By Sue Botos
Judging from the number of people packed into the auditorium at the Rocky River Public Library last week for an e-reader workshop, Kindles and other tablet devices must have topped a lot of Christmas wish lists.
“A ton of people must have gotten them for Christmas gifts. We only planned for about 15 people, and we had over 100. We didn’t think as many would come,” commented library Director Nick Cronin, surveying the crowd that ranged from elementary school students to grandparents. Even some families came together, each member armed with their electronic device. “I wonder if we can get on the group plan,” quipped one mom.
Members of the library’s computer training department first led the group through some basic instruction, covering the difference between various e-readers and how to navigate the library website to download books. Questions from the audience reflected experience with electronics ranging from “What is Wi-FI? (Wireless Internet) to “Do these things make noise?” (only via headphones).
Because some e-books must be accessed through the Amazon website, the option of buying the book is offered. “The right answer is no! I borrowed it from the library,” prompted instructor Mary Pelton. She continued, saying that the first e-books were available in 1975, much to many people’s surprise.
The audience was also offered tips, such as purchasing a gift card and using that number and password in lieu of a credit card number to buy e-books. Pelton also walked the group through creating an account on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. She added that several websites, such as Project Gutenberg, offer free downloads of older books with expired copyrights. She cautioned that some no-cost books can be kept; others are only available for a specific time. E-books borrowed from the library can be kept for 21 days.
The audience was then split into groups by device, for more specific instruction. Erin Nanni, who was working with library Deputy Director Jamie Mason, appeared to be enjoying her reader, which she said was a surprise Christmas gift. “This is great!” she exclaimed, as Mason showed her how to navigate the screen.
Also receiving a reader for Christmas was Mafe Chaves, 10. “It’s fun. I love to read,” she said as she added her favorites, “The Penderwicks” and “Sea of Monsters,” to her list. She said she even downloaded some books for her little sister.
Cronin said that the Rocky River library began offering e-books in September. “There was no initial increase in circulation,” he said, adding, “It has not impacted the traditional book checkout, but it’s something we’ll keep a close eye on.” Electronic books make up about 1 percent of the library’s circulation, according to Cronin, but as he eyed the crowd he added, “I’m guessing those statistics will go up.” He also said that the library is considering the purchase of e-readers that may be borrowed by patrons.
Cronin said he has an iPad and an e-book app on his Smartphone; however, he has not given up on “real” books. “I’m about a 50-50 reader of both at this point,” he revealed. He did say that he enjoyed the convenience of e-readers. “It’s so convenient; you can just slip 300 to 500 books into your pocket.”
Printable instructions for downloading books using general tablets, smartphones, iPads, iPhones and iPod Touch, Kindle, Kindle Fire and Nook e-books can be found on the library website, www.rrpl.org. The Overdrive Digital Collection also offers audiobooks, e-books, movies and music for downloading, as well as a link to ManyBooks.net, a site for no-cost downloads.