From Paper to Pixels: The Library Goes Digital
The Ridgewood Library offers more than 800 unique titles- all in e-book format
There was a time when taking a book out of the library meant you had to be there. It meant deciphering the Dewey Decimal system or hunting through the shelves, head tilted to read the titles of the vertical books.
For Ridgewood residents who possess both a library card and an e-reader, such a trip is no longer necessary.
The library, part of the Bergen County Cooperative Library System, participates in a database of more than 800 unique e-books, which patrons can download or transfer to their e-readers to consume on the go.
“It’s an extension of what we do now,” said Chris Yurgleonis, the supervising librarian who oversees Ridgewood’s participation in the program. “Sharing materials at no cost.”
The database is run by Digital Library NJ, a program through which 14 different consortiums and public libraries pool their funds to offer e-books and downloadable audiobooks.
Overall usage, Yurgleonis said, is up 56% from last year. In June, Ridgewood library patrons downloaded 215 audiobooks.
“Ridgewood is a really tech-savvy town,” Yurgleonis said. “I think people really embrace it.”
The digital library works a lot like the physical one-- every book has a limited number of copies that can be checked out at once. If they are all out, patrons can sign up for a waiting list which will notify them when the book becomes available.
Books can be taken out for a month at a time. After that, they automatically delete themselves from the e-reader they had been transferred to.
The Kindle, which is manufactured by Amazon.com and holds the largest share of the e-reader market, is currently incompatible with the system. Until recently, Amazon company policy prevented the Kindle from taking books out of public libraries. In April the company reversed this decision.
“Kindle’s coming at the end of the year,” Yurgleonis said. “I expect we’ll see a big jump in usage when that happens.”
E-readers are at the heart of a growing paradigm shift in the publishing industry, from paper to pixels. In May, Amazon reported that for the first time, sales of e-books had exceeded those of print books, with 105 e-books sold for every 100 print.
This week, Borders Books announced that it would be closing all 399 stores and laying off all of its 10,700 employees after struggling in bankruptcy since early this year. In a press statement, Borders Group president Mike Edwards cited the “eReader revolution” as one of the driving forces behind the company’s shutdown.
“My guess is, the more you push e-books, the more you’ll be pushing yourself out of a job,” said Walter Boyer, co-owner of Bookends.
Nevertheless, Boyer said, he is not overly concerned about the impact e-readers might have on his business.
“People like to look before they buy, they like to see how it looks on a shelf,” said Boyer. “A lot of people like to come in and talk to someone. You can’t replace that with an online store.”
Despite the storm e-readers have stirred up, physical books are still more prevalent. A report by Forrester Research found that only 7 percent of adult readers, read e-books.
But with leading booksellers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble placing increasing emphasis on their respective e-reader models, the industry shows no sign of slowing.
“A lot people are intimidated by e-readers to begin with,” Yurgleonis said. “So the library offers drop-in labs. You bring your e-reader in the box, and we’ll show you how to set everything up.” The next session is on August 12th, at 10 a.m. Appointments can be made at the library’s reference desk.
Yurgleonis added that much of the appeal of e-readers was in their convenience.
“It’s two in the morning, you just finished a book, and the library’s closed- but the library’s open,” she said.
And the best part? “No overdue fines.”