Cracking the Cover on E-Books

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For my birthday recently I received two lovely gifts of the same genre but in very different forms. One, the newly released hardcover biography of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, the other, the cute-as-a-button Kindle e-Reader.

A lover of books, I was thrilled with both and couldn’t decide with which to start, so I went with what felt familiar, the tangible hardcover.

Having grown up in a family of avid readers, my love of reading was fostered like a precious pearl, though like most kids, I saw nothing wrong in remaining an ordinary grain of sand.

Today I thank my parents for shooing us away from television and video games – dutifully, diligently restricting our time in front of the “boob tube” (the same went with sugar-coated cereals and fast food). Only on rare occasions were we allowed to indulge in them, they were considered a treat not a lifestyle.

Most of the time we were given the choice, “Go outside and play or go read a book.”

I’d usually scamper outside, but grew equally fond of books. Reading stuck with me like a best friend forever.

I’ll admit, I’ve resisted the whole e-book phenomenon until now. The old me loves the feel and smell, the proverbial holding of knowledge in one’s hand. The more modern me understands the world is irrevocably changing and I’d better keep my seat on the train. It also doesn’t take a rocket scientist to get that a Kindle holds thousands of titles yet weighs about a third of a pound – no small consideration in any trip from a coffee run to a Kona holiday.

For a few days after receiving it, my curiosity around properly mastering the Kindle lounged in a place in my brain not yet fully developed. I call it the “black hole of tech comprehension.” I have a good enough grasp of operational basics, but it’s everything else I don’t know that keeps me in central processing unit suspension.

But with the Kindle quietly mocking me and my hardcovers from its dainty case, I decided it was time to cross firmly into e-book territory. I navigated my way through the Kindle tutorial, downloaded the required OverDrive software, and breathed a sigh of relief as everything synced properly between my phone, iPad and laptop. I was in e-business, almost.

Next, I wanted to learn how to borrow books from the library, the e-way. I logged on to the Newport Beach Public Library website and found they offer free e-Reader seminars designed to help folks like me crawl out of tech darkness and in to the 21st century light. Off I went to the “e-Books Made Easy” primer.

I walked in to the Central Library Friends Room relieved to see I was not alone in my quest to master my e-Reader. As I took my seat, I noted the room was packed with folks of all ages and observed the rest of the library was buzzing with activity, as well.

A good sign considering it would be easy to assume that the increasing trend in the popularity of e-Readers might point towards libraries losing relevance in our new digital society. In fact, the opposite may hold true.

Director of Library Services Cynthia Crowell tells me they are delighted to see the increased demand for e-books and the positive impact new technology is having on use of the Newport Beach Public Library.

“The library is embracing new formats and resources in our role as the cultural, educational, and recreational heart of Newport Beach. We are increasing purchases of e-book content through OverDrive downloadable e-book database, and investing in various e-Readers like the new Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble Nook to help familiarize and train our customers and staff with the new technology.”

The use of the library’s e-book service is skyrocketing, much like its other subscription databases. Tim Hetherton, the library services manager, added, “Part of the appeal of our electronic databases is they can be accessed remotely from customers’ homes, offices, or anywhere with Internet access. Because this burgeoning format is becoming increasingly popular, it is a great opportunity for NBPL to satisfy customer demand and demonstrate our value to the community.”

During the session I learned more than I expected, including how to borrow up to five e-books at a time for seven to 14 days. Easy as pie. More sessions are coming up, including two in December. Visit http://www.city.newport-beach.ca.us/nbpl/ for a calendar of all library events.

As technology continues to rapidly change and enhance our lives, what used to be familiar may seem far away. But perhaps it’s just semantics. After all, parents can still use that old ultimatum with a new twist, “go outside and play or go read your Kindle.”

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