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Libraries embracing e-books

By Chris Maza
Reminder Assistant Editor
GREATER SPRINGFIELD -- E-books have become quite the rage over the past few years, but it's certainly not slowing public libraries down.
Amazon.com recently reported that sales of e-books has boomed to the point that those sales are now higher than those of hardcover books also sold on the Web site. E-books have become increasingly popular with more hand held reading devices, such as the Kindle and the Nook, becoming more easily accessible and affordable.
Libraries have jumped on board with the trend and have started offering e-books for download through their catalog system.
"It hasn't been a big part of our collection yet. We don't offer the same wide variety as we do with real books," Jean Canosa-Albano, Springfield Public Library manager of youth and outreach services, said. "But we do give people the opportunity to download e-books from our catalog."
East Longmeadow Public Library Director Susan Peterson said her library has been offering e-books for some time, but they have just recently become popular.
"We have offered them for about five years, but we've seen a bigger push over the past two or three years," Peterson said. "It wasn't very popular when it first got going, but the demand for them has increased."
Wilbraham Public Library Director Christine Bergquist and Circulation/Technical Services Coordinator Librarian Cindy Ruczeck could not be reached for comment, but Canosa-Albano said she knows Wilbraham has done a great deal with e-books, including offering training on how to download.
Wilbraham Friends of the Library are raffling off a Sony e-Reader, which is compatible with the Wilbraham system, according to a flier posted on the wall at the library's entrance.
At most libraries, e-books can be obtained two ways. The first is to come into the library and connect your hand held device to the computer catalog. The other is to visit the library's online catalog and download books from the comfort of your own home.
According to Canosa, downloading library e-books is much like borrowing a real book from the library, only there are no overdue fees.
"It disappears from the hand held after a certain period of time," Canosa-Albano explained.
Neither Peterson, nor Canosa-Albano see e-books replacing standard paperback and hardcover books. In fact, some local libraries are reporting increases in the circulation of their traditional books.
"We don't see it having a negative effect on our circulation," Peterson said. "E-books supplement the collection we have. They don't replace it."
Peterson said that the East Longmeadow library's new facility and extensive collection keeps readers taking out more traditional books.
"Since we opened the new facility, circulation has been through the roof," Peterson said. "We have a great collection and we have received adequate funding to maintain the collection and buy more books,"
Canosa-Albano said Spring-field has seen an increase in circulation as well, and noted the economy has also had a major impact.
"I think a lot of it can be attributed to the economy," Canosa-Albano said. "On top of people trying to economize and borrow books instead of buying them, libraries are offering other resources, like the internet and training resources to help people use the computer to find jobs. While they're there using those resources, they might stop and pick up a book."