Saturday, April 9, 2011

Library Week - Why I LOVE My Library!

I am writing this today as a small way to send a big Thank You to my local public library which happens to be the Buffalo and Erie County Library.  What I want to share with you today, though, is the joy of listening to books and music.  Most of what I am going to share applies to libraries across the country so if you like what you read here, check it out locally.

I have always been an avid reader and no stranger to my local library.  About ten years ago, I bought a gym membership and thought, "Hey, this time on the treadmill would be much more tolerable with a good book."  That's when I discovered audiobooks.  Way back then, I listened on CDs and now I listen on a little MP3 player.

The player I use is the Sansa Fuze and mine has 4 GB of memory which is more than enough to store the full 20 books I am allowed to have checked out at a time.  I also have room for music and my unit has a radio that works pretty well in most places.

The books are free from the library and that is no small thing considering that the five to ten books I listen to each week would cost me between $30 to $60 each -- or more -- if I had to buy them.  Even from a service, I would pay $15 or more a month and, really, free is better.

From my very own living room, I can download audiobooks and music for free and when the material I have borrowed is due back, it goes back pretty much automatically.  All I have to do is delete it from my player.

Currently, you can download books and music to play on just about any MP3 player that supports WMA or MP3 format.  My library has 3680 WMA books and 589 MP3 books.  If you have an iPod, you are limited to the MP3 books.  My Fuze which cost me about $70 plays both formats.

 All you need to do is go to the library site and click on the Overdrive button.  You log on with your library card number.  When you get to the site for the first time, you need to download the Overdrive software which is easy to do.  That puts Overdrive on your desktop.  You also need a fairly recent version of Media Player but that operates in the background.

The steps for checking out books are clearly spelled out and easy to follow.  Mostly it's just a matter of clicking on the book and confirming the check out.  After that, you need to download the book and transfer your checkouts from Overdrive to your player.  The download time depends on how fast your Internet service is and how big the book is.

When you have your books or music, all you have to do is listen.  The best part is that you can listen while you do chores around the house or while you do your grocery shopping or while you workout.  All the little drudgery chores you have to do become considerably easier and more enjoyable with a good book.

Lately, I became the proud owner of a Nook eReader and I can use basically the same process to download ebooks.  I have about 5267 books to choose from.  You need to go to Adobe - Digital Editions and download their ePub software, but again, that is pretty easy to do.  And, when you have done it, a whole new batch of sources for free and discounted books is open to you.  (Unfortunately, ebooks from the library are not currently available for Kindles.)

If you have a smartphone, you can download a mobile version of Overdrive and read or listen to books on your phone.

This system eliminates one of the really big problems of being a book lover.  I don't need much storage for books these days.  The truth for me is that most of the books I was buying in the old days were books I really only read one time.  After that, I passed them on.  Even giving them away, I still ended up with overflowing shelves and plastic bins of books -- and not so discreet little piles of them everywhere.

And since I am no longer paying for the books, I am freer to try new authors and new genres.  I have discovered some great authors I might very well have missed if I had to plunk down ten bucks every time I wanted to experiment.

Free public libraries are a good deal for everyone.  I donate at least some of the money I save on books to my library regularly.  That seems only fair.  I also expect my state and local government to make an investment in good accessible libraries.  Libraries provide a valuable service to the entire community and they must be supported and protected.

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