Spokane County Library District users have been able to check out electronic books for the last year. But now the district has added access to more than 15,000 free titles that don’t have to be checked out with a library card or given back.
The district is partnering with Project Gutenberg, a volunteer effort to digitize older books with expired copyrights. The titles available range from census reports to classic novels by Mark Twain. There are even children’s books. “It’s an unusual eclectic mix of things,” said collection services manager Andrea Sharps.
The library website at www.scld.org includes a digital downloads area. There, people with a library card can check out electronic books for seven or 14 days. It works on just about any smart phone or digital reader except the Kindle. Only one person can check out an electronic book at a time, just as with the physical books. But then the book returns itself.
“It knows to the second when it needs to be returned and it happens automatically,” Sharps said. “You don’t have to worry about overdue charges.”
The library maintains a collection of adult, young adult and children’s books online. “It’s a mix of older content, classic titles as well as popular best sellers,” Sharps said. “We order content twice a month, so there’s always something new added to the collection.”
Sharps said usage of electronic books surged after Christmas and she theorizes that more affordable prices for digital readers allowed people to buy them as Christmas presents. In February 2010, only 404 electronic books were checked out. In January 2,095 were checked out.
The library began offering a link to the Project Gutenberg items on Jan. 27. People can click on the “additional eBooks” button on the digital download page to find it. The Project Gutenberg downloads are compatible with Kindles. People can also access the site themselves at www. projectgutenberg.org.
People can visit the district’s website 24 hours a day to download books. The Spokane Public Library also offers electronic books and audio books that can be checked out by its library card holders at www.spokanelibrary.org.