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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

E-Books in the Library

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, November 28, 2010

E-Books are like everything in our society today, which is prefaced with an “E.”


They are electronic versions of whatever follows the “E.”


E-Books had their beginnings in 1971 when Michael Hart was given time on a mainframe computer, and he decided to place important documents online.  This was the beginnings of the Gutenberg Project which today provides over 100,000 books online that are within the public domain.


The practical use of E-Books began in 1998 when Netlibrary began to provide content to libraries in an E-Book format.


Major publishers began using E-Book format in 2001 as more and more equipment became available to use the electronic format of books.


It was a slow start, as various companies were producing equipment that was not compatible with each other.


Nothing like buying an E-Book reader to find that it wouldn’t accept other formats, and would go out-of-business.


By 2005, compatibility had entered the marketplace, and E-Books were here to stay.


Our library system entered the E-Book arena as a cooperative venture through our automation system.  Today that database offers over 20,000 titles for download to library card holders.


Yes, the humble little library card again serves as the key to information, and in this case it is the download of E-Books, and a digital collection of DVDs and music.


To access them, go to our web page at to connect to the database of e-products.


You will need to download free software to allow the products to work on your equipment.


The E-Books will work on ipod, nook, Sony readers, smartphones, ZEN, ZUNE, Blackberry, and Sanse to name only a few.  A complete list with information is available on the E-Book site.


And we are sorry to report that Amazon’s Kindle remains the only product that will not work with general E-Book products, requiring only Amazon products to work.


The E-Books are displayed in 28 different subject areas, as well as new, recently returned, and hot topics for your ease of searching.


They are downloaded for a period of three weeks, and then automatically disappear from your reader.


You can place a Hold for E-Books that are not available at the time, and you will be e-mailed when available.


There are no replacement fees because you can’t lose an E-Book, no overdue fines as they cannot be overdue, and you can download up to 10 per account.


You do need to realize that not every paper-produced book is available as an E-Book, and the library consortium does have to purchase new items, they are not provided free to the library.


Additional E-Books are available from the Ohio E-Book Project, which is linked to the side of our shared database.


A third source is the Gutenberg Project, which are E-Books produced from classic works that are out-of-copyright, which were published before 1924 or 1948 in some cases.


My experience is that you either love E-Books, or you hate them.  They aren’t for everyone, but they are here-to-stay in our world, and the library’s collection will certainly expand as time progresses.


It opens a new population of library users, people we may never see or meet in person, but they enter the library system by electronics.