COLUMBIA — Columbia Public Library’s e-book lending service has nearly doubled since the beginning of this year.
The library introduced the electronic book service with about 700 titles this January. It now has more than 1,200 titles available for checkout, according to Mitzi St. John, the public relations manager of the Daniel Boone Regional Library system.
When the service began in January, library patrons could only borrow e-books for iPads, Nooks and Sony Readers.
A rough estimate for November shows that 70 to 80 percent of e-books are checked out at any given time, according to Brandy Sanchez, a librarian with the system.
As of Nov. 30, e-books and downloadable audiobooks had circulated 57,075 times since the beginning of 2011, St. John said.
The types of books to be downloaded fall into the same categories as regular library offerings — fiction and non-fiction.
“A majority of e-books are chosen based on popularity,” Sanchez said. The library also takes suggestions from patrons.
“Our most popular e-book collection is our romance novel,” she said.
The procedure and rules for borrowing an e-book are similar to checking out a regular book from the shelves.
One can checkout up to seven e-books and audiobooks at one time, and decide whether to check them out for one week, two weeks or three weeks. Some books are available in multiple copies, but the number of copies restricts the downloads.
Users do not need to worry about returning the e-books. At the end of the checkout period, it automatically comes off your record, said Kirk Henley, public service librarian at Columbia Public Library.
“When they (the libraries) pay for the books, they are actually licensing the right for a certain number of people,” Henley said. OverDrive is the library's e-book vendor.
The library does not have an e-book for every physical book it has offered, and it does not have every e-book available across every platform.
“That’s not the library’s decision; that’s the publisher’s decision,” Henley said. The publisher of the book determines where they would be accessed.
OverDrive provides e-book services to the libraries across the nation from four of the six major publishers in America.
According to the two librarians, a majority of the library’s e-book users are 50 years old or older. The library offers a monthly class to teach patrons how to use e-books.
“A great deal of those folks are learning to use mobile technology for the first time,” Sanchez said. “Our goal is that when people go home, they are self-sufficient and can do it on their own."
One of the big reasons that e-books are popular with older patrons is that they are able to adjust the font-size and lighting, Sanchez said. She also said e-books reading is convenient for travelers.
“I don’t think I will stop reading real books because I like carrying a book and turning the pages,” said Ellen Schuster, who borrowed her first e-book, “Food Rules,” during a recent e-book class, “but I think this gives me some flexibility when I’m traveling.”
“Some of the (regular) books are heavy for me; this is much easier to handle,” said Donna Wilson, 86, who received a Kindle as a birthday gift from her children 10 months ago.
“It’s not easy for me to get out to the library all the time, so it’s handier if they just come to me.”
Patrons with a Nook or an iPad can download books either directly on their mobile e-reader or onto a personal computer first before transferring it to a reading device.
Kindle book users will be transferred to Amazon’s website after choosing the book they like on the library website and signing in.
They must finish their last step on Amazon by clicking the “get library book.” Users can choose from transferring the book wirelessly or via a USB cord to their Kindle device or any of the free Kindle reading apps.
“It’s like going to Amazon.com, but it’s free,” Sanchez said.