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31 Jan, Tuesday
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Montreal Families

Libraries launch e-book lending service

I have a curious problem in my house – my three daughters read too much. I realize that seems like the kind of “problem” many parents would like to have, but it does bring with it a particular set of challenges, most of them relating to our budget. My 11-year-old twins can tear through 500 pages in a matter of days, so keeping a steady supply of reading material on hand is tough. We scour the used bookstores and their friends will often share various tomes. Although we are regular patrons at our local library, experience shows we’re not (ahem) organized or responsible enough to get books back on time. I’m pretty sure we’ve single-handedly paid for the library’s renovations over the years with our fines.

Then a new solution came into view when their grandparents bought each of my twins, Sophie and Alex, a Sony eReader a few months ago. My husband and I were intrigued. Could these electronic readers offer some relief to our book-hungry offspring? Well, the answer is both yes and no. The readers offer some wonderful advantages. Each device can carry up to 500 books at a time, yet the weight is comparable to a hardcover book. We’re excited about the portability as this summer we’re travelling overseas — we weren’t looking forward to paying a baggage surcharge because of heavy books.

The girls share an online account for purchasing books, so each new book can be sent to both their eReaders. They can also download samples of new books to check them out before they commit to purchasing them. But, while the digital versions of their books do cost considerably less, there is still a significant expense when you have voracious readers.

But we recently discovered a new service at the Eleanor London Cote St. Luc Library that has eased the drain on our pocket books. It’s a new e-book lending program, run in conjunction with the Pointe Claire and the D.D.O. Public Libraries. Members of any of those three libraries can download a simple software program and then use their library card to access a growing collection of e-books. You can choose either a 7-day or 14-day lending period, after which the book magically vanishes from your reader without any risk of fines. Not all titles are immediately available if too many other members are reading them, but you can add yourself to the queue and get an email notification when the book is available for you.

Right now, the three libraries (who are in discussion with other public libraries from demerged boroughs to join the site) have a very small collection of titles for young adults. My girls were delighted to download and read James Patterson’s Witch and Wizard from the comfort of our living rooms. Janine West, assistant library director at the Eleanor London Cote St. Luc Library, says the library plans on adding more young adult books, but says they will wait to see if there is a demand for e-books for younger children. (However, the library has an online service, called Tumblebooks, in which young cardholders can, from home or at the library, access over 200 electronic books, in full colour, appropriate for those in pre-kindergarten through Grade 4.)

Families interested in using a local digital library collection should note that the current lending system supports eReaders such as the Sony Reader and the iPad, but not the Kindle, which (at least at time of writing) is exclusively for use on the www.amazon.com website. However, Kindle does allow a digital lending of books between friends. When you do so, the book temporarily disappears from your digital bookshelf, exactly as if you had loaned out a paperback.

Another way to save money on e-books is to check out the huge selection of free books, from Sherlock Holmes to Alice in Wonderland. Sites such as www.archive.org and www.openlibrary.org list more than 3.5 million free books. (Note that the Kindle site also offers some free books, including classics like Little Women.). For our family, these websites and the library-lending program have been a good solution to our particular “problem.” And we can count on their entire summer reading list fitting neatly into their backpacks.

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