Image: Electronic Frontier Foundation (eff.org) graphic created by EFF Senior Designer Hugh D’Andrade to illustrate digital books / https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Electronic_books#/media/File:Digitalbook.jpg
Ebooks are an amazing thing; just like magic. You want a new book and boom! It is there, you don’t even have to get dressed. And many might think eBooks from libraries would be even better because, you know… FREE! But, unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. Publishers and digital rights management (DRM) have made eBooks in libraries a confusing and complicated matter. In order to access library eBooks, patrons need this app or this browser, or one book needs this log on, and another book needs a different log on, and so on and so forth. So when trying to explain it to anyone, staff and patrons alike, your head can start to swim. But, once you learn all the tricks and tips, and ins and outs, it is true that library eBooks can be the cat’s meow.
At the Combined Arms Research Library (CARL), we have both academic and recreational patrons. Our patrons are eligible for eBooks provided by us, the state of Kansas, and the FMWRC program from a variety of platforms including: Overdrive, 3M, Ebrary, EBSCO, ABC-CLIO, and many more. It can get really confusing. I’ve found that the only way to make it less confusing is to be a patron yourself and practice. I have my own preferences, but I try to access all the different models and platforms available to our patrons at least a couple times a year. I ask for comments and tips from the rest of the staff and patrons that are using the platforms. CARL has a really simple handout for our main platforms Ebrary and EBSCO. We’ve found that it’s better to send patrons to the help systems on each individual platform as they are the experts on themselves.
As far as devices go, some of our staff prefer Android and some prefer IOS, some that have a Nook and some that have a Kindle. So, we have almost a little of everything, which really helps when patrons need help. It would be really great if we were able to get a bunch of the devices in the library for staff to practice with. Unfortunately, the reality is that they change so fast and by the time you get one there is already a new one out there. The truth of the matter is that you don’t need to be an expert. You just have to have a general idea and be comfortable clicking around or searching the help area of the models yourself.
Hopefully, the future of ebooks will be less confusing, but in the meantime, have fun playing! Because while practice won’t make you perfect, it will be fun.