Hello to the San Juan Island community from your new library director. I’ve met many island people over the past three weeks at the library, and at various grocery stores, hardware stores, consignment shops, restaurants and real estate companies. I’m overwhelmed by the many people who tell me how wonderful their library is, and how much they want it to continue offering great service to the community.
I wonder if everyone knows about all of the free services that the library offers. I’m pretty sure we all know about the books, audiobooks, music CDs and DVDs that are available for free checkout. Those have been available for years. But what about some of the newer offerings that take advantage of newer technologies?
I spoke to a group about a week ago and brought up the subject of eBooks and eAudiobooks. I asked how many people had a device for reading eBooks, and had read an eBook. About two-thirds of the room held up their hands. Then I asked how many had checked out a free eBook from the library? I was surprised to see only one hand go up. Did I mention that library eBooks are free?
E-Books have seen an interesting evolution over the past few years. Some 2012 statistics I looked at showed that 64% of eBook spending was done by women. Further, 31% of eBook spending was done by 18- to 29-year-olds. Publishers Weekly said it’s generally believed that eBook sales will account for about half of book trade revenues within five years. Many books, including some by A-list authors, are coming out in eBook format only. What does this mean? E-Books are still on the rise.
Should libraries offer eBooks in their collections? Many patrons are asking for them. Patrons with their own computer, tablet, smart phone or certain eReader devices have 24 /7 access to the library’s website to check out eBooks. They can check out up to five eBooks at a time, which saves space and weight in a suitcase when hardbacks or paperbacks are left behind. E-Books don’t take up any physical space in a library building. No weeding or shifting is needed, and loss and damage to materials are minimized.
There are some challenges to libraries in offering eBooks. Many publishers have put up roadblocks for library lending of eBooks. Some charge higher prices and limit number of uses per copy. Some publishers won’t sell their eBooks to libraries at all. And then there are a vast number of different eReader devices that all need to work with library eBooks, and the books come in different formats. And finally, publishers build in “friction” which makes the borrowing process more complicated than the purchasing process.
Ideally, we hope to reach the point where all materials are available for libraries to purchase and lend, all formats will work on all devices, and the borrowing process will be greatly simplified. Our library’s mission is to provide “community access to diverse and relevant collections, information resources, and services. Digital media, including eBooks and eAudiobooks, are certainly relevant in this day of digital production and communication.
In the meantime, come to the library to find out more about downloading free eBooks and eAudiobooks to your reading devices. And by the way, the books are free.
San Juan Island Library
1010 Guard Street
Friday Harbor, WA 98250