e-Discover the Classics

Posted 12/17/10

Jamie LaRue We librarians know what’s going to happen. Especially after we hosted, in partnership with Best Buy, a couple of “tech petting …

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e-Discover the Classics


Jamie LaRue

We librarians know what’s going to happen. Especially after we hosted, in partnership with Best Buy, a couple of “tech petting zoos” to let people play with the latest gadgets, we’re sure that somewhere around Dec. 27, lots of people will bring their shiny new ebook readers to the public library, eager to scout out what we’ve got for them.

Most e-reader companies offer their own online stores. But that can get expensive. As I have learned for myself, you can spend more in an afternoon than you pay for the public library in a year.

It’s good to remember: libraries are a public purchasing cooperative. Why not leverage your library investment to gain access to books in this new format?

We already have something called Overdrive — brand new ebooks (as well as audiobooks) that you can check out from us much like a regular library book. (Just click on “downloadables” from our library website at DouglasCountyLibraries.org.) That program works with several ebook readers, among them the iPad, the Sony eBook Reader, and the Nook. It does not work with the Kindle — not because we don’t want it to, but because Amazon has its own, proprietary format.

Many epublishing vendors haven’t quite figured out how to deal with shared public content. They’re worried that library use will eat into private purchases. (In fact, libraries account for about a quarter of all book buying nationwide. We’re not only good to publishers, we grow the market for readers.)

Some vendors fear that ebooks will do to book publishers what file sharing did to music publishers: bypass the middle man altogether. And thus we have Digital Rights Management (DRM) issues to contend with.

Some vendors only offer their products through their own locked-down websites. That means you have to search our catalog, then search other websites. It’s inconvenient and time-wasting.

So I’m pleased to announce a statewide public library holiday special — e-Discover the Classics.

Thanks to the Colorado Library Consortium, your local library now offers almost 500 classic titles (419 ebooks, and 47 audiobooks), all downloadable for free. Harvested from Project Gutenberg, which features public domain and other freely accessible works, the e-Discover the Classics Collection is integrated right into our library catalog.

To find, for instance, “Jane Eyre” or “the Brother’s Karamazov” you can just search for them as usual. But there will be a new “tag” in the record: “click here to access a downloadable book.”

Do that, and you’ll be taken directly to the download page of Project Gutenberg, which has files in a variety of formats appropriate for your computer, your new ereader, or your cell phone.

Because these titles are copyright free, they’re yours. Keep ’em. Send the files to others. It’s perfectly legal. And five hundred titles isn’t a bad beginning for your personal elibrary.

We’ll also highlight a nice, compact list of the titles on our website, so you can just work through them as a project.

Finally, we’ve also put up a page where people can find useful links for using their new ebook readers, or leave questions and comments. It’s here: http://blogs.douglascountylibraries.org/ediscovertheclassics/

An example of our tips: I highly recommend the free e-content management software called Calibre (http://calibre-ebook.com/). It should be one of the first programs you install on your computer after you get your new reader. It works with most file formats and devices.

Publishers do have to change with the times. So do libraries. But there’s still a place for thoughtful public exploration, collaborative purchasing, and the fearless advocacy of literacy and lifelong learning.

Your public library: it’s what’s next in reading.

Jamie LaRue is director of Douglas County Libraries. LaRue’s Views are his own.


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