As someone who claims to have an infinite appreciation for books, this is hard for me to admit, but until last week, I had not stepped foot inside a library in almost four years. In my defense, my last memories in a library involved caffeine headaches, late night study sessions, and literary analysis hangovers. But what may be even more embarrassing is the nudge it took to get me back to the library – eBook lending for the Kindle.
Let me continue my defense a bit further by saying I like to think of myself as a collector. I relish in book ownership and display them in my home. I love the feel of the paper between my fingers and the smell of pages that have stood through time. Unfortunately, the wear and tear of daily life is sometimes harder on my books than it is on me, and I cannot bear to see them endure the creases and stains that I inflict from my travels. My cure for reading on the go has become my Kindle.
OverDrive, a digital distributor of eBooks, recently stated that the number of eBooks checked out from libraries has already tripled since 2010. When Amazon announced in September that library lending was finally available for Kindle owners, I hoped to add to those numbers with the ability to purchase a physical book and borrow the eBook for reading on the go. At least that is what I was thinking as I stepped through the library sliding doors.
I fasted through my lunch break and went to apply for a library card. By the stroke of 5, I was browsing the website to start downloading my next read. By 5:04, disappointment set in.
Half of my wish list was wiped away when I noticed my options were limited to books published before 2005. I began to sink further in my chair as I realized how narrow even my pre-2005 selection was. I wasn’t in the mood for a complete idiot’s guide to anything, nor did I want to fall back into skimming the world of literary criticism. Why does the world of library eBooks look so bleak?
I discovered many eBook lending frustrations can be derived straight from the source. Publishers have limited libraries to the number of times a book may be loaned before needing to repurchase the title, and some have refused to sell their eBooks to libraries all together. So despite generations of eReaders having been produced, and Amazon’s late arrival to library eBook lending, there still lacks a cost efficient solution for having the best of both worlds, digital and paper.
With limited resources that force me to choose one over the other, I’m sticking with paper. Although their eBook selection is scarce, the library has a tangible selection for me to indulge. But I still have hopes that one day my books will be safe from a world of falling to the bottom of my bags and lawn sprinklers gone haywire. One day I hope to enjoy the best of both worlds.