New library system should make eBooks easier
For a growing number of readers, sitting down with a good book has nothing to do with holding a paperback in their hands. It's all about electronics, from Kindles and Nooks to iPads and other tablets.
Now, the Dakota County Library system is making it easier than ever to fill those devices with free content.
Last week the Dakota County Library system joined representatives of the Washington and Ramsey County libraries to introduce the new 3M Cloud Library, an eBook lending system that library system director Ken Behringer hopes will make the process of borrowing an electronic book significantly simpler. Behringer also expects the new system to eventually open up a wider range of titles for library members.
"We're excited about the new collection we are adding through the 3M Cloud Library app," Behringer said. "With this system's intuitive interface, eBooks are more easily accessible for our residents who use and appreciate this service."
Dakota County libraries have offered eBooks to cardholders since December of 2010, and Behringer said demand has been "fairly significant." In October of this year the library loaned out 11,654 eBooks across its system. Users can check out books without ever visiting the library.
But the old system, called Overdrive, had some problems. Borrowing an eBook from the library was more complicated than simply buying a book from Amazon. And while county library systems share physical content between systems - a Dakota County cardholder can borrow a book from a Washington County library, for example - the Overdrive system doesn't allow that with eBooks. Behringer said the company was not interested in making resource sharing work.
Resource sharing is still a work in progress with the new Cloud Library system, but Behringer said 3M has been willing to figure out a way to implement it. Under Behringer's proposal, the library system that buys new material would give its direct users exclusive access for a set period of time, but after that the material would be made available to the wider user base.
"We've given them some design drawings on how physical circulation works," Behringer said. "We've had some conversations about how libraries think physical circulation should roll into electronic access."
Behringer hopes that part of the process will be figured out sometime in 2013.
For now, just getting the books onto eReaders should be a lot easier. To start the process, visit the library website at dakotacounty.us/library and click the Books and Materials tab. Programs are available for Windows computers and iOS and Android devices that will allow users to transfer books to their reader. Library users can also browse Cloud Library content on terminals at the library.
The Dakota County library system currently has 3,708 eBook titles, and Behringer said a big purchase is planned for early next year. Books simply disappear from the device once the loan period is over.
Anyone looking for more information about eBooks can contact their local library. Help sheets are available for various eReaders and librarians can offer help over the phone or in person.
The Robert Trail Library's phone number is 651-480-1200.
Books aren't the only way Dakota County libraries are branching out into the digital world. The system also has a selection of audio e-books for those who don't want to carry CD audio books with them.
Another provider, Zinio.com, allows library users to view magazines electronically on a computer or iPad. Because of the size of the pages, other devices are not supported.
Rivertown Multimedia reporter Katrina Styx contributed to this story.