Hennepin County libraries let patrons check out eBooks

  • Article by: DEAN SPIROS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 18, 2010 - 11:13 PM

The new eBook program begins today with 700 available titles, but more books could be added soon. Summary.

Jodi Monson, communications manager for the Hennepin County Library system, said anyone who is savvy to the world of publishing knows eBooks are a hot item.

Beginning Monday, technology-savvy bibliophiles in and around Minneapolis no longer have to read about it and weep.

The 41 libraries in the Hennepin County system will be the first in the metro to offer customers the option of downloading eBooks onto their computers. Library officials anticipated the program would be up and running by 10 a.m. Monday.

The program debuts with 700 books available for download. According to Vicky Helgeson, Hennepin County senior librarian in collections and special services, there are approximately 5 million volumes in the Hennepin system, so there is plenty of room for the eBook program to expand.

"We're sticking our toe in the water to see what happens,'' Helgeson said. "There are a number of large libraries who already offer this service, including New York, Seattle and Denver. None of them are cutting their programs back.''

Helgeson said the library system's cost of purchasing an eBook is basically the same as that of a retail book. Paperbacks can cost as little as $5, and hot hardcover titles can go for $25.

"The savings,'' Helgeson said, "come in that once we buy the eBook we own it forever. It won't wear out, it won't get lost, it won't be overdue.''

OverDrive, the company providing the system, offered training to library staff members last week. It mainly consisted of an overview of the program because the consumer will handle the process of downloading books via the Hennepin County Library website (www.hclib.org).

Monson said there will be a list of frequently asked questions that will walk the consumer through the checkout process.

Once the customer identifies the book he wants to check out, he downloads it onto his computer. The customer then can transfer the item to a personal reading device if desired.

Helgeson said customers shouldn't look for information on the website until Monday morning, when OverDrive makes it available.

Asked when Hennepin County might consider adding more eBook titles, Helgeson said, "It could be within hours of when we go online. The amount of interest has been brisk since we made the announcement [at the beginning of July].

"We'll soon find out how much interest there is.''

Dean Spiros • 952-882-9203

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