4885-libraryviewI don’t have an eBook reader, mainly because I don’t buy enough new books to justify the cost.  But when I checked back to the Toronto Public Library recently, lo and behold they’ve instituted an eLibrary.

Which makes me absolutely chuffed.  I live exactly 14,242 kilometres away from Toronto, and yet my resident status allows me to borrow books from the library as if I were still there.  This makes up for all the deficiencies, of which, I’m sorry to say, there are quite a few.

Most of the problems involve the nuts and bolts of e-borrowing.  The formats.  The lending periods.  The hold notification system.  And the fact that you can’t return anything unless it’s in Adobe EPUB or PUB format, which is bloomin’ annoying.  Yeah, I know it’s a copyright issue.  But it’s still a pain in the ass.  There’s also the fact that since I don’t have an eReader, my reading is limited to my computer screen, and it is hell on the eyes.  And I mean hell.

The other big issue is the selection, powered by Overdrive, which is growing but still nowhere near satisfying.  The audiobook collection is quite extensive, but the TPL Overdrive popular music selection numbers exactly six, of which five are Sarah McLachlan.  (Don’t ask about the movies.)  I’ll also mention that of the 119 romance novels listed, I’d say about twenty don’t qualify as such.  Paulo Coehlo?  Uh, no.

Doing a little research, it seems that the larger cities also use Overdrive.  At the last count the Los Angeles Public eLibrary listed 257 romance novels, Chicago 419, New York over 1300, and Seattle (bless their hearts) a whopping 2376.  I’ll be patient, because I can tell Toronto is adding new books every week, and it takes time and money to acquire books.

Now obviously, if you have an eReader or live in a different city then some (or even all) of these problems will disappear.  But honestly, despite all of this, I don’t care.  For libraries, eBooks represent near-eternal shelf life.  And for readers, we can still do the main library stuff – borrow, return, and even copy audiobooks and music CDs – as if you borrowed the item itself.  When you get down to it, that’s all that matters.

Does your library have eBooks available?  Do you/would you make use of it?

– Jean AAR