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E-book loans a hit with library patrons

Cynthia Laino shows a group of library patrons how to download eBooks at a training session Thursday at the Arms Library.
(Diane Broncaccio photo)

Cynthia Laino shows a group of library patrons how to download eBooks at a training session Thursday at the Arms Library. (Diane Broncaccio photo)

SHELBURNE FALLS — If you have an e-reader, Internet access and a library card, you can borrow e-books, audiobooks or movies from your smartphone, iPad or computer, at any time of day.

And if the Internet connection is good, the downloads can take less time than it takes to check-out real library books.

About 26 people, with laptops, notebooks and e-readers, filled Arms Library’s reading room this week to learn about what Cynthia Laino calls “your virtual library branch.” Laino is the access services associate for C/WMARS (Central/Western Massachusetts Automated Resource Sharing), a collaborative that shares a combined 6 million items among its 155 member libraries.

Since 2005, Laino has been training librarians and library users how to “borrow” electronic books and other items on their computers.

“In the beginning, the audiobooks were, by far, the most popular,” says Laino. “But in the last two years, as prices have come down on e-readers, e-book (downloads) have just exploded.”

C/WMARS now has about 3,100 audiobooks, nearly 700 videos for downloading and about 9,200 e-books that can be loaned to library card-holders for up to two weeks.

Last year, Laino lead 26 training sessions at local libraries, but “every year, I’ve been doing more and more,” she said. “In the beginning, it was very difficult to get a library to commit to this training. But so far, I already have 10 (sessions) scheduled for this year. And some of our libraries do their own training.”

What you can borrow electronically from the library depends on what kind of computer or electronic device you have. The first step is to go to the digital books website, http://www.cwmars.org, then use the “Download e-books and audiobooks” link in the Quick Links menu to get to the catalog.

Amazon/Kindle users must download a free Kindle app onto their computers before they can get e-books in the proper format for their readers. This download can be done directly from the website.

Barnes & Noble Nook users go to the same web site, but they also need to download “Adobe Digital Editions,” which can be done from the library website. She said the email address used to register your Nook with Barnes & Noble should be used in setting up the Adobe software.

Once you have the appropriate software for your reader, you can search for e-books on the C/WMARS website.

To “check out” an e-book, you first see if the book is available or if it is already out on loan. If it’s available, you click “add to cart” and log in, using your library card number. If you have a very old C/WMARS card number that begins with a “D,” be sure to type in a capital letter D, says Laino.

“Most of your e-books have to be manually downloaded onto computers, then transferred to e-devices” through USB ports, she explained.

Set-up guidelines for e-books, audiobooks and videos are explained on the website.

Library subscribers can check-out up to seven items. Books can be checked out for up to 14 days, but they are not renewable. Once downloaded onto your reader, you’ll see an icon of the book cover and a line that tells you how many days you have left to read it. After the 14 days have “expired,” you’ll see that on the icon, and will not be able to “open” the electronic book. You can then “remove” or “return” the book, freeing up memory space on your device.

Because Amazon was late in permitting library use on its Kindles, roughly 70 percent of the e-book collection is currently available for Kindles, she said. Also, audiobooks are not available on Kindle, although they can be listened to on the Nook.

Other readers, including Kobo and Sony, iPads and android tablets, can be used. The website has a “Device Resource Center” to help its users.

The library’s electronic collection works best on Windows-based systems. Audio items can be downloaded to MP3 players or to “Windows-enabled” iPods.

Laino said C/WMARS is focused on buying more e-books for its collection, although some publishers don’t allow their books to be purchased for e-libraries. Some don’t release e-books at the same time that they release the printed editions.

Most of the e-books purchased for library use allow only single use, which means that others can put a hold on that book title, and wait for it to be available. You will get an email saying the book is available, and you have four days from when that email is sent to check-out the title.

But the catalog also includes public domain classics and other books listed as “available anytime,” which means several people at a time can be reading it.

Most of the library users at Wednesday’s training session were middle-age or were senior citizens, some of whom had new e-readers that were Christmas gifts.

But Laino said the 43,820 people who have downloaded something from the electronic collection are of all ages.

“I think it’s spread out pretty wide,” she said. “There seems to be a lot more children getting e-readers or tablets.”

She said the juvenile and young adult fiction collections are growing and have become very popular, and those who have grown up with computers seem to figure out how to download books on their own.

“Because kids and teens are so used to going online for stuff, this is nothing new to them. I think that may be why they’ve become so popular.”

When asked if many library users are offended by the idea of a virtual library, Laino just laughs. “You mean the book snobs? I was one of them. I still say it. I will always love real books,” said Laino. “But at the same time, I love to carry one (reader) around with many books. I love having a small library in my pocket. It’s very easy to get used to.”

You can reach Diane Broncaccio at:
dbronc@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 277

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