'Digital bookmobile' promotes e-books

Stop in Camas was one of only two in state

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter

Published:

 

Did You Know?

OverDrive developed its first e-books in 1988, on floppy diskettes.

CAMAS — Shauna Ahearn remembers when her folks introduced her to the Camas Public Library.

"I don't remember how old I was," the 16-year-old girl said, but she fondly recalls choosing some books, settling down in a comfy library chair and reading.

Ahearn got another library introduction Thursday when she visited a "digital bookmobile" parked in front of the downtown landmark.

The 18-wheeler is designed to help people access armloads of books — digital downloads, actually — without leaving their own comfy chairs.

The appearance was part of the OverDrive Digital Bookmobile Tour that made two Washington stops, in Camas and Puyallup; OverDrive provides the e-book inventory for the Camas Public Library.

Like most Camas library card-holders, Ahearn said she has always been an old-school reader and has never downloaded an e-book.

"I enjoy the feel of a book in my hands, and taking it with me," the Camas High School junior said.

After Thursday's introductory session, however, she plans to check out the library's e-bookshelf.

"I'll browse and see what's available," Ahearn said.

Linda Swenton, assistant director, said that the

Camas Public Library is coming off its most productive download month since becoming part of the OverDrive coalition in November 2010. The April statistics show a total of 586 downloads: 393 e-books and 193 audios. That's more than double the total of 279 e-checkouts in April 2012.

In terms of overall library circulation, the traditional bound book still rules. Camas patrons checked out about 25,000 items in April, said David Zavortink, library director.

The inventories also are heavily weighted toward the paper publications. Camas has about 144,000 titles in its book collection; it has about 10,000 e-books, as well as about 4,000 audio books available via download.

"There will be increasingly more as itbecomes more popular," Ahearn said.

Swenton noted an important point in the discussion of reading formats. As far as some borrowers are concerned, the formats are interchangeable.

"It's not 'either/or,'" Swenton said. "It's 'and.'"

Swenton said she occasionally has to tell patrons that there is a long waiting list for a particularly popular print title. When she adds that an e-book version of the same title is immediately available, they often opt for the download.

The process does have some complications. Not all publishers allow libraries to acquire their e-books. Borrowers are limited to five e-books at a time. You can't keep reading an overdue e-book until you've finished; when your time is up, the e-book goes away.

Even though the digital versions aren't subject to the same wear and tear as hardcovers, the e-books don't last indefinitely. Some e-books have a limit of 26 downloads, then the library has to buy another copy. And there is no price break when library buys a digital version of a title.

Many print-on-paper books have a much longer shelf life -- but not all of them, Zavortink noted.

"Some older books have been checked out several hundred times," he said. "Newer books are not made as well; they're glued rather than sewn. Some get checked out once or twice, and they're toast."

Ironically, some of that damage can be traced to digital technology, Zavortink said.

"People use a cellphone for a book mark, and they break the spine" of the book.