Libraries add, expand electronic book services

Many local libraries are adding or expanding electronic book services. About seven months ago, the Metropolitan Library System expanded its electronic media services to include an application that allows users to download books to their iPhone, iPad or Android phone.
BY DARLA SLIPKE Published: July 15, 2011

Consortium formed

Many other local libraries are teaming up to start or expand electronic media offerings.

Eleven libraries in the state have formed a consortium called the Oklahoma Virtual Library. They share more than 1,600 electronic book titles. A $100,000 grant from the state Libraries Department will allow the libraries to more than triple their number of e-books during the next couple months, said Scott Freeman, adult services librarian at the Stillwater Public Library.

Electronic books have allowed libraries to offer around-the-clock services, Freeman said.

“It's a great supplement to what we offer on the shelves,” he said.

Seven additional libraries plan to join the consortium this summer, including the Mabel C. Fry Public Library in Yukon.

The service will greatly expand the resources available to guests, said Librarian Sara Schieman. It will also save library staff time they would otherwise spend processing and cataloging the materials, Schieman said.

“Our patrons are overjoyed,” she said. “A lot of people want to buy the reader, but don't want to buy the books.”

Recent restriction

A recent restriction made by one popular publishing company could change some libraries' ability to offer certain e-books.

Libraries that purchase e-books typically are allowed to lend the book an unlimited number of times like they do for hard copies of books. Beginning in March, however, HarperCollins Publishers created a new regulation that restricts libraries' lending abilities.

E-books that libraries purchased from HarperCollins after the new limit took effect can be loaned just 26 times before the book license expires. Libraries must then purchase a new license if they want to continue lending the book.

More than 69,000 people, including Freeman, have signed a petition asking HarperCollins to revise its policy. The Stillwater library has decided not to order any new HarperCollins e-books because the cost of buying multiple licenses is too high, Freeman said.

He estimated the library would easily meet the 26-loan limit for many popular books within six months.