wayne to view an obscure or rare item or document, patrons can download the digitized version and view it from anywhere.
One thing remains constant, Robinson said.
The most popular genre – real or virtual – across the nation and locally, is good old-fashioned romance. A close second is popular fiction, Robinson said.
Robinson thinks the day will come – in the not-too-far future – when libraries will offer much more digitally. Many libraries, he said, will have the same services and products as Amazon.com, which started as an online bookstore but is now the world’s largest online retailer.
We’re not there yet, but we will be, Robinson said. I’m sure of it.