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Lodi Library looks into offering e-books

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Posted: Friday, August 12, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 12:12 pm, Fri Aug 12, 2011.

The Lodi Public Library is researching adding e-books to its collection — but with a cash-strapped budget, it is a challenge.

Library staff would like to offer e-books that residents can download onto an electronic tablet or a cell phone with an e-reader application, said Nancy Martinez, library services director.

But with some library e-book vendors charging a minimum of $25,000 for access to a collection, the library is going to have to balance providing the books with limited funds.

The books and materials budget this year is $58,000, so the library would be using more than 40 percent of the budget on e-books if they bought access to an online database.

"We are investigating and going to try and find the best scenario for what our public wants within the parameter of our finances. We'll try something," Martinez said.

About 70 percent of libraries already have e-books, she said. The library does direct users to a website that offers free e-books, mainly of older classics, but there are no books users can check out directly from the library.

The reason Lodi doesn't have any e-books is because the library did not invest in them years ago before funds started to shrink, Martinez said. Also, the size of Lodi's library is a challenge.

"Larger libraries have a larger book budget, so they can experiment with a $25,000 outlay," Martinez said.

To rent an e-book, library patrons would go to the website and select a book. There would be a twoor three-week checkout period, and on midnight of the day it is due the book would disappear from the device.

There are several challenges for libraries when it comes to e-books.

Kindle, the e-book reader from Amazon, has not made its books available to libraries, so anyone with that device would not be able to rent a book, Martinez said. Also, many of the bestsellers are only available on Kindle.

"When people think of e-books with all the hype, they think of reading bestsellers, but you can't get them," Martinez said.

Also, most of the e-book vendors that sell to libraries sign contracts individually with authors. So if an author hasn't signed with a vendor, their book would not be available.

"It would be the same if we bought all the wrong books and didn't buy (John) Grisham, Danielle Steel or (James) Patterson," Matrinez said.

For example, e-books are not available for the "Harry Potter" series because author J.K. Rowling has not made them available online.

Even though it is an electronic copy of a book, libraries still only rent one e-book copy when they contract with a vendor. If the library wanted to buy multiple copies of books, it would cost more money, Martinez said.

And some book publishers are now requiring libraries to rebuy the book after a certain number of times it is checked out. They calculate how many times a paperback book would be checked out before being damaged or worn out, and are applying it to the e-books, Martinez said.

"It's a very confusing arena," she said.

Contact reporter Maggie Creamer at maggiec@lodinews.com. Read her blog at www.lodinews.com/blogs/citybuzz.

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