Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Big Changes on the eBook Scene, part 2

Just when you think the eBook scene will be quiet for a couple of days, Amazon unveils its much bally-hooed Kindle Fire tablet and three other lower-cost Kindles. Let the hardware wars begin...or continue, as the case may be. This announcement comes on the heels of the marriage of Amazon and Overdrive, which brings you New Hampshire Downloadable Books (NHDB) that are now compatible with the Kindle.

If you don't already own an eReader, it may be tempting to take the plunge now. There are more devices than ever, and prices have come down dramatically since the first Kindle was introduced in 2007 at $399. From where I sit at the Reference Desk, the response to eBooks is mixed. Some readers say, "Never!" Some have gone exclusively digital and love it. They are downloading eBooks from NHDB. Many, like me, have an eReader, but would rather read paper.

The chair next to my desk is often occupied by a puzzled patron. I like to be proactive and do a little pre-eReader-buying education. So here are some points to ponder before you decide to get your digital feet wet. Please note that this post is not anti-Amazon. It's just the facts, ma'am.
  • You can read eBooks on a computer, on an eReader, or on a portable Android, Blackberry or iOS device such as iPhone or iPad as long as you have any necessary software installed. Features can vary widely among devices.
  • New Hampshire Downloadable Books, available to cardholders in 170 NH communities, offers eBooks in Kindle and ePub formats, and audiobooks in WMA and MP3 formats. Not all titles are available in all formats. If you are borrowing from NHDB, be sure you are checking out the correct format for your device, because we are unable to fix or cancel errors, and the checkout will remain on your record until its automatic expiration date, 2 weeks for eBooks, 1 week for audios.
  • The NHDB titles are selected by the NHDB administrator using funds provided by the member libraries. Some publishers, such as Macmillan and Simon & Schuster, do not make their eBooks available for library borrowing. New titles are added to the collection weekly. Even so, there are times when demand outstrips the supply of available titles. Place holds and be patient.
  • Amazon Kindle is the only device that use proprietary eBook formats AZW and Mobi. All other eReaders, as far as we can tell, use the more common ePub format, which can be managed by the free Adobe Digital Editions (ADE) software. Some will  read .PDF format as well.
  • If you have or purchase an Amazon Kindle, you will be able to borrow eBooks through NHDB, but if you wish to purchase eBooks, you will be, for the most part, limited to a single vendor--Amazon. While it's possible to purchase ePub books from other vendors and convert them to Mobi using Calibre or KindleGen, these programs require considerable patience and technical expertise. The library staff cannot help you with them.
  • When you download Kindle eBooks through NHDB, you will be sharing information about your reading interests with Amazon. Our typical library privacy measures will not apply once you are transferred to Amazon's download site.
  • Library Reference Staff will be happy to show you how to use the NHDB site, show you what devices are compatible, and answer basic questions. We cannot be experts on all devices, but we will make every effort to help you get up and running. Some problems may need to be referred without immediate resolution, but we will get back to you as quickly as we can.
Librarians don't agree with the view that eBooks mark the end of printed books or that libraries are becoming obsolete in the digital age. eBooks are simply another format, like large print books and books on tape and CD. We hope you enjoy a good read in whatever format you prefer.

No comments: