Your Local Library Now Has e-books
By Laurie L. Hayes
From their virtual shelves to yours, the Anne Arundel County Public Library (AACPL) has thousands of e-books available for borrowing. These e-books are easily downloaded to e-readers, computers and smart phones.
Maryland libraries, including Anne Arundel County, have been on the cutting edge of this technology. While only recently capturing public interest, e-books have been available from the library since 2004, when AACPL joined the Maryland Digital eLibrary Consortium, powered by OverDrive Digital Library Reserve. According to the American Library Association (ALA), 66 percent of public libraries nationwide currently offer free access to e-books to library users—up from only 38 percent three years ago.
AACPL now offers additional copies and titles of downloadable e-books and e-audiobooks outside of the consortium that are reserved only for those who hold an AACPL card.
As of April, AACPL boasted more than 4,500 e-book titles, with more being added each week, according to Cynthia Bischoff, assistant head of materials management. Multiple copies of some of the most popular e-books are available, bringing the total number to more than 8,600. These include children’s picture books and fiction and nonfiction selections for teens and adults.
“The e-books have proven to be a popular addition to the library’s collection,” notes AACPL Administrator Skip Auld. “There are those who, for years, have been questioning the relevance of libraries in this digital age,” Auld adds. “The advent of e-books and the library’s role in making this format available at no cost to all of our patrons speaks to the continued importance of libraries – as well as to the profession’s remarkable ability to change with the times.”
The e-books are available in Adobe PDF and EPUB formats. Compatible e-readers include: Alex; iPad (iOS v4.0 or newer), Kobo (Borders); Nook (B&N), and Sony e-reader. Library e-books cannot be downloaded to the Kindle (Amazon) at this time. Android, Blackberry and iPhone, as well as computers running Mac OS v10.4.9 (or newer), Windows 98 SE (or newer) and Windows Mobile 5 and 6 are also suitable vehicles for downloads. In addition, patrons must have a valid library card, Internet access, and the applicable software (available free from the Overdrive website). The e-books can be accessed for free through the library’s website, www.aacpl.net From the homepage, go to “eLibrary” and then click on “eBooks.”
AACPL patrons are encouraged to sign in to “My Account” to ensure that they see all the latest offerings available to Anne Arundel County patrons.
The checkout period for e-books is one to two weeks, depending on the material. The books simply expire at the end of their loan period, meaning no late fees can accrue. Patrons are limited to four e-books or e-audiobooks at a time, although the books can be returned early.
With approximately 5,000 e-books in circulation at any given time, there is no question that AACPL customers appreciate the addition of e-books to the Library’s collection. The relationship between e-book publishers and libraries is, however, still being fleshed out.
HarperCollins made headlines earlier this year when the publishing firm announced that it would enact a 26-loan limit to its e-books. This announcement, coming at a time when many libraries are already grappling with reduced funding, has triggered protests from various library interests.
Noting the commitment to equal and free access for those who depend on their library’s resources every day, ALA President Roberta Stevens responded, “The announcement is of grave concern. This new limitation means that fewer people will have access to an increasingly important format for delivering information. The marketplace for e-books is changing rapidly. We encourage publishers to look to libraries as a vehicle to reach and grow diverse audiences,” she added.
AACPL has not joined in any boycott of HarperCollins, but the administration is monitoring the debate. Auld is involved with a number of library organizations that are looking into the matter and attempting to broker a fair and equitable solution.
“We are committed to responding to our customers’ desire for e-books and hope to further expand our collection in the coming year,” he said. “In addition, with the financial assistance of our foundation, AACPL hopes to purchase e-readers that could be available for borrowing so that all of our customers can take advantage of this exciting technology.”
Laurie Hayes, manager of public relations and marketing at Anne Arundel County Public Library, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 410 222-7371.