Whole new chapter in library book loans opens

WATCHING a film, listening to music, reading a book – three of the most fundamental ways we choose to entertain ourselves.

Monday, 20th February 2012, 5:00 pm

But as technology has progressed, so too these activities have evolved.

VHS became DVD, and cassettes made way for CDs.

And as the capabilities of computers, and indeed the internet, continued to advance, these sources of amusement migrated to the digital realm.

But the noble book has stood strong.

Until the past few years, the biggest technological advancement in reading was the introduction of paperback. But with the release of eReaders and now tablet computers in recent times, along with the investment that has been made in designing displays capable of mimicking paper pages, reading has suddenly joined the digital revolution.

And so too has North Lanarkshire Libraries, with their new e-book and e-audio book lending service set for launch in March.

“We felt that we had to come in now,” said Catriona Wales, lending services manager. “We’ve done surveys in the past and wanted to make sure we got a time when there’s enough interest in it to make it worthwhile but to also catch people’s imagination and grow the service as the technology develops.

“The big thing for us is that this is going to be free to use.You’ll simply download the book and choose how long you want to keep it, between one and 21 days. At the end of that period, the file disappears - there’s no late fees.”

After logging into the website, users will be able to browse through the books most recently added. It will also be possible to perform a search by the likes of author name and genre.

Although they may be against it at first, Catriona believes that traditional book lovers will eventually grow to enjoy reading eBooks.

“For us it’s a bit like the advent of paperback books,” she continues. “A lot of people were against that, they thought it was anathema, but everyone has taken to them.

“We’re obviously in the early stages for eBooks, although I think it will develop fast because technology moves so fast.

“It’s like opening a new branch for us. It will allow users to have hundreds of books on what is a virtual bookshelf.”

Catriona feels the future of books is online but doesn’t believe that has to mean the end of the local library. She added: “Our plan is very much that this is a new opportunity to make books available.

“People who love books tend to enjoy the physical connection with it.

“For libraries, it’s about how we adapt them – they’re already about much more than books.

“A high proportion of the people we’ve asked in the survey have said they would use the online service but will still come to the library.

“This opens up a whole new area for us where we can offer books to people who might not necessarily use a traditional library.”

It is hoped to launch the new service in time for World Book Day on March 1.