Thursday, February 17, 2011

eBook rentals from your local library!

I recently finished Ted Dekker's book The Bride Collector, and all I have to say is, FINALLY!

Okay, so I lied that's not all I have to say, but that is what I was thinking when I finished. Now, you might be thinking to yourself, gosh that must have been an awful book! Well, no. It really wasn't that bad. It was the way I read it that made me so happy when I finished.

I discovered about a month ago a way to rent free eBooks and read them on my phone. All you have to have is a library card for any participating Tennessee library. You can browse audio books and eBooks on the website,, then find one you want, type in your library card number, and then download the book onto your iPads, iPods, Nooks, Androids, and various other mp3 players, tablets, phones, readers (although not on Kindles), and of course onto your computer. For free.

Sounds awesome right???

Well, there's a catch. Actually more than one catch. So before you get too excited, let me explain more.

First of all, they don't have a huge book selection. You can find lots of recent bestsellers, and then a little bit of some other slightly more obscure or less mainstream type of stuff. They get new titles all the time, but still. You can't be too picky, because there just aren't a whole lot of options. And then there's the waiting list. Even though it's an eBook it's just like a regular library book, in the sense that if the website only owns two copies of the eBook, then only two people can have it checked out at a time. All of Tennessee is using the same website, and they rarely have more than 1-3 copies of each book. So, needless to say, you have to wait. When I first discovered the website, I put myself on about 15 different waiting lists, being anywhere from patron 1 of 1 to patron 63 of 63. They said they would email me when my titles were available, so I sat back and waited, expecting a windfall of free books any day now. About a week and a half later, I finally got my first email, which was for The Bride Collector. (I was patron 1 of 1 on that one- imagine how long it will be before they get to patron 63!?!)

I wasn't really sure I wanted to read The Bride Collector. I didn't really know what it was about, but I've read some of Dekker's books before and enjoyed them, and it was free, so why not? I downloaded it onto my phone and began reading. Now, I've read books on my phone before, using the Kindle app, and it was a good experience. The app was nice, user-friendly, my phone has a big screen, and I even forgot I was reading on my phone after a while. However- this was NOT the case with this library thing. You have to use their app, Overdrive Media, which was not very nice! The screen kept cutting off while I was reading, it rarely registered me turning pages and I had to keep swiping over and over, then it would turn three pages at once and I'd have to go back, it also took a long time to load in between chapters, there weren't as many screen settings as the Kindle app and the screen was harder to read from... All in all not a very nice experience.

So, the app wasn't user friendly. On top of that, the book I was reading started off very slowly and I could not get interested. Also, at the time I was reading it I was actually a little bit busy. All of that meant that it was taking me a while to finish! So then, when I was finally about halfway through the book, it was just starting to pick up a little, and I opened the app on my phone and... the book was gone! Which is the last catch: you can only check books out for 7 days at a time. Now sometimes that's not a problem, if you're on vacation, or it's a short book, or it's an easy read... but really. Who can usually read a not-so-interesting full length novel in 7 days, when life is going on as well? Not me, at least, not this time.

Anyway, imagine my frustration when I couldn't finish the book! I got back on the website and got on the waiting list again. Now I was patron 2 of 2. I waited about a week and a half, got the book again, and finished it. The book got pretty exciting there at the end... it definitely wasn't what I expected but still, it didn't turn out to be horrible. And who knows, if I had been reading a hard copy, I might have liked it a lot more!!

Side note: I also attempted to download an audio book from this site onto my iPod. I couldn't get it to work, but I didn't try too awfully hard. Maybe the audio books work better. And who knows, maybe the eBooks would have worked better on a different device, like a Nook or an iPad. Also- I know other libraries in other states and countries do the eBook rental thing too. Some you have to live there, some you have to pay a yearly fee, some claim to be free for anyone. I haven't actually checked out any of those out yet, but maybe they would be less frustrating.

So anyway- library eBooks, not quite as exciting as they might seem. But, despite all my complaining, they still aren't all bad. After all, I did just download another one after I finished The Bride Collector. I mean, it is, you know, like, free.

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