eBooks and Audiobooks, Oh My!

After helping my supervisor with training sessions on our new “technology toolboxes” (a collection of eReaders our library was able to purchase with the funds from a grant) and participating in the beta testing for the State Library of Kansas’s new provider for downloadable audiobooks, I have sort of become one of the go-to’s for all questions relating to downloadable eBooks and audiobooks available through the library. The funny thing is, I don’t own an eReader and I rarely listen to audiobooks.

You might be thinking I’m old fashioned and claim to prefer the feeling of a physical book in my hand over scrolling through a digital title--but that’s certainly not the case. I love the idea of being able to store thousands of books on one little device, being able to transport that library anywhere in a backpack or your pocket, and never having to worry about the deterioration of the book. I’d love to get my hands on a Nook, or a Kindle Fire, or even one of those nifty iPads--I just can’t afford one. That sort of became an added benefit to working at my library--we purchased the eReaders (4 Sony eReaders, 4 Kindles, 4 Nooks and 4 iPads) for two reasons: 1. Staff can now have the chance to explore and experiment with them and then be ready to answer questions patrons may have, and 2. We’re planning on setting up a kiosk where patrons can do the same and possibly answer their own questions.

What about audiobooks? The library currently has a very extensive collection of physical CD and MP3 CD’s that are (somewhat) easily transferable to computers and portable devices, but there are those who want even more convenience and want to be able to download them from home. This is why and how Overdrive, the former platform for audiobooks and eBooks, became popular over the last three or four years. But now that the State Library’s contract is ending with OverDrive and it's kind of become a dirty word for Kansas librarians, there’s been a noticeable increase interest in both audiobooks and eBooks. I can't remember the last day I've gone without answering questions about what the new platforms will be and which devices will be compatible with the content.

If you ask me, the whole transition has been kind of a headache. Though it was helpful to do the beta testing for OneClickdigital, the new audiobook platform, I still feel like there hasn’t been enough time to learn everything and then help make sure everyone on staff knows enough to be able to answer questions about it. And the bigger headache is the gap in service for eBooks. The State Library tentatively will be testing the new platform the first week of December, but then we’re still not quite sure when the service will be available to patrons...it’s pretty much out of our (city library’s) hands. In the meantime, we’ll be directing patrons to other sources for free downloadable books, like Project Gutenberg or Google eBooks, but I know those will far from satisfy the demands some may have.

These transition pains come on top of the questions about eBooks and audiobooks we already get at the Reference Desk, and when we try to explain what's going on with the State Library and OverDrive and the new platform, we sometimes get tongue tied. So after all this, would I still be interested in an eReader if I had the funds or a holiday gifter willing to spend that much on me? Sure! I’ll just close this post by hinting again at how much I do love the iPad...

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