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As E-Book Circulation Increases, Evanston Library Adapts

The Evanston Public Library is increasing e-book compatibility and educating residents on how to access the medium.

As more and more Evanston residents begin to forego traditional print paperbacks and hardcovers in favor of reading e-books, the is taking steps to stay relevant by making its collection increasingly accessible through e-readers and by educating locals on how to borrow electronically.

Monday evening’s “E-Book Boot Camp”, held at the , drew in a crowd of more than 50 people eager to learn the ins and outs of the trendy medium. The library system has held two similarly attended tutorials within the last year, including a main branch session two weeks ago.

Though digital books (e-books and downloadable audio books) currently represent only 2 to 3 percent of the library system’s total circulation, the number of digital books borrowed monthly has steadily increased since the library first made them available for checkout in September 2005.

Last month, 1907 digital books were borrowed from the Evanston Public Library, more than double the number from the same month a year before and nearly 16 times more than that time span six years ago.

The Evanston library currently has a collection of over 4,000 digital books that can be checked out remotely online for either seven or 14 days. After that borrowing period, the books disappear from the e-reader. The library owns a set number of digital books and cannot checkout a single copy to more than one user.

At Monday’s tutorial, attendees learned how to access, search and download library e-books from an Amazon Kindle, a Barnes & Noble Nook and an Apple iPad. Though nearly two-thirds of attendees had already purchased some form of digital reader, the session’s instructor also taught prospective buyers the strengths and differences between e-readers and tablet computers.

Chicago resident Rosabelle Mintz, who came to Evanston for the night’s event, said that though she still wasn’t fully secure in her ability to navigate her recently-purchased Kindle, the tutorial had given her confidence that she might soon be comfortable using the device.

“I’ve had the Kindle Fire for about a week,” Mintz said. "I’m going to Mexico for the winter and I want to be able to take a whole bunch of books with me. ... My generation, we’re a little afraid of electronics and technology. I have some grandchildren who can help me.”

Lesley Williams, adult services manager at Evanston Public Library, said that the library had seen a jump in e-book borrowing during last year’s holiday season, and that this year’s increase could be even greater since Evanston library e-books were recently made Kindle compatible.

“Dec. 26 last year, our e-book service was overloaded because so many people had gotten e-book readers for Christmas presents, and people were unable to get into the system for a while because we were just hit with so many people trying it for the first time,” Williams said. “So we knew that getting e-readers for the holidays was going to be a big deal. And right now there is kind of this perfect storm of e-readers coming out … and they are all now compatible with the library e-book service.”

Both Amazon and Barnes & Noble recently released new tablet versions of their popular e-readers.

Tutorial instructor Karen Hansen said that the library might offer device-specific workshops in February.

For more information on borrowing e-books from the Evanston library, click here.

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