I composed this today, as a response to a couple of e-mail inquiries about downloadable e-books for offline e-book readers.
Just last week I had sent a link to my colleagues to a story in USA Today, comparing the leading devices and analyzing the problems publishers have with e-books as they are currently being offered for these readers.Thanks for your question. The library offers electronic books for access online through NetLibrary, but at present they can only be viewed online. They cannot be downloaded for use offline with an e-book reader such as Amazon's Kindle, the Sony Reader, and Barne's & Noble's Nook.
While our downloadable audio books have been very popular, since they can be used with many portable MP3 players, or burned to CD, there has not been a comparable demand in the past for e-book texts that would have justified the significant additional cost of providing them in a downloadable format. A number of e-book readers have come and gone, without really catching on with the reading public
This may change. Yours is one of several inquiries we have received in recent weeks. Libraries are watching the e-book reader market with interest.
NetLibrary's downloadable texts are in the PDF format, which will work on all the current readers. If the library makes them available in the future, they will work on the (patron's e-book reader).
Yours sincerely, etc.
Public libraries can't afford, in these times, to be, "build it, and they will come" institutions. We've been burned by expensive databases that our users don't know what to do with. They think any "search box" works like Google or Yahoo. We lose sight of the fact that only a quarter of the U.S. population has a college education. No, it's, "let's see if someone else builds it, and they come, and then we'll think about building one too."
It's not only that. I am, I admit, a dinosaur. I don't even wear a wrist watch, much less carry a smart phone or a Blackberry. I am not a "road warrior" who spends a lot of time on airplanes or in hotels. But I was playing with the Mobipocket Reader, which uses an e-book format originally developed for PDA's, (Personal Digital Assistants, remember them?), and which format Amazon has adapted for it's Kindle reader. Project Gutenberg now offers it's free e-books in the Mobipocket format.
I was looking at Project Gutenberg's offerings by Anthony Trollope, and I had to be honest. There was no way I would read Trollope on my PC. Nor would I spend several hundred dollars for the privilege of reading him on an e-book reader. I can borrow the book from the library at no expense. I can sit in my comfy green leather chair while I read it. I can mark my place with a bookmark if I need to get up, or if I am through reading for the day. I can put the book in my bag, and continue reading the next day at lunch in the park, with my place saved by the bookmark. I will concede that an e-book reader can be "as good as" this, but if a new skill set and an open wallet are required for the same result, where is the compelling reason to switch?