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E-books becoming increasingly popular among library patrons
July 25, 2011
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By Kristen Miller
News Editor

DASSEL, COKATO, MN – Though paper books are still the norm among library patrons, downloadable e-books are becoming quite the trend as more and more people jump on the e-reader band wagon.

“We have had people very interested in this service,” said Beth Cronk, Dassel’s head librarian.

Dassel is part of the Pioneerland Library System, which expanded its services recently to include audio and e-books.

It’s now free and easy for library card holders to download digital media directly from its website powered by OverDrive, Cronk said.

Users can browse more than 300 titles – with more to come – and download them to their own computer.

“The best part is you can never incur [late fees] on these,” Cronk said, explaining that e-books are automatically returned on the due date.

Because e-readers require special software, e-books can not be downloaded from library computers nor by Wi-Fi, Cronk explained.

With one’s personal computer, titles can be immediately transferred to a variety of devices including the iPod, NOOK, Sony Reader, and many others. However, Kindle users are unable to download books from anywhere other than through Amazon.

Amazon, the producers of Kindle, have seen the light, however, Cronk said. Though a date hasn’t been set, Kindle users will soon have library lending capabilities, possibly later this year, according to Cronk.

For devices like Smart Phones such as Blackberry or the iPhone, users are able to directly download to their phone, she noted.

In addition, audio books can be downloaded to a personal computer and then transferred to an iPod or MP3 player. Some titles may also be burned onto a CD to listen to in the car, Cronk explained.

Cokato Public Library, a branch of Great River Regional Library System, has provided this service to patrons since last October.

Since the service began, e-checkouts have tripled from 4,582 in the first quarter, to 14,533. The number of patrons from its 32 branches who are using the service has also more than doubled.

“We have quickly gone from modest demand for e-services to significant demand,” said Mic Golden, Great River’s collection development coordinator. “It’s clear that as more people are purchasing readers, they are adapting to and accepting the e-reading experience.”

Like Pioneerland, Great River’s e-book service is powered by OverDrive, and its collection is not available to reciprocal borrowers in the same way that traditional library materials are.

Currently, Great River offers 1,872 different titles. The three top titles checked out are:

1. “The Confession,” by John Grisham

2. “The Long Walk: The true story of a trek to freedom,” by Slavomir Rawicz

3. “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo,” by Stieg Larsson

For those intimidated by this software, Sheila Rieke, Cokato Library branch manager, said patrons have commented that downloading books is really convenient and easy.

“People keep thinking it’s for the younger generations,” Rieke said, when in actuality, “those going into larger print would find it really useful.”

E-books are a great option for readers who are looking for larger print since e-readers allow users to change font sizes to one’s desire.

Travelers will also find e-readers less bulky because they can download several titles to read during their trip, as opposed to packing numerous books, Rieke explained.

E-readers are also easier to look at for longer periods of time, compared to a computer screen, Cronk noted. E-readers, such as the NOOK, have a non-glare screen.

Since Pioneerland has offered this service, it has had 328 checkouts with 160 unique users. Pioneerland has 85,343 borrowers among its 32 libraries.

The top three fiction e-book titles for Pioneerland are:

1. “The Cinderella Deal,” by Jennifer Crusie

2. “An Engagement in Seattle,” by Debbie Macomber

3. “Caught,” by Harlan Coben

Pioneerland card holders can start downloading audio books and e-books by visiting http://pioneerland.lib.overdrive.com.

Great River card holders can visit http://digital.griver.org.

The future of libraries

With e-readers costing around $120 on average, not everyone will be able to ditch the paperback for the electronic version.

It just depends on how fast the technology becomes affordable to everyone, Rieke said, explaining that there are still people using VHS players as opposed to DVD players.

For some, it’s also about preference.

“There are always going to be those people who prefer a book over a NOOK,” Rieke commented.

So for Rieke, she doesn’t see public libraries going away anytime soon. She does see libraries adding more services, especially when it comes to education and encouraging young readers.

“We are great at outreach for families who need a little push getting a child into books and reading,” she said.

Libraries have also had the advantage of providing more programming with the Legacy funding from a portion of the sales tax.

Legacy programming has included programming for all ages and interests, whether it be an arts and crafts workshop or a bus trip to a ballet. For example, Cokato Library offered area youth an opportunity to see “Peter and the Wolf” recently at the Paramount Theatre in St. Cloud.

“For many children, that will be their only exposure to something like that,” Rieke said.

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