Libraries Can't Keep Up with Demand for E-Readers, E-Books
Get in line if you want to check out an e-book.
A flurry of book lovers, armed with e-readers gifted during Christmas, have hit Anne Arundel County’s libraries online in full force, creating virtual waiting lines for the most popular books.
The Anne Arundel County Public Library (AACPL) system has been electronically lending books since 2004 and started loaning e-readers in November. But a new wave of patrons hit the library’s website after Christmas.
Thousands of books can be electronically loaned to e-readers such as Amazon’s Kindle or Barnes & Noble’s Nook through the local library system’s website. It’s all free, as long as you’ve got a library card and some patience.
Arnold resident Anne Kelburn said she was excited to get a Kindle from her husband for Christmas, but she wasn’t exactly sure where to get books, apart from buying them online. After seeing an advertisement, she visited the Broadneck library and discovered she could effectively “rent” new books through the county library’s website.
“I don’t normally like buying books, so that opened up more possibilities for me,” Kelburn said. “As long as they can keep them in stock, I’ll keep reading them.”
Though the e-books don’t take up physical space, there aren’t an unlimited amount of them. Libraries must purchase licenses for each book and treat them as if they are real books, lending them out in a first-come, first-served basis.
Hundreds of local libraries are linked together online through the Maryland Digital eLibrary Consortium, powered by OverDrive Digital Library Reserve. In this way, they can pool their resources. Anne Arundel County's libraries now have access to more than 10,000 e-books, with more than 20,000 licenses. But they also purchase their own e-books only available to their patrons.
Often, it’s still not enough to meet the demand for popular books.
Take the popular mystery/thriller by Stieg Larsson, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, for example. There are 79 licensed copies available to area libraries. None are available, and there are 268 patrons on a waiting list for the book.
E-books aren't the only things with a waiting line at libraries these days. In November, the AACPL system began offering 200 new e-readers like the Nook and Kindle for library patrons to check out. The initiative has been a huge success, and it’s created a huge waiting line, said AACPL spokeswoman Laurie Hayes.
“The e-readers continue to be wildly popular since first being made available,” Hayes said. “As of (Friday), the Anne Arundel County Public Library had 1,145 holds on the 205 e-readers being circulated by the branches.”
Dozens of books are pre-loaded onto these borrowed e-readers, including popular titles such as the aforementioned book by Larsson, thrillers by Tom Clancy, histories, biographies and more.
A survey taken by library patrons who have used the e-readers indicated they found them easy to use, and 74 percent said they’d be back to check one out again.
Based on that success, Hayes said the library system hopes to purchase up to 1,000 new e-readers in the future. The first batch of 200 e-readers was funded by $50,000 in private donations from the Library Foundation. The future devices could be funded through a silent auction during the Annapolis Rotary’s Black Tie and Diamonds gala in March. Attendees will be invited to purchase one or more of the devices for the library’s collection, Hayes said.
E-books can be accessed through the county library’s website. From the homepage, go to “e-library” and then click on “e-books.”
The checkout period for e-books is one to two weeks, depending on the material. The books will simply expire at the end of their loan period, meaning there are no late fees. Patrons are limited to four e-books or audiobooks at a time, although the books can be returned early.