The unusually long wait is finally over for electronic book enthusiasts at the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District. After several weeks of testing, the library on May 25 officially launched two new systems with about 3,500 books designed for readers with Kindles, Nooks, iPads and other devices.
Check it out
• What: E-books have arrived at the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District.
• Where: With a library card, residents can check out five books each on the library’s two e-book systems, Overdrive and Access 360, at the library district's website.
• Cost: Free with a library card.
Top 10 e-books at the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District
“Fifty Shades of Grey,”
by E.L. James.
“A Game of Thrones,”
by George R.R. Martin.
by Veronica Roth.
“Fifty Shades Darker,”
by E.L. James.
“1st to Die,”
by James Patterson.
by John Grisham.
by Veronica Roth.
“Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” by Stieg Larsson.
“Fifty Shades Freed,”
by E.L. James.
“Paleo Diet Cookbook,”
by Loren Cordain.
— Source: Fort Vancouver Regional Library District
"We're one of the last public libraries to start this up, so we're kind of behind the curve," Melinda Chesbro, content management director, admitted. "It took a little longer than anticipated, but we're glad it's here."
The library's ability to add the much-requested e-book services was slowed by the opening of the 83,000-square-foot, $38 million Vancouver Community Library last July, followed by departments moving from leased office space into the new building, she said.
The two systems for e-books and another system added earlier this year for audiobooks cost about $250,000 total.
"A lot of patrons have been asking for this, especially after the holiday season when a lot of people got readers as gifts," Chesbro said. "I suspect we might be inundated with requests (to check books out) at first, but we're determined to stay ahead of it."
Launching with a few thousand books might not sound like a lot, but the library has to build the collection from nothing, said Sarah Nelsen, the collection development librarian.
"From what I've read, I think the most popular things will be best-sellers, romance and young adult books," she said. "Unfortunately, you're also really limited in what's available."
Nelsen will have a recurring budget to build up the digital collection each year, but because electronic books are a somewhat new phenomenon, most of the big publishers have been reluctant to release their catalogues to libraries.
Publishers' tight reins
Of the six major book publishers, only Random House and Harper Collins allow public libraries to buy their electronic books — but both publishers have some quirky rules for their services.
"With the majority of e-books out right now, you can circulate them as much as you want," Nelsen said. "With Harper Collins, though, you can only circulate each e-book 26 times, and that's far less than it would take to wear out a print book."
Random House is also switching its rules around. It recently raised its prices for e-books for library purchase by about 300 percent, she said.
"The Random House e-books, when I started they were around $30 each, but then overnight those went up to around $90 each," she said.
Despite the problems, though, the library has secured several copies of some of the most popular titles, such as "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," "A Game of Thrones" and "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone."
Most readers who participated in an early test launch of the systems through the library's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/fvrldistrict said they were excited to see e-books arrive.
Several left comments, such as "Hurray," "I love it. Thank you!" and "SWEET!" on the page.
New users of the systems should find them fairly easy to use.
Each one has different selections and types of books and is aimed at a slightly different audience.
Overdrive is geared toward people with Kindles, Nooks and other e-reader systems. It's also available as an app on smartphones and tablets such as iPhones and iPads.
Through the Overdrive program, a reader can check out a book online, go to a checkout cart in the system and, on a Kindle, it will instantly load the book to the device through Amazon.com's Kindle site.
On a Nook the user has to download the book to a computer and move it to the device, which adds another step. And
on iPhones and iPads the system will transfer books to the Overdrive app with a few button clicks.
"Returning books is simple," Nelsen said. "You don't have to do anything, it will automatically return from your device when the time expires."
Readers can check books out for up to 21 days and can also go online to return them early.
Access 360 isn't as accessible on e-reader systems. It's best used on laptops or tablets for books with a lot of visual components, such as cookbooks, children's books and how-to books.
That system uses a computer and cellphone app called Blio. Users also have to sign up for a free account with http://www.adobe.com/ to use Blio.
"Access 360 shines the best in full color and diagrams," Nelsen said. "We have different titles on each system, although there is some overlap. There's more fiction and literature on Overdrive, more visual sorts of books on Access 360."
Detailed explanations of how to use each system are also available on the library's website at http://www.fvrl.org.
"People can always come in and ask for assistance, as well," Nelsen said. "Just keep in mind it's totally new to us, too. We'll figure it out, but sometimes we may need to figure it out together."