Manchester City Library

Manchester, NH's Online Library

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Thoughts on eBooks, publishers, and libraries

May 13th, 2014 · 1 Comment · Books, City Library, E-Books, Main Branch, West Branch

It’s quite obvious that eBooks are not the same as physical books. Physical books are made up of many pages that you can flip through, can easily be distinguished by their covers, and take up lots of space. eBooks on the other hand can be stored on a device, which means you can have dozens (hundreds!) of titles in something smaller than a paperback. You can also adjust the font size, color background, and alter other aspects to customize your reading experience. While some people prefer the physical book, a growing number of people enjoy each format for what it offers.

For the most part, borrowing an eBook from the library is a different experience than checking out a physical book. (If you’re on vacation miles away, all you need is an internet connection!) However, there is one thing that is the same: most eBooks may only be checked out by one person at a time, and you must put your name on the hold list if it’s checked out.  “But this doesn’t make sense!” you cry. Anything electronic has the ability to be available all the time, whenever we want it…that’s the whole point, right? So why doesn’t this work with library eBooks? In a nutshell, it comes down to the publishers, and how they view eBooks in libraries.

In some respects, publishers want an eBook to be treated just like a physical book, such as in the above example of one copy per user. On the other hand, libraries pay much more for eBooks than they do for physical books, often triple the cost. Some publishers don’t actually sell their eBooks to libraries, but rather lease them for a specific time frame, such as one year, or a certain amount of checkouts. A new copy must be purchased (or not) after it expires. This might explain why that eBook you borrowed 2 years ago is no longer in the collection. Other publishers will not even sell to libraries at all, so if you want a particular new title, you’ll have to borrow it in print or purchase the eBook yourself. And just when you thought there were no more scenarios, some publishers do not sell to consortiums, and Manchester is part of both GMILCS and the NH Dowloadable books consortiums.

Despite these hurdles, we actually do have quite a nice collection of eBooks! As the eBook market has evolved, publishers have altered their terms and many more sell to libraries now than in the beginning. The initial step of figuring out how to borrow an eBook might be daunting for some, but once you are set up, it’s really very easy. If you’ve had trouble in the past, give it another chance. There have been improvements to make the experience more seamless. We have two platforms, OverDrive, and 3M, and you can use one or both at the same time.

OverDrive is the NH Downloadable Books Consortium organized by the State, and has a large collection of eBooks and downloadable audiobooks. OverDrive works with Apple, Android, Nook, Sony, and Kindles, among other smaller brands. There is even a format that allows you to read in your browser. While the books do appear in the library catalog, you have to go to the OverDrive site to check them out. You can follow the NH Downloadable Books blog to see what new titles have been purchased, or search for troubleshooting issues.

3M is the GMILCS Consortium, and offers only eBooks (but downloadable audiobooks are coming very soon!). The collection is smaller, but there are also a lot less people using it, so often the wait time for popular books is much shorter. 3M works with Apple, Android, Nook, Sony, and the Kindle Fire, among other smaller brands. You can check them out in the app, but also from logging into your library account from the catalog. This feature makes 3M really easy to use; if you check out from the catalog, the book will automatically download to your device. No going to an extra site. The GMILCS 3M wiki has brochures with directions and other troubleshooting advice.

Our download eBooks page also has instructions for both services, but if you’re still having trouble, stop by the library and one of our reference staff can help get you set up. If you’re already set up, browse our list of 3M eBooks, or check out our extra copies of OverDrive Advantage titles for MCL cardholders.

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