…And my husband was right. I almost hate to admit it, but I’m becoming a ebook reader. Not exclusively, not even for a significant percentage of my reading, but as a supplement. Kind of like how I listen to audiobooks – a few a month, because they take longer to get through with my short commute. With ebooks, I’ve been reading them in two main ways – as my gym book, because I don’t have to worry about the book not laying flat, and as my emergency, always-in-my-purse book.

Here’s how it all started. Mark had a smartphone that he didn’t want anymore (he goes through phones like nobody’s business) and he talked me into giving it a trial run. I was perfectly happy with a regular old cell phone that had two functions – phone calls and text messages. But one of the things that appealed to me about it was that I could try out ebooks.

We get tons of questions about getting ebooks from the library – there was a big surge after Christmas, in particular. I can walk people through using Overdrive, but I’d never really gone through the experience myself. Even if I didn’t end up reading ebooks, I wanted to know what the process was like as a library patron. So I got the Overdrive app and the Kindle app on my phone and tested them both out (each has its own frustrations, but that’s another story).

I’m completely not interested in purchasing ebooks – if I spend money on a book, I want to be able to see it on my shelf, loan it to a friend, read it anywhere regardless of technology or whether my phone is charged. But since I do the majority of my reading from library books, borrowing ebooks is perfect for me. So I browsed through Overdrive’s selection (we’re part of the Oregon Digital Library Consortium) and put a few things on hold. One annoying aspect of this was that I knew the very same books were available in print on the library shelves, but the waiting list for ebooks was several weeks. The other annoying this is the way Overdrive is laid out as a website – not particularly well-suited to browsing, especially by genre in the children’s and YA categories. You can either browse alphabetically or search for a particular author, title or keyword.

Once my books starting coming in on hold, and I managed to get them onto my phone (if I remember correctly, the Kindle books had to be downloaded from a computer, while the others can be accessed directly through a mobile device), I found reading them surprisingly pleasant. Sure, the small screen size on a phone means you’re turning pages a lot, and I had to learn to resist the impulse to start turning the page before I’d quite finished with it (with print books, I realized I often have the page partly turned when I’m nearing the end of a page, so that I’m moving smoothly to the next one; with ebooks, this doesn’t work so well and I kept having to flip back and finished the last sentence).

The first book, The Aviary by Kathleen O’Dell, I read almost exclusively at the gym. The second book, The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson, had me so hooked that I was picking it up at home, as well. That was the point when Mark said, “I was right, wasn’t I?” and I had to tear myself away from the screen to stick out my tongue at him. We’re very mature at our house.

Shortly after that, I read somewhere that NetGalley had partnered with ALA (the American Library Association) to give members quicker approval of galleys. I’d heard of NetGalley before, but never tried to use it since I didn’t have an e-reader – and really, who wants to sit in front of the computer to read a book? But I was inspired and signed up and added my ALA member number and told them I’m a librarian and presto, I was getting approvals from publishers immediately!

My first request was for Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, which I’d been dying to read even since I heard of its existence (it comes out in May). It took a little hair-tearing to figure out how to read it on a Kindle app and not an actual Kindle, but before long I was in business. The formatting can be a bit wonky on the galley versions, compared to the library books, but not enough to stop me from going back for more. Plus, this is a great way to make myself read more new books since they’re generally only available until their publication date – with print books, I feel like I’m still playing catch-up from last year (and the year before, and the hundred years before that…)

So, here I am, reading ebooks. It’s definitely come in handy when I’m coaching a library patron through the process, plus the galley versions are helping me make more informed ordering decisions for the library and giving me a sneak peak at upcoming releases. I’m finally feeling like the fancier phone is worth the bigger phone bill (well, almost).

I’m curious about other experiences with ebooks and library downloads – love, hate, indifferent?

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