I have written numerous posts about the general concept that libraries are about more than books. That doesn’t change the fact that libraries are still very much about books. It’s just that nowadays, an increasing number of titles are available as ebooks. Or quite often, only as ebooks. Libraries lend ebooks. And audiobooks, for that matter.
From the very beginning, public libraries have given patrons a choice between buying a book from a store or borrowing it from the library. In this day of Kindles and other ebook readers, libraries will lend you a reader if you don’t have one. Or you can download a library ebook to your own reader.
As it turns out, an ebook reader is not strictly necessary. I don’t own a reader, but I have a lot of ebooks. Amazon makes Kindle software available on my desktop computer, my iPad, or a cloud reader. That’s good enough for the ebooks I buy and, as it turns out, for borrowing ebooks from the library.
I will be describing the North Carolina Digital Library (NCDL). It is based on a platform made by OverDrive, which provides digital lending software for thousands of libraries worldwide. For non-North Carolina residents, check to see if your local library participates in anything similar.
To read or listen to a library book, install the free OverDrive Media Console and configure it to work with the NCDL. It has versions to work with every major reading platform: not only Kindle and Nook, but tablet and desktop computers (both Mac and Windows), and all manner of phones, including Blackberry.
The OverDrive Media Console has its own built-in browser, but it works with any other major browser, too.
Alternatively, the OverDrive Read feature does not require downloading the Console and enables access to the borrowed titles on more than one device. Not all NCDL titles are accessible with OverDrive Read. It’s the publisher, not the library, that imposes the limits.
As with physical books, libraries have limited numbers of any one title to lend. If, say, it has only one copy available and someone else has it out, you must wait until it is returned. NCDL offers limited renewal service: one renewal if and only if no one else is in line for the title.
Each title description has a buy button. For generations, people have used the library to decide whether they’ll like a book well enough to buy it. Now it’s possible to buy a book directly from the library page. And the library gets a commission for the sale.
Publishers very often charge a higher price for libraries than for the general public. The commission can offset some of that difference.
You can also suggest new titles for the library to purchase, just as you have always been able to suggest physical titles. A digital library is a real library in every way. You just don’t have to go there in person to use it.