E-books a page-turner at Vancouver libraries

E-readers are flying off the shelves of the Vancouver Public Library.

“The interest in e-books is really rising, it continues to rise, and so we’re responding to that need,” said Ross Bliss, manager of lending services.

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He notes libraries provide free access to materials that are available to people if they can afford them.

“It’s just another option,” he said.

Patrons borrowed e-books 244,144 times last year, up from 133,452 the previous year. In one recent month the library added 460 e-book titles to its catalogue. It started lending e-books in 2010.

The library started loaning 60 Sony T3s last month. Readers place them on hold and pick them up at the most convenient library location.

Ten of the e-readers are dedicated to the library’s outreach program for people who are homebound with disabilities or have vision impairments. The readers can be delivered to their homes.

Like other materials, e-readers can be borrowed for three weeks.

Anyone who doesn’t return one would have to pay for it, Bliss said. He says they retail for $130.

Bliss wasn’t an early adopter of e-readers but he now understands their appeal.

“For people who like to read while they eat, it’s hands-free,” Bliss said. “You don’t have to put the salt shaker on one page to keep it open, none of that stuff. It just lays there and [you] turn the pages with one finger.”

The library purchases e-books on a subscription basis rather than title-by-title, Bliss said. The price of an e-book is typically less than the cost of an book print on paper because it requires fewer materials and no shipping. The library buys bestsellers in physical and digital form.

Bliss says no one knows whether libraries will see fewer books on their shelves in the future.

“I don’t see this happening as any sort of rapid displacement,” he said. “We won’t know for 10, 20 years what the real outcome’s going to be and we also don’t know what kind of technology is going to be available.”

The library offers introductory e-reader classes and drop-in tech cafes on a regular basis. The library’s website includes a comprehensive online guide on how to get started. For more information, see vpl.ca.


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