Library Services Exposed: eBooks

Libraries are known for housing a seemingly endless number of books under their roofs. Mysteries, biographies, picture books, romance novels, graphic novels, historical fiction, etc. If you can think of it, the library either has it or can get it. But what if you don’t want to leave your house? What if you’re dying to use that new kindle? Look no further, eBooks are your answer.

eBooks are not new, we all know that. In fact, the first eBook was invented in 1971 by a University of Illinois student named Michael Hart. While spending a lot of time on a huge old computer that was connected to an ancient version of the internet called ARPAnet, Michael had an idea. After receiving a copy of the Declaration of Independence at a grocery store around the 4th of July, he thought: “what if you could read this electronically?” He typed the text into a computer and then sent out a message on ARPAnet saying that it was available for download. Six people indulged in his offer. Soon afterwards, he uploaded other important historical documents, such as the Bill of Rights, the US Constitution, and the Bible.

Thankfully, the internet and eBooks have come a long way since 1971, and we can now read almost anything online. Your library has access to thousands of eBooks, usually all you need in order to use this service is your name and library card number. There are several different databases that your local library could be connected to; it is different for every library. If you are interested in learning more about what your library has to offer, you can go to their website, stop in to ask your librarian, or if you message me, I would be more than willing to investigate for you. I will highlight the basics of using some of the most popular eBook programs that public libraries partner with below.

  • RBdigital                                         Print

RBdigital offers eBooks, audiobooks, magazines, movies, television shows, and more. Your library picks and chooses which services they wish to pay for and offer to their patrons. RBdigital offers downloads on computers, tablets, and smartphones, and also offer an app to make titles easy to search, download, and manage.

With cloudLibrary, you login with your library card number and then can browse the ebooks and audiobooks your library has access to. Unfortunately, just like at your physical library with physical books, your library only has access to a certain number of copies.

If you are looking to read/listen to a new or popular book, there is probably going to be a wait before you can get access to your library’s copy, and you have to place a hold on that item. While browsing titles, there will either be a green button that says “borrow” (meaning it’s available immediately), or the button will say “place hold,” and will state in how many days the book will be available. In addition, you only have a set amount of time to read or listen to anything you check out.

OverDrive is very similar to cloudLibrary. You can search and browse books and audiobooks that your library has access to, and you might have to place holds on popular items. However, in my experience, OverDrive does a better job than cloudLibrary advertising the books that are available on the home page. In addition, every book cover image has a banner saying if it is available on every page, not just when you are browsing a specific genre, like on cloudLibrary.

  • Flipster                        The logo of Flipster Digital Magazines.

You can download up to hundreds of magazines, depending on what your library has subscribed to. Most likely, they will subscribe to some very popular magazines that they already have available for checkout at the library, and some less popular magazines of which they do not offer the in-print version. This is a good way to broaden the magazine choices, while also expanding access for those periodicals that might be checked-out often. There is a user-friendly app to download for phones and tablets, and in order to access a login page on a computer, you must find a link on your library website.

  • Academic databases

Looking to do some research or learn more in-depth about a certain topic? ProQuest EBook Central provides downloads of how-to books, the “for Dummies” series, and textbooks in a variety of subjects. Gale Virtual Reference Library similarly provides downloads of large academic eBooks, including subject encyclopedias and textbooks. Gale Power Search, among several other similar and linked databases, is a searchable collection of peer-reviewed journal articles, book reviews, newspaper articles, and ebooks. You can filter your searches by subject, date published, author, keywords, and titles. These databases are normally provided through your state library. In Maine, it is called the Digital Maine Library, in Michigan it is called MeLCat.

eBooks have dramatically expanded the reach of public libraries’ services… I mean, you don’t even have to leave your house to check out books! In addition, the expansion of accessibility for handicapped and/or disabled patrons that these online databases have given libraries is extremely important. Many eBook readers have zoom options, can have the text switched to white on a black background, and offer the convenience of not having to hold a book open. Of course audiobooks provide an option for patrons who cannot see well or who cannot read.

This has just been a snapshot of the available eBook services your local library might use. As always, every public and school library has different offerings, so it is best to check your library’s website or stop by to ask a librarian. As always, you can message me or comment on any platform and I will do my best to research whatever information you are searching for!


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