October 12, 2013

Lending traffic at Maine libraries shifting to e-books

By Kaitlin Schroeder kschroeder@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

Maine’s libraries finding new life with e-books

Increasing popularity of e-readers is helping smaller libraries keep readers interested.

If you don’t see anyone inside the Wilton Free Public Library, it doesn’t mean no one is checking out a book.

click image to enlarge

Wilton Public Library Director David Olson explains the use of the Maine InfoNet Download Library website for patrons to access e-books. William Denyou works on another computer at right.

Staff photo by David Leaming

How to check out an e-book
To check out an e-book from the download library for the first time, go to Download.MaineInfoNet.org.
Click on “help” and then click on “software.” Click to download the software needed for the computer being used.

After the appropriate software is dowloaded, click on “sign In” in the top right corner.

Type in the library’s name.

Type in the library card number.

Browse for books, click on one, select a title and then click “borrow” to check out.

Only three audio or digital books can be checked out from Maine’s download library at a time.

The digital books automatically expire at the end of their checkout period and do not need to be returned.

Need more help? Stop by your local library, call a librarian or browse the Maine InfoNet help section online.

Don’t have a Kindle or Nook? There are several free downloadable e-readers for computers on the Internet, including Adobe Digital Editions and Sony’s e-bookstore.

The library had a dramatic rise over the past two years in electronic books borrowed on e-readers, such as Kindle and Nook. The growth of digital book circulation in Wilton matches similar growth at libraries across the state, though it is uncertain how the use might change the state’s libraries long-term.

The electronic books — e-books — can be checked out by downloading them online. Digital books are automatically deleted from the e-reader once they’re “due” back at the library.

In 2011, the first year e-books and online audiobooks were available to patrons of the Wilton library, residents borrowed 83 titles. In 2012, 387 titles were borrowed, according to David Olsen, the Wilton library’s director. He said 418 digital books have been borrowed so far this year.

“We’re still in the early stages of this, and it’s impossible to predict how this will change libraries,” he said.

The growth of borrowed e-books in Wilton is mirrored statewide as more libraries subscribe to the state wide e-book and audio book collection.

Olsen said libraries across the state seek to meet readers where they are and adopt the new technology as a way of lending books.

Readers of traditional books dropped from 72 percent to 67 percent nationally from 2011 to 2012, and in that same time period those owning a tablet or e-reader rose from 18 percent to 33 percent, according to a Pew Internet Research Center survey.

Three years ago, the state created the Maine InfoNet Download Library, an online book collection that can be accessed through local and university libraries across the state that chose to participate in the program.

As of September, there were 4,286 audiobooks and 7,083 e-books available for borrowing in the state book exchange.

Olsen, who prefers e-books for his personal reading, pointed out that paper books were once a new technology and said people should not be concerned that going paperless will hurt reading or libraries.

“We’re about connecting people with literature, not specifically paper books. Libraries are about literature and learning,” he said.

For small rural libraries with limited hours and a skeleton staff, such as Wilton’s, the e-books provide residents access to library books at any time and day, instead of the times the library is open.

“For smaller towns and smaller populations, it’s not as much of a financial burden,” said Janet McKenney, Maine director of library development.

E-books are an economical option for small-town libraries because subscription costs to the state digital book collection are based on town population. Towns with fewer than 1,000 residents pay $150 annually to subscribe to thousands of titles and those with 25,000 or more pay $1,700.

James Jackson Sanborn, executive director of Maine InfoNet, which hosts the download library along with other online information, said the state download library was paid for in 2008 by a $40,000 grant and now is funded by libraries that subscribe to the system. About 100 libraries immediately subscribed, and now more than 200 out of 275 libraries in the state do so, including college libraries.

Sanborn said the amount of digital book checkouts has increased rapidly statewide each year since the system went into effect.

In August 2010, 4,301 titles were borrowed online in the state. By August the next year, that number more than doubled to 11,729 checkouts, and there were 20,739 books downloaded in August 2012. The number leveled off slightly this August, with 27,742 titles borrowed and 7,444 new users.

(Continued on page 2)

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