Pat Hodapp, head of the Santa Fe Public Library, doesn't own a Nook, a Kindle
or an iPad -- but she sees the value they can provide for her patrons.
The city's library system is the newest entity in the state to adopt OverDrive, a distributor of e-books to private and public organizations. OverDrive is already in 52 New Mexico libraries, according to the company's website, http://search.overdrive.com.
"We have wanted an e-book system for several years," Hodapp said. "But with all of the litigation going on between e-books [companies], we really had to explore our options."
After much consideration, the Santa Fe Public Library chose OverDrive as its e-book provider because the company had the best prices and book selection.
The library system started small with its e-book program, but response has been good. On Dec. 19, Hodapp said, the library started checking out the 127 e-books it had purchased. As of Jan. 4, only 43 of those books hadn't been checked out. Hodapp said the library will add about 20 new books every month, and that it has about $10,000 slated for increasing e-book inventory throughout 2013. Hodapp said the library has been buying novels as they come off the New York Times best-seller list, which keeps purchasing costs down.
According to a study released in April 2012 by Pew Internet, a project of the Pew Research Center, about 21 percent of American adults had read an e-book in 2011. Many people read e-books on tablets such as the Kindle, Nook or iPad, but they also use alternatives such as smartphones and desktop computers.
According to the same study by Pew, e-book users from ages 16 to 29 prefer desktops and cellphones. In contrast, readers 30 and older prefer tablets and e-readers. OverDrive supports most electronic devices, and it's one of the few companies that support Kindle, according to company spokesperson David Burleigh.
The OverDrive catalog contains about 1 million items, Burleigh said, adding that the company contracts with 2,000-plus publishers and features titles such as The Hunger Games, Twilight, Game of Thrones and other popular works. OverDrive stores e-books on its servers, which means the public libraries don't have to invest in more technology to access the volumes.
Loan policies vary based on the e-book publisher. Burleigh said some publishers offer unlimited checkouts of a title over a yearlong period, but then require libraries to renew the book, similar to a magazine subscription. Regardless of their different policies, Burleigh said, more and more publishers are getting on board with e-books. "Most publishers recognize that's it's something they need to do," he said.
Hodapp said patrons can check out only two e-book titles at any given time with the Santa Fe Public Library. But she also said e-books don't suffer from wear and tear, and library users can check them out anytime they're near a computer.
Another plus: When e-book loans expire, they automatically disappear from a patron's e-reader. That means the library doesn't have to send out overdue notices or worry about losing inventory. Additionally, if a patron places an e-book on hold, it will start downloading as soon as it becomes available.
Another benefit is convenience, said new user Patti Whitney. She said she can carry her Kindle in her purse, and that it is much lighter than a hardback book. She was on the fence about e-books before, she said, but now she doesn't miss traditional books: "I thought I would, but I don't."
But e-books are not problem-free. Patrons cannot donate e-books to the library system once they have finished with them, like they can with traditional print books. This could hurt library revenue. Hodapp said the library made about $50,000 last year selling used books, something that wouldn't be possible with e-books because of licensing restrictions.
Another license problem is that books don't necessarily transfer from one service provider to another. That was the case at the Los Alamos Public Library system. Los Alamos has used OverDrive since May 2012, switching from a previous system called Ebsco Host, according to Gwyn Kalavaza, the library's electronic services manager. That shift meant Los Alamos lost all the books it had previously purchased through Ebsco Host, and had to restart its collection with OverDrive.
Thankfully, Kalavaza said, the library hadn't sunk a lot of money into Ebsco before the loss of its collection. (Los Alamos now has about 1,300 e-titles through OverDrive.)
Burleigh said publishers decide whether titles can be transferred among service providers.
Using e-books may require a little bit of training -- people have to first learn how to operate their Kindle, iPad or Nook, and then must download the OverDrive app to start checking out books. Taos Library Director George Jaramillo said troubles come up often with patrons who are new to e-books. His library offers seminars and individual assistance so people can learn to use their technology effectively, Jaramillo said. Hodapp said similar help will be offered in Santa Fe.
The Taos Library system has used OverDrive since February 2012, Jaramillo said. He said his library first adopted the system because he had patrons clamoring for e-books -- and since its inception, users have checked out 1,442 items. Additionally, Jaramillo said, nine other small libraries such as Shuter Library in Angel Fire and the Pueblo of Pojoaque Public Library have partnered with Taos to offer a total of 1,725 items.
That system operates like an inter-library loan system, except participating locations don't have to ship books out or worry about getting them back.
Jaramillo said he's noticed that the younger generation prefers e-books more than the older generation.
"I think it's really the way the library will be going," he said. "As the new generation comes up, they'll expect it more and more."
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