2012-09-26 / Family

Library offers free e-books

System gives access to thousands of titles
By Donna C. Gregory

County resident Kristine Branch says she uses the public library’s e-book system to download one to two books every week. 
Page Dowdy/Chesterfeild Observer County resident Kristine Branch says she uses the public library’s e-book system to download one to two books every week. Page Dowdy/Chesterfeild Observer When Midlothian resident Kristine Branch wants to read the latest FBI thriller by Catherine Coulter or paranormal romance by J.R. Ward, she doesn’t have to head to the nearest bookstore. Instead, she just logs onto the county library’s website, checks out the book electronically and downloads it to her Nook e-reader.

Chesterfield County Public Library’s (CCPL) e-book service called OverDrive gives Branch access to all the latest bestsellers without ever leaving her home – and the service is free for library patrons.

“I only have purchased three books from Barnes & Noble,” Branch says. “The rest have been checked out from the library – I mean, hundreds. I used to go to the library three times a week. Now I don’t have to go there.”

Branch is one of a growing number of library patrons who regularly check out e-books using OverDrive. The service allows patrons to download e-books to various electronic devices, including computers, e-readers, tablets, smartphones and mp3 players.

CCPL added OverDrive in 2009, and patrons currently have access to 27,000 titles.

“It’s really exploded,” reports Carolyn Sears, CCPL’s library services administrator for community services. “It’s proven to be popular from the start.”

About 650 e-books are checked out per day, with 170,000 checkouts reported during 2011. Sears expects those numbers will continue to grow as people learn about the free service.

“There are still a lot of people out there who don’t even know about this service,” Sears says. “The people who do know about it are using it heavily.”

With and charging around $10 per e-book, the OverDrive service is a godsend for penny-pinching bookworms. Branch downloads new books onto her Nook weekly, saving thousands of dollars each year.

The only drawback is that sometimes there’s a waiting list for the most popular titles.

“The only times I’ve purchased some book through Barnes & Noble are where I was leaving to go on a trip, and the hold was just too long, or it was a particular author that I really, really like, and I didn’t want to wait,” Branch says. How it works

A library card is required to use OverDrive (see box). The service is accessible through the “Downloadable Digital Library” link on the right side of CCPL’s home page, library. After clicking the link, patrons can then browse fiction and nonfiction selections.

The checkout process for e-books is similar to the one used for regular books.

If an item is available, patrons can download it to their computer immediately, and then transfer it to their favorite device. If it’s already checked out, then a hold can be placed on the item, and the patron will be notified by email when it becomes available.

Items can generally be checked out for up to 21 days. The e-book is no longer accessible at the end of the lending period, eliminating the possibility of late fees.

CCPL offers the “Your Personal Librarian” service for patrons who need assistance downloading e-books to their devices. (Call your nearest library branch to set up an appointment.)

The Digital Bookmobile National Tour, housed inside an 18-wheel tractor-trailer, will visit Central Library, 9501 Lori Road, Chesterfield, on Monday, Oct. 1, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., and Tuesday, Oct. 2, from 1-7 p.m. During these free events, patrons can learn how to download e-books from OverDrive through interactive demonstrations and high-definition instructional videos.

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