Petting Zoo allows techno test drive

E-book program explodes in popularity

Acting branch head and Children and Family Literacy Librarian Devon Tatton holds a Kobo reader in the Oak Bay branch of the Greater Victoria Public Library.

The Kobo-touch and Nexus 7. If you hear these names and think they might be titles for new science-fiction programs on your cable network, you’re probably a candidate for the Greater Victoria Public Library’s new public education initiative, the technology petting zoo.

Kobo, Nexus, Sony E-readers and iPods are the four most popular devices used by individuals who take advantage of the library’s e-book and audio e-book lending program, said Scott Munroe, the program’s coordinator. The e-book lending program was launched in February 2011 and allows library members to remotely download the electronic equivalent of books onto their personal electronic devices.

For those with visual impairment, or perhaps for book lovers who want to listen to their choices while sitting in traffic, the library also has downloadable audio books. Those volumes can be used on e-readers but can also also be downloaded to an iPod and some other electronic devices.

All library e-books are borrowed for periods ranging from seven to 21 days, after which the files corrupt and the books become unusable.

Additionally, library patrons can borrow the physical e-readers from the library, although Munroe warns that there’s a fairly long waiting list for the units, due to a very high demand.

“E-reading is a growing phenomenon, as is our collection of e-books,” said Munroe. He estimates that up to 15 per cent of the books borrowed from the library are checked out electronically and said that more than 30,000 library patrons currently use the service. And the number is growing. Munroe estimates that the annual rate of use for e-books will expand by 120 per cent next year, and he sees no end in sight.

“As more people get to know about our collection and understand the methods of borrowing, that number just keeps rising,” said Munroe.

The technology petting zoo is an initiative that Munroe said will help drive that increase.

“People can come and try out the devices to see which of them is best suited for them,” he said. “The kind of reader people prefer is very personal. It depends on the size of font you like, whether you like backlighting; (there are) a whole range of options. People can try them out and see which one they like best.”

Program participants can also learn how to download books through hands-on, step-by-step instruction.

“I believe that there’ll always be physical, paper books,” said Munroe. “But I can see a huge expansion in this nascent use of e-books and audio e-books. This is just the beginning.”

The program is available at the Oak Bay library, 1442 Monterey Ave., until Dec. 29, as well as at other branches of the Greater Victoria Library. More information can be found at gvpl.ca.

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