A-twitter over e-books

Ever had an unflattering photo making the rounds on social media?  This happens to libraries, too.   A valued (and justifiably frustrated) customer tweeted an image of the library’s copy of Flowers for Algernon open to display facing pages, both thoroughly scribbled with blue ink.

Any parent would recognize the style as that of a child young enough to have believed that he/she was producing something pretty or entertaining.  We expressed our regrets to the alert library patron and tagged the record so the damaged item can be taken out of circulation and replaced when it’s returned.

These things happen.   This anecdote doesn’t just remind us what understanding customers we have; it also endorses the practicality of e-books.  The library’s digital books (Overdrive) are never late, lost, returned to the wrong library, or defaced.

On the other hand, library e-books frequently cost much more than the corresponding print editions, and some desired new titles aren’t offered for library purchase and sharing, only to individual buyers.  And, of course, so many backlist titles aren’t available in digital format.

The perfect borrowing scenario (everything available for free on demand in pristine condition in one’s preferred format) doesn’t exist. But most of us appreciate and profit from the challenge of seeking out multiple formats.  Readers who extol the convenience of collecting e-books and reading on mobile devices should certainly check out the library’s Overdrive choices.  If a particular title isn’t offered there (or is checked out and you’re in a rush), purchase from one’s favorite online vendor may be the way to go.  But remember: that title may be offered in print or audio at the library–at no cost to the borrower.

We’ve frequently chatted with customers who express delight with their e-readers–and then exit the library with an armload of print and possibly a Playaway or two.

In honor of National Poetry Month, here (with apologies to Robert Frost and his wonderful “The Road Not Taken”) is my view of cost-effective reading:  “The Savings Not Overlooked”:

New novels were praised on a site I admire
But aware that if I bought them all
My wallet would suffer, I required
Of myself a solution, library-inspired
An alternative to financial downfall.

I then recalled Overdrive with borrowing free,
Which grants unto patrons a fourteen-day turn
With no risk of late fees.  Then I could foresee
That no-cost e-reading would work handily—
No drawbacks or issues that I could discern.

But wait–for some titles, publishers may elect
To limit their access to just single buyers.
In which case it’s savvy my search to direct
Back to print where there’s frankly much more to select.
(If you read in both formats, success rates are higher.)

As for purchasing books:  if they’re masterfully penned,
Or for gifts or discussions, I’ll pay Barnes and Noble
(Or Half-Price or Book Nook) glad, in the end,
For multiple options.  What I recommend:
Exploit all resources–retail, print, and mobile.

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