In our own Backyard

Story last updated at 3:51 PM on Wednesday, February 1, 2012

eReaders and eBooks, oH my: 'wave of the future'

in our OWN BACKYARD

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer


 

Photo by McKibben Jackinsky, Homer News

Amanda Foley points out features of a Nook eReader during a class at the Homer Public Library.

At the age of 5, I angrily announced I was running away from home. Mom said she'd help me pack. Out came my little suitcase; in went the only items I deemed necessary for survival: books.

Fast forward to last Christmas when my husband, Sandy, gave me a Kindle Touch, an eReader from Amazon small enough to fit in my hand and big enough to accommodate 3,000 books.

To figure out how to use it, I first turned to Debbie Waldorf, the Homer Public Library's specialist on Listen- Alaska, a consortium making it possible for people to download audio books from home, the library or wherever there is computer access.

A call to the Touch help desk answered more questions and soon I was reading a favorite author's newest book.

Next, I attended a class offered by the library. The instructor, Amanda Foley, has a computer science degree and is a system technician for design-pt, an Anchorage-based provider of information technology.

"A small handheld book that comes in digital form" is Foley's eReader definition. Some play music, offer color, show movies and more, but her explanation was a simple starting point, complete with a show-and-tell of the library's iPad, Nook, Kindle Fire and Kindle Touch.

"Not having to carry around 20 pounds of books in order to read is a really big benefit," said Foley. An environmental benefit includes no waste of paper. However, while access to some eBooks is free, purchasing eBooks also can be as costly as purchasing hardback books. EReaders also need to be charged, which can be time-consuming and frustrating.

The Homer Public Library's involvement in eBooks and eReaders comes from its relationship with ListenAlaska, said Ann Dixon, library director.

"If books are being created that way, that's part of our job, to make it available to people," said Dixon.

Some publishers are reluctant to release eBooks to libraries.

"Their reasoning is that a library buys a book, but that doesn't harm business because it exposes people to the book and eventually it will wear out and have to be replaced," said Dixon. "They're saying that's not the case with a digital book. ... The other thing is they're worried about piracy."

Homer library patrons can check out eBooks for seven, 14 or 21 days. The digital files are date-stamped to disappear when that date is reached. The library also has six Kindle Touch devices. Each can be checked out for a two-week period, with a late fee of $5-a-day "because we expect they'll be in demand and they're expensive to replace and we only have six of them," said Dixon. Also available are six MP3 players for downloading music or audio books. These also can be checked out for two weeks and have a $5-a-day late fee. Other eReader devices owned by the library are part of what Dixon called the library's "petting zoo."

"They're basically learning tools for the staff and to use for training sessions like the Saturday class," she said.

Dianna Hahnlen of Tech Connect has a Barnes and Noble Nook Tablet. In addition to reading books, magazines and newspapers on it, she surfs the web, watches movies, plays games, listens to music and more.

"These sold fast at Christmas. We couldn't keep enough of them in the store," Hahnlen said.

The Homer Bookstore plans to sell eBooks in the near future.

"This is a big shift, but it seems to be the wave of the future," said Jenny Stroyeck of the Homer Bookstore.

Textbooks are becoming available as eBooks for students at Kachemak Bay Campus, Kenai Peninsula College-University of Alaska Anchorage, said Therese Lewandowski, KBC facilitator of textbook ordering. Jenya Quartly, bookstore manager at the Kenai River Campus in Soldotna, said issues to be resolved include whether eBooks capable of accessing the web will be allowed during open-book tests and how to return a text once a class is completed.

Pegge Erkeneff of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District said the district is considering eBooks for classrooms, provided all students have equal access.

As a writer. I'm not completely ready to give up paper and ink, but think how much lighter that little suitcase would have been with a Touch. I might actually have gone beyond the front steps.

Definitions:

Ebook: An electronic version of a book that can be downloaded over the Internet and read on a personal computer or a device known as an eReader.

ereader: A device or a program on a personal computer used for reading eBooks.

Where to get information:

Attend 'getting Started with ereaders'

Homer Public Library

2-3:30 p.m.

Fourth Saturdayof the month

Instructor:Amanda Foley

access audiobooks, ebooks and music available through listenalaska, visit:

www.ci.homer.ak.us/library

private consultation on ereader how-to

Amanda Foley

System technician

design-pt

www.design-pt.com

Phone: 226-2606

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