Browse for Books from Home, Play Them on the Go Local Libraries Embrace Digital Age by Offering Downloadable 'eBooks'

By Vogel, Stacy | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), May 29, 2005 | Go to article overview

Browse for Books from Home, Play Them on the Go Local Libraries Embrace Digital Age by Offering Downloadable 'eBooks'


Vogel, Stacy, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Stacy Vogel Daily Herald Staff Writer

In the old days, when people were looking for a way to relax or entertain themselves, there was nothing better than curling up with a good book.

Then cable television came along, followed by the Internet and portable CD players. Soon even books themselves were digitized, taking on the formats of "eBooks" - texts of entire books stored on a home computer or PDA.

Now public libraries, including some in the Northwest suburbs, are getting in on the act.

Books on tape (and later CDs) have been available for years at public libraries, and are popular with commuters, the visually impaired and anyone who doesn't have the time or patience to drop everything to sit down with a book.

Now patrons of several area libraries can actually download eBooks or audio books to their personal computers, free of charge.

Some of the libraries making this service available include Indian Trails Public Library District in Wheeling, Des Plaines Public Library, Park Ridge Public Library and Oak Park Public Library.

Although the libraries use different companies, the premise is the same: After downloading a piece of free software, card holders can select and download an eBook or audio book from the Internet through Windows Media Player and store it on their computers or other media devices. At the end of a determined loan period, the file locks and can no longer be accessed.

"You don't have to return it; there's no overdue fees," said Roberta Johnson, readers' services manager at Des Plaines Library. "They can browse our catalog and pick out what they want without ever coming into the building."

The Park Ridge Library was the first in the area to hop on the bandwagon, offering downloadable eBooks starting last summer and adding audio books in January through Overdrive Audio Books and its sister company, Digital Library Reserve.

Now it offers the service as part of a consortium with Indian Trails and Skokie Public Library, soon to be joined by Crystal Lake Public Library and Ela Area Public Library in Lake Zurich.

Des Plaines and Oak Park are working through NetLibrary and Recorded Books to offer downloadable audio books beginning June 1. The North Suburban Library System is examining the option of forming a consortium to share the costs of such a service with some of its 49 member libraries.

"People are looking for alternative ways to read," said Sarah Long, system director of the North Suburban Library System. "Part of our role here is really to help libraries follow the trends."

Local library officials say the services offer several benefits. After downloading an audio book, users can transfer the file to an MP3 player or, in the case of Digital Library Reserve, burn it onto CDs. …

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