Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Checking out electronic books to read locally

OK, so the title to this post is a little awkward, so it the topic. In past posts, I have discussed the process of reading books from online libraries. This is a continuation explaining some of the intricacies of the process. Most of us as genealogists around the world are likely acquainted with the process of checking a book out of a library. First, you need to qualify for a library card, apply for one and use it to check out the books you find to read. In places where you can't get direct access to the main library, you may have used some variation of the bookmobile, a truck or van loaded with books that traveled around the communities. In the past, your proximity to a library influenced your use of the materials.

I grew up mainly in a large city with summers spent in a small town. This posed a problem for me during the summers because of my voracious reading habit, I spent a huge amount of time just looking for books to read. While I was attending the university and later, I would always spend a great deal of time in the libraries. At the same time, I acquired thousands of books since I would often buy any book I wanted to read rather than be required to return it to a library. During the years we raised our children, trips to the local library were mandatory almost every week. As a side note, we recently visited a major university library with 16 of our grandchildren for a presentation in the childrens' section of the library. The presentation was about Lloyd Alexander, whose name you might recognize. When we arrived, before and after the presentation, every grandchild who could read immediately went to the shelves and grabbed a book. I now have a fond memory of seeing a rather large number of grandchildren sitting at the library tables, glued to books.

OK, enough of the background. Now there is a new dimension to reading books. I lack the time to spend hours of my day in leisure, reading novels and other books merely for entertainment. Much of my reading in seriously involved in my work or other interests. But there is still the problem of spending the time to find the books to read and physically traveling to a library to find the books and check them out.

Now, much of that process can be eliminated. The number of available books online is huge. Not everything I need to look at or research is online, but much of it is. That is the good news. The bad news is that finding the books can be a challenge and checking them out online to read on a Kindle, iPad or other reader can be daunting.

First, there are multiple electronic book formats (called eBooks for short). Here is a list of some of the more common of them:
  • Kindle books ( aka KF8
  • ePub books
  • Adobe ePub books with DRM protection
  • DjVu
  • Daisy
  • eReader (Palm Media)
  • iBooks (Apple)
  • Microsoft LIT
  • Mobipocket
  • PDF (
  • Plain text files
  • SSReader (in China)
Plus many others.  Each of these book formats have a unique filename extension and require specifically designed software to open the files. So, you have to have a reading device (computer) that will run software that will recognize and read the specific file formats. It is this matching up software programs, file formats and hardware that is the online reading challenge.

Some hardware devices will recognize multiple file formats, but that only gets you on the road to reading not there entirely. You still have to find an app (program) that will recognize and read any specific format. Then you have to determine the procedure for moving or transferring the eBook file from the online library to your reading device.

With a Kindle device, for example, you find the compatible file formatted book online, go through the check out procedure and then the book is sent to your Kindle account on From there, you have to manage your Kindle and download the book to a specific reading device. When you want to read the eBook on your Kindle, the device has to finish downloading the book to your local library and then you can read the book.

Every other type of eBook has similar procedures. Sometimes you have to download the book to your desktop computer and then move the book to your handheld device for ready by synchronizing the device. This is the case with iBooks. Other times, the reader program will automatically download the book from the online library, like with Google's Play app.

This is certainly a good news/bad news situation. I suspect, as time passed, checking out a book will become routine. There are already millions and millions of books to check out, just waiting for you to find them.

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