Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Forgotten Resource

Ever since I was in elementary school back in the early 1960’s, I have enjoyed reading. And although I can distinctly remember not wanting to tackle some of the required reading in high school, I do remember reading quite a bit during my younger years. Then, during my years as a school teacher, I did my best to impart a love of reading to my students. I read to my own children quite a bit when they were younger, and one of my greatest joys as a grandparent is to sit and read to an eager audience of little ones.

My own reading for pleasure seemed to take a back seat as my career demanded more and more professional reading, but there have been times during my adult life when I’ve made reading for pleasure a priority. I remember a particular period when I would buy paperbacks for fifty cents apiece at the Goodwill store, read them, and then re-donate them back to the store. I’m particularly fond of biographies (on the non-fiction side), but when it comes to fiction, I most enjoy legal thrillers. On the other hand, I have very little interest in sci-fi or anything involving the paranormal.

The geeky side of me has always been interested in the technology options available for reading in a digital format. I have never had a dedicated e-reader, such as the Kindle or the Nook, but that hasn’t stopped me from going digital. I’ve long had a Kindle app on my phone, allowing me to read on the fly whenever I have a few spare minutes in my schedule. Now I have a tablet, and with the Kindle app available for it, I find that I do most of my pleasure reading electronically.

My only real rub with digital reading used to be the fact that the only free books that were available were very old looking versions of some of the classics. Not to look a gift horse in the mouth, I am certainly grateful to have access to those books for free. However, I was not really willing to shell out a bunch of cash to purchase more recent titles. I’m typically not a re-reader, so once I’m finished with a book, I’m really finished. And unlike some of my friends, I have no need to keep a big library of all the books I’ve read.

I recently learned of an old fashioned solution to a new fangled problem: my local public library! It has been many years since I’ve used the library. Probably not since I used to take my kids there when they were young. In fact, it had been so long, that when I went to renew my library card a few months ago, I wasn’t even in their computer system anymore. Not to be stopped, I signed up for a new card, and just like that, I was all set up to begin borrowing books electronically.

Once I got my account all set up online, it became incredibly easy to browse for and borrow books. It’s all run through an application called Overdrive, and my borrowed books are all managed through my Amazon digital account. It couldn’t be easier. I browse online, and when I find a book I’m interested in reading, I can instantly see if it’s currently available for digital download. If all digital copies are in use, I can put myself on a waiting list. As soon as it becomes available, I get an email, after which I have three days to log in and actually borrow it. I typically borrow books for 14 days, and when I get within three days of the due date, I get an email reminding me. When my borrowing period expires, my access to it ends on my devices, at which time I can re-borrow it, if it’s currently available.

Another nice feature is that my digital library syncs across all of my devices. If I read a couple of chapters on my tablet, the next time I open the Kindle app on my phone, the book opens to the very place I left off on the tablet. It’s astonishingly convenient! As a result, I’m doing more reading this year than I have in the recent past, and I’m always on the lookout for recommendations for good books to put on my reading list.

I’m not an audio book person, but for those who are, there appears to be quite a large selection of those to borrow, as well. Regardless of how you prefer to ‘approach’ a book, I hope this serves as a great reminder of the wonderful resource that we have in our local libraries!

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