Technology allows library patrons more access to books, magazines
Vernon Area Library's Catherine Savage shows some of the nearly 100 titles available on the new electronic magazine use service for library users in Lincolnshire on Monday, January 21, 2013. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
LIBRARY CHECKOUT — WORLDWIDE
Since the VAPL joined Zinio in November, cardholders have used it for 3,018 free downloads of complete digital magazine issues.
The library’s Freegal music service has brought 17,002 free, legal and permanent songs from the Sony library into listeners’ devices.
Readers have checked out 23,558 e-books and e-audiobooks.
Updated: March 25, 2013 1:17AM
Book publishers are using new methods to eliminate the middlemen — libraries — and these middlemen are finding themselves in an uncommon position: They give the publisher’s products away for free, but in the age of modern technology consumers may prefer to pay for them.
This is the quandary faced by the libraries of the northwest suburbs, which are using new technologies to maintain their positions in a world where technology is bringing readers much closer to book, magazine and music publishers. At the Vernon Area Public Library, spokeswoman Catherine Savage worried that, if buying becomes easier than borrowing, an essential public service might be overtaken by large, for-profit corporations.
“I would hate to see libraries be replaced by private business,” she said Monday. “You don’t want your least fortunate citizens being cut off.”
Putting e-books on e-readers is a revolution for the printing industry, and is greatly changing the way the five largest publishers deal with libraries. The VAPL and a network of nearby districts are retaking lost ground by beefing up their presence in an industry that loves the digital era: magazines.
In November, Vernon Area joined online periodical service Zinio; with it, library cardholders can download a free application for many smartphones, tablets and readers and receive, at no cost, the entire digital content of 94 major magazines. The articles, photos, videos and audio of National Geographic, Cosmopolitan, Rolling Stone, Consumer Reports and dozens more can all be accessed, from anywhere the cardholder can get a signal; users can also download an entire issue, to read on a plane or bus ride with no signal.
Savage said magazines love this model — it puts more eyes on their advertisements. Books have no ads inside, though, so selling one digital copy to a library and watching it lend that copy to every cardholder who wants it creates a major problem for publishers.
“The industry is trying to figure out how to deal with a model that works for lending,” Savage said. “They are about single-copy sales.”
She said that, at the moment, two of the top five publishers will not sell e-books to libraries. Random House charges three times for digital what it does for print, and HarperCollins has a creative rule: It will sell a library a digital copy, but monitors how many times that copy is leant. Once a library loans the digital book out 26 times, HarperCollins takes it back, and librarians must buy it again, if they choose to.
Another evolving library is in Deerfield, where a massive renovation project has temporarily moved the entire operation from 920 Waukegan Road to the shopping center on the northeast corner of Waukegan and Lake Cook roads. Claire Steiner, Deerfield’s head of adult services, said the modernized building will be the centerpiece of the library’s future.
“We are building our e-book collection, we just put iPads in the children’s department,” she said Monday. “We’re going to be implementing computer classes for various levels.”
Steiner said library leaders were also considering joining the Zinio service. She said cardholders should expect both locations to be closed for at least three weeks in late May and early June, but that “We’ll be open for summer reading.”
“It’s exciting to know that we, at this little library in Illinois, can help shape what future libraries look like,” Savage said. “But it’s challenging, too. The system for lending libraries hasn’t changed for thousands of years. The idea that you should have access to lots of information, as a function of your government, is important.”