Borrow eBooks: All of the Library, None of the Late Fees

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Whether you read them on an e-reader, tablet, smartphone or your computer, e-books are growing increasingly popular, and with good reason. Instant download capability lets you get right into the newest bestseller, you can hoard thousands of books without having to build a library in your basement, and with a mobile handheld device you can have your library always at your fingertips.
It may come as a surprise that e-books aren’t necessarily less expensive than their printed counterparts. That can lead many frugal bookworms back to the budget-saving oasis of the library to borrow the latest best seller. Luckily, more and more libraries are delving into the digital realm, offering an expanding selection of e-books available to download onto your computer or e-reader device. Here’s how to borrow an e-book from the library.

In addition to the savings to be had by borrowing over buying, there are several perks to using your public library to browse the (digital) shelves. When you finish your latest thriller at 10pm, you can find your next page-turner from the comfort of your couch. Your reading experience won’t be marred by a previous reader’s scribbles or coffee stains. And a boon to the forgetful among us: no late fees – your book automatically returns itself when your check-out time is up.

While you may envision instant access to every bestseller you’ve ever wanted to read, keep in mind that digital books require licensing just like their traditional paper counterparts. The library has to purchase every “copy” they offer for digital lending. As many institutions are new to the e-book lending arena, many libraries only have room in the budget to buy one or two copies of an e-book. If someone else has already borrowed the book you want, you’ll have to wait until they “return” it before you can get it on your device. If the book you covet is new and popular, it can make for an impressive waiting list.

Another obstacle you may encounter is file compatibility. OverDrive (www.overdrive.com) is the leading distributor of e-books for libraries. It provides the software interface that transfers the file from the library’s database to your computer or device and manages the process of “expiring” the copy when your borrow time is up.

OverDrive Media Console (OMC) is a free application available for download through all major mobile phone carriers, as well as Mac and PC, should you want to read books on your computer. Visit their website and click on Software/Apps to learn more about the appropriate download for your particular device. Once you’ve downloaded the application, simply locate a library or school in your area, enter your valid library card number or school ID and borrow for up to 3 weeks.

Just this month, OverDrive announced the release of an application for NOOK that allows users to wirelessly borrow books and MP3 audiobooks from their library. This is a vast improvement over the previous process of installing a plug-in and downloading an Adobe file that didn’t support all of the NOOK’s bells and whistles.
Amazon Kindle chose a proprietary format for their e-books so while Kindle users can borrow from the library, you’ll need web access to do it. Use your library card information and PIN number to log into your library’s website. Once you find an e-book you’d like to borrow, place a hold on it and choose Get For Kindle. Then, log into your Amazon account to complete the transaction. Select the device you’d like your book delivered to from the drop down menu and your library book will download to your Kindle, just like a normal purchased title.
Shasta Public Libraries users have access to a number of digital titles. Visit www.shastalibraries.org and click on Digital Media at the top of the page. Use the Quick Search if you have a particular title in mind, or browse titles using the arrow keys for each section. You’ll need to sign in using your username and PIN, so establish those in advance. Users are limited to five digital checkouts at a time, with a maximum of three weeks to keep the material. Be aware, popular books yield a lot of waiting lists as they generally keep only one copy of each. Still, if you don’t mind reading other things while you’re waiting, it’s certainly nice to be able to read for free.

Image is of Amazon Kindle

About The Author: Andrea Andrea Eldridge is CEO and co-founder of Nerds On Call, a computer repair company that specializes in on-site and online service for homes and businesses. Andrea is the writer of a weekly column, Nerd Chick Adventures in The Record Searchlight. She prepares TV segments for and appears regularly on CBS, CW and FOX on shows such as Good Day Sacramento, More Good Day Portland, and CBS 13 News, offering viewers technology and lifestyle tips. See Andrea in action at callnerds.com/andrea/.