Library E-Books Easier, but Still Hassle

Article excerpt

Libraries have been lending e-books for longer than there's been a Kindle, but until recently only a few devices worked with them. That's changed in the past few months with the arrival of software for reading library e-books on some popular devices: iPhones, iPads, and Android-powered smart phones.

However, I'm sad to report that reading library e-books is still more hassle than buying them. The whole process could be smoother, and there are questions about how libraries are going about the transition to the e-book world.

But let's focus first on the good news: You can now download library books straight to your Apple or Android device. Once you've figured out the system and are lucky enough to find a book you want, it takes only a few minutes to start reading.

Each library has a limited number of copies of each e-book to lend out. If it has five electronic copies of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, then five patrons can have the book at once. Others have to place an "e-hold" on it and wait till one of the five "return" the e-book, which happens automatically at the end of the borrowing period, usually three weeks, if the borrower didn't voluntarily return it earlier.

That's right: There's no more hunting around the house for overdue books, no more late fees. That alone should make up for some of the hassle of e-book borrowing.

But the selection of e-books is small, and the limited number of copies is frustrating. Right now, I'm number sixtytwo out of ninety-eight people waiting to read Nassim Nicholas Taleb's The Black Swan at the New York Public Library. …