Monday, July 27, 2015

Mystery E-Books From Your Local Library

Cari Dubiel, super librarian, author and co-host of the ABC Book Reviews podcast is here today to tell us about a well kept secret - how to check out e-books from your local library. 

Did you know that most public libraries offer free, downloadable e-books? I’m the Library Liaison for Sisters in Crime, and when I talk to mystery readers and writers, they often don’t know what we offer in the way of downloadable resources. Or, they’ve been intimidated by them – when we first got e-books, devices were difficult to use, books were cumbersome to download, and many people got frustrated and walked away. Now that we have tablets and apps, the process has gotten a lot easier. 

I’m not going to lie – it’s still not as easy to check out books for free as it is to buy and download with one click from Amazon. And of course, we want to buy books to support our favorite authors. But after working in libraries for eighteen years, I’ve learned that mystery readers are a voracious bunch. Library e-books can help you support your reading habit without going broke. And by checking out books from the library, you support your community. Libraries benefit from showing high circulation numbers; some libraries (like mine) even enjoy higher funding percentages when we check out more books. So, have I convinced you? Let’s take a quick tour of what your library might offer.

First, check out your library’s website. Look for a menu item that says “Digital Collections” or “E-books.” Not all library websites are created equal, so it may take you some time to find. Don’t be afraid to click around. 

In this screenshot from New York Public Library’s website, e-book apps are classified under the heading eBooks, Digital Images, & More.

The available apps depend on the library’s size, budget, the vendors they choose to work with, and whether or not they are part of a greater consortium or lending partnership. All of them are free to use – no overdue fines! Your library may restrict your use if you have fines from physical books, though

Some common apps are:

OverDrive – This is the most widely available downloadable service. OverDrive offers ebooks, audiobooks, music, magazines, and streaming video through its app. These items must be checked out on your card, so there are wait lists. You can renew items if no one else is waiting.

OneClickDigital – This app offers ebooks and audiobooks. Many OneClickDigital books are always available, so you don’t have to get on a wait list to download them (the most popular ones do have wait lists). 

Zinio – Okay, you can’t get mysteries from Zinio, but every once in a while my brain needs a break from those twisty, turny plots. Zinio has the latest popular magazines. They’re always available, so you can check them out as soon as the current issue is published.

Hoopla – Another app with a variety of formats, Hoopla has ebooks, movies, music, TV shows, and graphic novels. These items are always available, but your library may impose a monthly limit on checkouts.

Once you have determined which services your library subscribes to and which ones you want to use, go to your app store on your tablet or phone, and download the associated apps. Most of them require you to authenticate with your library card number. Then, you can download the materials directly from your device.

Still stuck? Call the library. My library offers one-on-one coaching sessions to help patrons navigate the check-out process. Even if your library doesn’t offer one-on-ones, chances are someone there will be eager to show you what to do. Or, you can email me at librarian at sistersincrime dot org. I may not be able to help with your particular problem, but I can at least point you in the right direction for support. Pardon the pun, but give it a shot!

Some libraries put together collections of popular e-books. This screenshot from the Cleveland Public Library's OverDrive site shows Agatha Award Winners.

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