Libraries Struggle with New E-book Restrictions from Publishers

The explosion of e-book readers has caused some to sound the death knell for local libraries. After all, why get in the car, drive down to the library, search the catalog and stacks(sometimes fruitlessly) and then make the trip again to return the tome when thousands of books can be accessed from one’s home? Without getting into an argument over the tactile experience of holding a physical book in one’s hands, a case can still be made for libraries. Not only do they offer valuable services, such as the free help of reference professionals, but they have been evolving to provide materials via the latest technology. Using such free apps as OverDrive Media Console, patrons can download ePubs or mp3 audiobooks to their Sony eReaders, iPads, laptops or smartphones (but not Kindles).

Unfortunately, some publishers are resisting providing their ebooks for unlimited use by libraries. Last week, HarperCollins instated a check-out limit on their e-books. Their publications may be downloaded twenty-six times before they expire from a library’s catalog. The move has prompted several libraries to boycott the publisher. HarperCollins’ position comes down to money. Unlimited free e-book downloads cuts into their profit margin. Unfortunately, libraries with dwindling budgets cannot afford to repeatedly purchase popular titles.

Read on for how to access library materials from your iPhone and for screenshots of some useful apps.

The quandry is not that different for hard copy books, as readers have placed popular titles on hold for months rather than pay for their own copies. And as those copies became tattered and torn, libraries had to purchase new copies, making up 7 to 9 percent of retail sales. Additionally, libraries could resell used copies for revenue.

Ready to get digital with your library experience? The aforementioned cross-platform app OverDrive Media Console is a bit clunky, with the user having to create an Adobe ID, as well as procure a PIN for their library card and system. Additionally, the number of titles and their availability is limited. My local library system had just over 2,200 titles listed (not including over 15,000 public domain titles). However, once the accounts are set up, the process is less painless than a trip across town. Downloaded texts and audio files are accessed directly within the app.

If the book you’re looking for isn’t available as a download, the iPhone app BookMyne is somewhat helpful. The user can search local library catalogs and get the ISBN and call numbers. Call ahead to your friendly librarian and the book can be pulled and ready for pick-up, hopefully at the drive-thru window. BookMyne also is free and works on iOS devices running iOS 3.0 or later.

WorldCat Mobile is extremely handy as you can first search for a book or author and it lists the libraries in the immediate area in which the title is housed. It is free and works on iOS devices running iOS 2.0 or later.


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