Why no e-books at Charles Town Library?

CHARLES TOWN – Every month at Charles Town Library, we receive a number of requests about e-books and each time we reply, “Not yet.”

E-books have been rapidly evolving in the last several years as have e-reader and tablet computing devices. About 20 percent of the adult population owns an e-book reading device, according to the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project.

For more than a year, e-books have been outselling print books on Amazon.com and yet the Charles Town Library continues to buy print over e-books.

Why? For two basic reasons. First, if only 20 percent of the adult population owns a device for reading e-books, that means that 80 percent of the adult population would not have access to current books.

Given the budget of the Charles Town Library, it is not possible for us to purchase materials in every conceivable format. We are currently juggling the budget to provide large type books, audio books and films. Larger libraries and libraries that are part of a larger system can better pool their resources to provide a variety of reading formats. We cannot.

But even large library systems are having difficulties with e-books. A number of issues must be resolved with publishers. Publishers are concerned that e-book borrowing from libraries will erode their sales. They insist on terms that are often onerous to the patrons with terms replicating aspects of print book lending, such as requiring patrons to come to the library to check out e-books.

Circulations may be limited or e-books will only be available to libraries after a period of embargo. Some publishers also charge libraries for e-books more than three times the cost of a print book.

We are watching the e-book landscape carefully. Eventually, e-books will be available at the Charles Town Library. In the meantime, we remain cautious and conservative in our buying of materials for the library.

But there is some good news for e-book fans – a list of e-books that either can be read on a computer or downloaded to a reader at no cost.

Bestsellers are not to be found or are not easily found in the free e-book world; after all, the publishers and the authors want to reap as much reward as they can from their work. Yet, older texts, no longer eligible for copyright protection and now in the public domain can be found in great abundance. One of the largest and oldest purveyor of ebooks is Project Gutenberg with over 40,000 books available for download to a reader or reading on a computer. A small sampling of titles includes Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn,” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “Adventures of Sherlock Holmes,” Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice,” Plato’s “Republic” and for those wishing to undertake a more monumental read, James Joyce’s “Ulysses.” Project Gutenberg can be found at gutenberg.org.

Google Books (books.google.com) also provides public domain e-books as well as snippets and preview pages for books under copyright. Google Books is a great place to begin historical research or family research if a family member were somewhat active in his or her community. Google Books has digitized a great many local materials, like college catalogs, garden club bulletins, commemorative biographies, annual reports, etc.

Recent non-fiction as well as many of the same books found in Project Gutenberg can be accessed at the West Virginia Info Depot, an information service freely available to all residents of West Virginia.

The Charles Town Library website provides a link to the WV Info Depot (wvinfodepot.org). Once logged on (please call us for the login and password), select “Magazines and Periodical Databases (EBSCO) and then scroll to the bottom of the page for “ebook Collection (EBSCOhost).”

Other specialized e-book sites offer a free book a day, or a chapter or some specific genre like science fiction or romance. If you are interested in learning more about those sites and their offerings, please call or come to the library for more information.

September is Library Card Sign-Up Month

Although I’m not fond of the idea of using months and days to call attention to a particular item or event, I heartily applaud “September is Library Card Sign-Up Month.” September is the month when we begin to settle in after the freedom and insouciance of summer. It is a good time to begin to think about what a library can offer not only to an individual, but to the larger community.

The first step in that thought process is a visit to the library to obtain a library card. A library card opens the doors to so many programs and activities. The Charles Town Library offers much more than books: preschool story hour; summer reading programs; information on home improvement, gardening, crafts and making things; a reader-driven book club; computers; help with job applications; free WiFi; book signings; graphic novels; lectures; a quiet place to study or write a novel; materials to research family trees; and ultimately, through reading we learn of different times, places, and people; and we pause to reflect on our own lives and the life of our country and community.

The American Library Association’s promotion, “A library card is the sweetest card in your wallet,” reminds me of a small matter that took place recently at the library. It was early on a Tuesday and I was sitting in the backroom office of the library when the phone rang. It was Nordstrom’s children’s department. The Nordstrom employee told me that a purse had been found in the children’s department with a significant amount of cash, but no identification except for a Charles Town Library card.

Through the barcode number on the back of the card, I was able to trace the owner of the card, a child of 10 (who naturally would carry no identification), and put her mother in touch with the Nordstrom employee. I hope by now, purse and child have been reunited. The Charles Town Library card was indeed the “sweetest card” in this child’s wallet.

As the academic year gets underway, please note that a library card for a student is the most important school supply of all. Make sure the children in your life are given the opportunity to read and thus to explore worlds far beyond Jefferson County.

Book sale

Our annual fundraiser, the Fall Book Sale, is Sept. 28th and 29.

For a special deal, consider joining Friends of the Charles Town Library (see our website for information). Members of the Friends will have a half hour to buy books before the sale opens to the public from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The sale reopens on Sept. 29 from 9 a.m. to noon. Books in all subject areas, from bestseller to oldies, but goodies and everything in-between will be for sale. Hardbacks are $2; trade paperbacks, $1 and mass market paperbacks, 50 cents.

You can fill a bag with books for $10, two bags for $15, three bags for $20 or fill a bag with paperbacks for $5 or three bags for $10.

Friends of The Charles Town Library receive a 10 percent discount on all purchases. Note that books are not only good for reading, they are also good for crafts. We’ll have ideas on hand for how books might be used to make creative and beautiful things.

Librarian Marcella Genz writes regularly about offerings at Charles Town Library. Send feedback about this column to her at octllibrarian@frontier.com or call the library at 304-725-2208. The library, at 200 E. Washington St. in Charles Town, is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday; 1 to 7 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays.

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