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

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Online Library Experiment

OK, so two things have happened. I have figured out the technology necessary to check out digital books from my local library and the offerings of the library have finally grown to the point there is something to check out. If I were one given to use hyperbole, I would say that there has been a explosion of digital books in online libraries. But, not being so inclined, I would say there are finally enough books to make thinking about reading digital books, that you don't have to buy, a reality.

Next, comes the issue of whether or not any of these online offerings are going to include anything pertaining to genealogy? However, that is inevitable. Because this is one way libraries, including the genealogical libraries or collections of books on genealogy in libraries, will remain relevant in the very near future. Not too long ago, I tried downloading books from the library, but the offerings were so limited, I never really got around to reading any of the books during the checkout period. In addition, I don't care for reading on my computer screen because I have variable lens glasses and I have to hold my head at an awkward angle.

Now, I have an iPad and can read anything for any period of time as comfortably as I can a book. I still like books, but for me, they are about the same for reading. Anyway, all of the various components of the system finally fell into place. I have books I might like to read. I have a reason to check out the books which by the way, was the relatively long flight to Kearney, Nebraska, and I already knew that checking out books was possible.

The catalyst was a flyer from my local library telling me how to read books on my iPad. I was pleasantly surprised to see how the online library offerings had grown over the past months as I had ignored them. So now I browsed for a book. I soon found one from one of my favorite science-fiction writers. Here is the book:

Asimov, Isaac. Nemesis. New York: Doubleday, 1989.

But the key here is that the book is irrelevant. I now had a system to find practically any book online. Previously, if I found a book like Nemesis, I would either have to buy the book or forget reading it. Why? Because it is so clearly still under copyright. All of the previous books I read online had to be old and out-of-copyright. 

I can now use two different paths to finding books online for my personal use; I can look for any of the millions of books on digital books sites from to Google Books or I can search local libraries for books and check them out, just as I would have done had I physically gone to the library.

Pushing aside the complaints about reading books on electronic book readers, you have to admit that as a genealogist, you are not likely to read an entire reference book. You are mainly interested in those portions of the book that pertain to your particular geographic or ancestral interests. It is the availability of the books that is important. In the past, I have purchased a CD of some of the surname books I was interested in reviewing because there was no other way to obtain a copy of the book. But when I got the CD, I found that there were only a very few pages of the book I was concerned about. Doesn't the ability to "check out" such a book enlarge my ability to do research? Of course, I could order the book on Interlibrary loan, but that can take more than two weeks and by then I may have forgotten why I wanted the book in the first place. Being able to check out books online is merely one more option not previously readily available.

Soon, I will write about the online programs for checking out books in more detail. 

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