Thursday, September 29, 2011

eBooks eLectrified!

Charlotte Canelli is library director of the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood.

Over two years ago the Cushing Academy in Ashburnham, MA made headlines for a bold and controversial move to eliminate most traditional reading matter from its new school library. “Cushing Academy Library Goes Bookless!” the newspapers exclaimed.

Librarians across the country led the outcry of disbelief. Liz Gray of the Dana Hall School in Wellesley debated Cushing’s decision. “Focused, engaged reading is more likely to occur with printed books than with online material,” Gray wrote.

James Tracy, headmaster of the school, defended the school’s resolve. “Cushing Academy decided to … transform our library into a digital learning center. We wanted to create a … library that goes beyond stacks and stacks of underutilized books.” Tracy and his staff filled the school with eReaders and built a collection of electronic books which could be accessed by every student at the school.

In reality, there are still some “real” books in the Cushing Academy Library and much of the resulting chorus of disapproval was, I believe, emotionally-driven by the love of ‘the book.’

Who can blame them for this emotional response?

An online library can never, and will never, replace the browsing experience of scanning the shelves in a library, a bookstore or your own home. It is certain that the physical book will remain a part of our homes and libraries. Surely, a handwritten heartfelt inscription would be lost in the digital void of an eBook library. Where is the joy in a toddler turning the pages in an actual picture book? Many people will never cozy up to a hard plastic shell that masquerades as reading matter. Others will never accept an eReader, its phantom pages and strange e-Ink.

Author Anna Quindlen wrote: “I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves.” How pure and true her sentiments are. Especially to me.
In our home much of our furniture would be bare, many of our walls would lack character, and most of our rooms would seem empty without our collections of books. Our children were raised with hundreds of books in the homes that we lived in. When our son-in-law moved into his new office he immediately sent a photo … of his newly-arranged bookshelves. Our daughter-in-law in Atlanta often has stacks of books on every surface of their home. A love of the physical books is central to our family’s lives.
And so, you might be surprised to learn that I have promoted eReaders at the Morrill Memorial Library, deciding this past year to invest in six of them for our patrons to check out. These are the Barnes and Noble Nooks and we have presented training sessions and encouraged their use. (Each Nook is preloaded with library titles.)
Like many of my friends, and several of my children, I own an Amazon Kindle. Until now my only option has been to purchase books for my Kindle and I’ve done so with great discretion. Kindle owners and Kindle app users have not had the option of borrowing library eBooks.
That all changed last week and we are very excited about it. Finally, Kindle owners can borrow library books.
Free Kindle eBook loans are now offered on the Minuteman OverDrive Digital Media catalog. Thousands of titles can be requested, borrowed and downloaded to a variety of devices. (There is no need to own a Kindle although the reading experience on the actual device is the best to be had. E-Ink displays are easier to read than any backlit displays and it is easier on the eyes than some paper.)
Free Kindle apps are available for a variety of electronic devices – personal computers, iPhones, SmartPhones and iPads among others. The only requirement for downloading aKindle app is an username and password.
Kindle eBooks can be borrowed for 7, 14 or 21 days. If a copy is out, the title can be requested and will be ready for download as soon as it is available. The download process is relatively easy compared to the other options available using the OverDrive Media Console. If the device is WiFi-enabled the transfer is immediate and basically effortless.
The library has scheduled two Kindle eBook information sessions on Wednesday, October 12 at 10 am and 7 pm. The drop-in sessions will run for two hours and patrons can bring their own devices to the library but registration is required. Staff and their families have a variety of devices and they will demonstrate the process. They will lead those interested through the process on assorted devices, especially on their own equipment. Patrons should have an account in advance of the training sessions and should be willing to download the Kindle app to their device or download to an actual Kindle.
Nook sessions were offered some months ago and we will schedule another special Nook Download training night in the future. This special Kindle eBook information session pertains only to downloading the Amazon Kindle eBooks in the Minuteman catalog.
We are very excited to be a member of the Minuteman Library Network and the new offerings on OverDrive. Be sure to register for a session.
If you have a Kindle or Kindle app you’ll find training modules and online help on our website. To sign up for the information sessions or get help in advance, call the Reference librarians (781-769-0200) or visit the library.