In fact, residents are positively pit bulls about grabbing hold of digital books, according to the Greater Victoria Public Library.
“Boomers and seniors have been huge adopters of e-reading,” said Rina Hadziev, head of technical services for the Greater Victoria Public Library. “It’s a community that uses its library heavily, that adopts new reading trends, so I’m not surprised that we are showing a huge adoption rate.”
Hadziev said from January to November, ebook borrowing increased by 184 per cent. So far, out of almost 195,000 library card holders, about 33,500 have borrowed an ebook. The library system’s collection includes 47,600 ebooks, a number that’s growing daily, and more than 17,800 audio ebooks available to library cardholders.
With ebooks and computer tablets popular Christmas gifts, the library is ready for a spike in e-borrowing. Last year, it nearly overwhelmed the system.
If you received an e-reader for Christmas, the library will begin a series of introductory sessions in January on how to use different types of devices.
Jennifer Rowan, GVPL co-ordinator of adult services and programs, said the library is ready to help anyone with an e-reader — or another device. GVPL has even begun a program called the Technology Petting Zoo, where users can try out various devices.
Hadziev said the GVPL’s ebook collection can be accessed through most computer tablets, smartphones and e-readers like the Sony Reader and Chapters’ Kobo.
A notable exception is Amazon’s Kindle, which has been slower to adopt free lending by public libraries. For now, Kindle owners can’t use their device to access public collections, but Hadziev said recent moves in the United States now have Canadian libraries hopeful the Kindle will soon be onboard.
Accessing the public library ebook collection can be done from home once the application has been downloaded. Go to the Greater Victoria Public Library website at gvpl.ca for details.
Borrowing ebooks is much like borrowing print books from the library. They can only be accessed on one reader at a time and only for a specific time, up to a maximum of three weeks. After that, a timer shuts off access.
Publishers have demanded these limiting features prior to handing over digital copies of their books. They fear making it too easy to borrow ebooks will cut into their business.
Hadziev said her favourite part of ebook borrowing is the lack of late-return fines. The borrowed computer file of any particular book simply times out, so all the borrower can do afterward is delete it from their reader. “Which is a bonus for me, because I’m terrible about keeping track of my late fines,” she said.
For seniors with failing eyesight, ebooks have an advantage over print books, since type can be enlarged with a click. Arthritic fingers and hands can also better cope with a touchscreen or push button than a paper page.
Hadziev said the library still has an important role to play in the age of ebooks.
“There is more material out there, but how do you know if it’s a great book?” she said. “The library is not just about handing you a physical object, it’s about showing you where you need to go. For librarians, right now is really exciting.
“It’s about ways to offer access. And that is what we are all about, getting books to the person.”
For more information, go to gvpl.ca/ebooks
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