Monday, December 11, 2000

Hamilton library adds e-books

By Randy McNutt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — A new book has turned up at the Lane Public Library. Some people love it. Others see it as a threat to civilized man.

        The main Hamilton library, which operates branches in Oxford, Lindenwald and Fairfield, now keeps two circulating electronic books and one demonstration model at each location.

        “The reception has been good but not overwhelming,” said spokeswoman Eugenia Beecher. “Some people are hooked on them. Librarians say, "Gee, I still like a book.'

        “Other people say they like them because they can take them on an airplane or read all night in bed without a nightlight. You don't even hear them. There's no sound. The screen will make the print larger, if you wish. You can make it brighter if you have vision problems.”

        Either way, you still have to read it.

        The brand, Rocket e-Book, is a hand-held computer that can contain up to several full-length books.

        Casual observers might assume that an electronic book-reading machine would be a hard-sell in an institution that has prided itself on printed matter for the last 135 years.

        But not necessarily.

        “One person told me that he likes electronic books, but he's afraid of losing the traditional book,” Ms. Beecher said. “I don't think that will happen, at least not in our lifetime. The e-Book is not a threat. It's just another service that the library is offering for people to learn.”

        Patrons may choose from among 11 e-Book selections per site, but not the same ones. They load the title and take home the e-Book. By using buttons on the side and a stylus, the reader can oper ate the computer.

        In Cincinnati, the public library offers e-books at its downtown location, but they cannot be checked out.

        Similar devices are popping up in stores this Christmas. They cost from $300 to $800, depending on the size of the screen and color capability.

        “We had six and we sold all but one, a $700 one,” said Joe Kissel, an employee of the Best Buy store in Springdale. “Some people really like them.”

        At this point, however, they are no competition for paper books — or even videos. Last year, Lane's patrons checked out 115,000 books, out of 300,000 to 400,000 available.

        “We also checked out 22,000 videos in October,” Ms. Beecher said.

        Patrons may look in the library's electronic card catalog for a list of titles available for the e-Book. They include Stephen King's Rid ing the Bullet, R.A. Durr's Down in Bristol Bay and Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. Librarians will even demonstrate the new device.

        Librarians stress that they're not trying to replace conventional books, and they're keeping up with changes in technology and public tastes.

        So what should patrons do if no e-Book is available?

        “They can always check out the real-book version,” Ms. Beecher said.


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