Having secured its future for the next five years with the passage of Proposition T, the Stanislaus County Library has quietly joined the digital revolution.
On Sept. 10, with little notice, the first eBook was taken out, an event that portends huge changes in the way the library will lend material changes being fought tooth and nail by the publishing industry. The same forces that are radically changing the music and newspaper businesses now take aim at publishers who well know their present business model cannot long survive unchanged. EBooks are no passing fad.
"The whole industry is in chaos," says Vanessa Czopek, county librarian. Costs fluctuate and pricing makes little sense. An eBook might cost the library triple the cost of traditional book, but down the street at Barnes & Noble the same eBook sells for half the cost of the printed copy. In a related case the government has found three publishers guilty of collusion and price fixing.
Meanwhile the American Library Association, representing over 112,000 public libraries, is marshaling its forces in hopes of lowering these costs.
Aided by outside grants, the Stanislaus County Library has secured the rights to over 400 books now available through the Internet (apparently in the last two weeks, most have been taken out) and the number is growing.
The rules are familiar customers can "check out" two books at a time for a three-week period, after which Mission Impossible occurs the book disappears from the reader's device.
There is no renewal offered, no warning when the book becomes due and the book cannot be returned early three differences from usual library policy. The customer can reserve a place in line and check their account to see when the book becomes available. Each eBook is available to only one reader at a time. Overall, eBooks will probably increase library lending costs initially, but shelving and handling costs could drop with increased volume.
Initially, I believed no serious reader would trade the warmth and feel of the printed page for the electronic sterility of eBooks. But I was given a Nook and after a short training period found it easy to use and a fine traveling companion. Buying eBooks was effortless but expensive. I rarely buy books but borrow them from our local library, thus my interest in its eBook program.
Set up is not for the unskilled or computer challenged (I am both), but after a button-pushing, mistake-filled couple of hours (books must be downloaded to the computer and then transferred to the Nook), suddenly, there was Toni Morrison's "Home" on my Nook ready to read an electronic triumph. (Note: Not all Kindles work).
Need instructions? Call (209) 558-7814 and register for one of the several upcoming classes.
Where will eBooks and libraries be in 10 years? Czopek again: "It will be huge. Libraries with longer experience find eBooks immensely popular."
And if the free enterprise system works its magic, we should see lower cost for the libraries and increased choice for the customer a true win-win.
Allen is a semi-retired Modesto physician who campaigned on behalf of Measure T. Send questions or comments to email@example.com.
Free eBook Classes:
Oct. 11: 7:30 8:30 p.m.
Oct. 15: 2 3 p.m.
Oct. 30: 7:30 8:30 p.m.
Oakdale library: Monday, 1 -2 p.m.
Patterson library: Saturday, 2-3 p.m.