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Mercredi, 21 Décembre 2011 00:24

Check an E-Book Out From the Library

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From Wired How-To Wiki

Feed your inner bookworm. Photo by kodomut/flickr/CC

While there are plenty of reasons to like an e-reader, one of the big promises is the ability to borrow e-books from a library. For some folks, this concept is the Holy Grail of the whole e-book premise. Just think of it. Being able to borrow any book, any time you want; you wouldn't even have to physically trudge to the library to do so. No ratty dead tree books that are missing pages or — even worse — despoiled by some unidentified, but decidedly nasty splotches that a previous patron thoughtfully left behind. No being subjected to 'clever' graffiti or notes in the margins, no worries about catching a debilitating disease that you're convinced is lurking within a particularly worn-looking book and no late fees. In fact, no returns at all. The borrowed e-book will automagically return itself when time is up, saving you having to lug it to the library and feed it into the return slot. Sweet!

Unfortunately, we're not quite there yet.

Reality Check

While libraries have begun to adopt e-book lending in the past few years, it's been an uphill slog. Remember what happened with Napster and MP3s? The publishing industry is terrified that if you have instant access to pristine digital copies of books, you'll run straight to your computer and BitTorrent the hell out of them, destroying the market for new books (both paper and e-books). In the meantime a company called OverDrive has emerged as the intermediary between libraries and publishers, providing the e-book distribution network and borrowing interface for most public libraries in the United States. Now, if things were't complicated enough, there is another elephant in the room, that being file compatibility. Amazon chose to go it alone with a proprietary e-book format for its Kindle e-readers, while most of the other manufacturers chose the EPUB format. Up until fall of 2011, Kindle owners were shut out of e-book borrowing through libraries, since OverDrive supported EPUB. Confused yet? Here are a few factoids that dispel some of the common myths about borrowing an e-book from your local public library:

  • Just because e-books are digital and therefore easily duplicated, this doesn't mean libraries have unlimited copies of a title to lend out. This isn't pay-per-view. Libraries pay for each e-book copy, just as they would pay for a dead tree version. If they have one digital copy of a book in their collection and it's currently checked out, you still have to wait until that copy is returned before you can borrow it. So it's less 'borrow on demand' and more of the same old model, but with a digital copy instead of paper.
  • E-books aren't cheap (they may have started out that way, but if you've checked Amazon lately, you'll realize many titles now hover near the price of their paper counterparts). This means libraries can't wave a magic wand and instantly acquire a digital collection that equals their traditional one. On top of that, the majority of patrons still prefer paper, some publishers (Simon & Schuster, MacMillan and most recently Penguin) are refusing to sell e-books to libraries, while HarperCollins has saddled its library e-book titles with a 26-checkout limit that requires libraries to repurchase popular digital titles. When you tally up all the obstacles you end up with numbers like this: The Toronto Public Library has seen a 288 percent increase in e-book downloads in 2011, but e-books make up only 13,000 of the over 32 million items in the library's collection — less than 1 percent. This is all a long way of saying that libraries aren't exactly overflowing with a bounty of e-books for you to borrow. It's improving, but slowly and not keeping up with demand.
  • Different libraries have different collections, and since you don't have to physically show up to borrow a book, you can find a library half way across the country that has the e-book you want, create a temporary account and check it out, right? Wrong. Initially you could go that route, but publishers wised up to that back door and moved in 2011 to impose geographical restrictions on e-book lending. You can borrow from your local branch only.
  • Borrow books with a click? Despite what the sales guy may have said, it's not quite that simple. More like a dozen, but the good news is that once you've successfully done it once, it gets easier.

How To Borrow An E-Book

Assuming you're in the large pool of e-reader owners who rock an e-reader that's EPUB compatible (Sony Reader, Nook and Kobo users, among others), you have the satisfaction of having been the first group to be allowed to borrow e-books from a library. The bad news is that the reason you had several years of exclusive access was DRM (digital rights management). Adobe Digital Editions supports the EPUB e-book platform and that's the route publishers and OverDrive chose to protect their digital titles. So, if you are in this group, when you reach your public library website and look for directions, the first thing you'll be instructed to do is download and install Digital Editions on your computer. The next step is to connect your e-reader to the computer via USB. Digital Editions will launch, detect the e-reader and give you the option of authorizing the device. That should be it in terms of DRM.

It's relatively easy from here. You'll need that computer and a valid library card, then hit the website of your local library. Look for their e-book or digital lending sect and you should eventually end up with a screen that looks like this:

Capture by Brad Moon,

Look for EPUB or PDF format titles. Pick an e-book that's available (you can also put a hold on a title that's already checked out by someone else), check it out, let it download to your computer, connect your e-reader via USB and Adobe Digital Editions should launch. You'll see a bookshelf titled "Borrowed" and from there you can upload the title to your e-reader. Easy Peasy! Not really, but you were warned in the Reality Check section. However, you don't have to worry about returning the e-book; it will indeed lock or delete when your borrowing time expires — at least that part of the Fantasy Version is true.

Sony PRS-T1 Owners get a break. This new e-reader (released fall of 2011) has the ability to check out library books directly from the e-reader, using the built-in 'Library' application and a Wi-Fi connection. You follow the same basic checkout process (and still need that valid library card), but no computer is involved and the e-book downloads directly to your PRS-T1 via Wi-Fi.

If you'd like to check out and read library e-books on a device other than an e-reader, OverDrive offers a Media Console app for Android, BlackBerry, iOS and Windows Phone 7, as well as Mac and Windows PCs that allows you to check out and download titles directly. Check here for the full list of supported devices and to download the app. You're not going to escape Digital Editions, though — you'll still be prompted to enter an Adobe ID.

Kindle Users

Amazon used to be at a distinct disadvantage when it came to borrowing e-books from the library. Until fall of 2011, Kindle users were just plain shut out. Now that Amazon has inked a deal with OverDrive to make Kindle format titles available, Amazon has actually leapfrogged past other manufacturers in terms of the borrowing experience. There's no Adobe Digital Editions nonsense to worry about, although you do still need to check out books using the library's website, so non web-enabled Kindle users will have to suck it up and head to the computer.

The checkout process is simple, as illustrated by this helpful graphic from

Capture by Brad Moon,

Find the Kindle title you want on your local library's website, check the book out (requires a valid library card), click on the "Get For Kindle" button, sign into your account and click another button to have the e-book sent to your Kindle via Wi-Fi or USB connection — for some reason, 3G will not work. The title can be read on your Kindle, or through a Kindle reading app if you're using an iPad or other device. As an added bonus, Kindle users can make notes and add highlights to borrowed books (don't worry, subsequent borrowers won't see them) and they are preserved in the cloud, so if you borrow the tile again later on or decide to buy the title, your digital scribblings will appear in the new version. For full details, check out's Kindle help section.

It's worth noting that as part of its Prime program, Amazon is currently making thousands of digital titles available for free borrowing through 'Kindle Owners' Lending Library.' This is available to Prime members only, works only with an actual Kindle device (no apps) and is restricted to one book borrowed monthly. Details here.

Original article by Brad Moon,

This page was last modified 00:05, 21 December 2011 by amyzimmerman. Based on work by howto_admin.


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