Sunday, October 4, 2015

Visiting the eLibrary

Lately, Brian and I have become fans, or at least casual admirers, of the Southern Vampire series by Charlaine Harris. (This is the series that HBO's "True Blood" is rather loosely based on. Think Twilight for grownups...with a sense of humor, which I've been given to understand is conspicuously absent from Stephanie Meyer's work.) We came across the first one on some freebie table somewhere, and then picked up the second from our local library...but at that point we got stuck, because while the library had several other volumes in the series, it didn't have the third one, and we like to read a series in order whenever possible. And while we enjoy these books, we don't really love them enough to shell out $10 per book for them.

Fortunately, we found a way around this problem. As it turns out, our local library participates in a program called eLibraryNJ, which is like interlibrary loan for e-books. It works like this:
  1. You sign up for an account, using your library card number and a PIN you can get from the library reference desk.
  2. You search the catalogue for the book you want and check it out. If someone else currently has it checked out, you can put a hold on it, and you'll be notified by e-mail when the book becomes available.
  3. You can read the book online or download a copy onto your e-reader or other device. The books are available in various formats; we've been reading them with the Kindle app on our tablet, but we've also seen books in PDF form, a format called OverDrive that you can read in your browser, and an open-source format called ePub that works with most e-readers.
  4. When you're done with the book, you can check it back in to make room for a new one. However, if you forget to do this, the book checks itself back in automatically when it expires at the end of three weeks. If you're not done with the book after three weeks, you can renew it, as long as no one else has it on hold.
This program is an elegant way to make e-books lendable without getting snarled up in copyright issues. With its help, we've been able to make our way through the first five Southern Vampire books, and we've just started on the sixth (though we had to wait a few weeks for that one). And since eLibraryNJ appears to have every book in the series in "stock," we should have no trouble making it all the way through.

And when that runs out, there are heaps of other series we can try, all just a click away. The site even offers suggestions for us based on our previous choices, just like Amazon does. Plus, it has a collection of classic works in the public domain that you can check out for as long as you like; they never expire, and they don't count toward your checkout limit. So if we ever want to read something by Wilkie Collins besides The Moonstone and The Woman in White, the only two novels available at our local library, we're in luck.

All in all, this site is a great resource for all book lovers who live in New Jersey and own any kind of electronic device. Most public libraries seem to belong to the site, and even a few non-public ones, like the Carl C. Brigham Library at Educational Testing Service. And if you don't happen to live in New Jersey, try Googling "e-library" plus the name of your state, and there's a good chance you'll find one you can use.
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