Library reading experience shifting to electronic world

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

There has always been something magical about a visit to the library.

The anticipation of learning something new, uncovering the hidden treasure of a story well told, obtaining vital information on an obscure subject.

The heft of a book, a stiff spine direct from the binders, the smell of ink pressed on pages only days ago.

A thing of the past in this day of Kindles and iPads, Nooks and Androids?

No, not yet, but judging from an e-reader workshop at the McCook Public Library on Monday, attended by a couple of dozen, mostly seasoned, readers, electronic books are increasingly popular.

Denise Harder of the Republican Valley Library System explained how the various e-readers can be used to check out reading from the Nebraska OverDrive system, and the hoops through one must jump to borrow an electronic book.

And it truly is an act of borrowing. Libraries buy single copies of books -- or several of the more popular titles -- and then lend them -- actually the right to read them -- to OverDrive patrons.

Don't worry about returning your book on time -- keep it too long and it will be gone from your Kindle or iPad next time you connect your device to the Internet.

If your choice is already checked out, you can put your name on a waiting list, and you'll have a short time after a quick e-mail to retrieve your choice before the chance is transferred to the next patron on the list.

What do publishers think about e-books? They should be happy. According to figures published Friday, net sales revenue from ebooks exceed that of hardcover books for the first time last quarter.

All together, adult ebooks brought in $282.3 million in the first quarter, a 28.4 percent increase fro the same period a year ago. Young adult and children's ebooks were up a whopping 233 percent to $64.3 million.

It turns out, all those iPads, Kindles and Nooks sold over the holidays are being put to good use this summer.

And those tablets and smart phones aren't limited to text the way hardbacks and paperbacks are. Sales of downloadable audiobooks were up 32.7 percent to 25 million in the first part of the year, and many tablets are used more for video than reading.

How long until book cases are as common as entertainment centers for old tube-type televisions on weekend garage sales, as more of us shift to e-books the way we shifted to flat-screen TVs?

And that experience of visiting a library? A 3D virtual visit can't be long in coming, unless someone's already invented one.

None of this is news to newspapers like the Gazette, where more and more of our readers are of the electronic variety, whether in combination with print subscriptions, online only, or reading from thousands of miles away, where mail delivery is delayed for a week or more. And, it's been an adjustment for long-time print journalists to think about providing video to our web viewers as well.

Whether the media is paper or electrons, however, the basic commitment remains the same -- delivering engaging, entertaining stories, photos and commercial communications to our readers, receiving their feedback and helping them tell stories and share opinions of their own.

More information is available at http://nebraska.lib.overdrive.com or http://www.mccooklibrary.info/

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