Have you ever borrowed an eBook or digital audiobook from your library? Did you even know you could? Well you can! This is another free service offered by libraries to make books more accessible and promote reading. For libraries week, 9th-14th of October, we want to show our support by explaining how to borrow eBooks from your library.
How can you read or listen to these books?
You can often use a web browser to access eBooks and audiobooks. Your library should have a link on their website redirecting you to the digital book providers they use, then you simply log in with your library card number and password or pin.
However, the most convenient way to use these services is through an app. You can download the app of your library’s provider for free. When you first open the app just select your library before logging in with your library card details.
What are the benefits of using eBooks and digital audiobooks apps?
As a member of the Oxford library I can access OverDrive / Libby, BorrowBox, RBdigital audiobooks, and RBdigital magazines. Other popular providers also include Cloud Library and Public Library Online. The best part of eBooks and digital audiobooks is that I can access them outside of the library. That means I can borrow, read, and return a book without ever leaving home. I downloaded the iOS apps and made some interesting discoveries.
All of the apps have ‘Help’ or ‘Tips’ sections to explain their features and more.
What determines which eBooks and digital audiobooks you can access?
This depends on which digital book provider your library uses. You can only access the providers that your library has an agreement with. These providers offer a variety of material depending on which publishers they work with.
Using their providers each library is responsible for choosing and buying eBooks and digital audiobooks for their own catalogue. Some libraries use multiple providers in order to access a greater range of content.
Although most providers offer libraries the ability to individually buy and lend eBooks and audiobooks, RBdigtal’s magazine portal and Public Library Online takes a subscription based approach. Users of these two providers have continuous access to the services chosen by the library. This means unlimited borrowing time and readers per book or magazine.
Why do most platforms limit the number of users that can read the same book at once?
This is to protect the copyright. Just as with print editions, libraries can buy more than one digital copy if they wish. In this way digital books operate the same as print books – one book per reader.
If an eBook or digital audiobook is in constant demand it may be worth requesting your library to buy another copy. Keep in mind that libraries are working on increasingly tight budgets so this may not be possible, but it is worth asking.
Who decides how long you can borrow digital books for?
Many platforms allow libraries to set their own lending policies. These include how many books a reader can check out and reserve at one time, how long they can borrow books for, and how quickly a reader needs to check out reserved books that have become available to them.
For example, OverDrive allows libraries to set their loan periods to either seven, fourteen, or twenty-one days. Libraries can set different loan times for eBooks and audiobooks. Conveniently, these digital services automatically return books at the end of the loan period, that means no late fees.
Some of the platforms allow readers to renew their books, so long as no one else has reserved it. This works by simply checking out the book again rather than extending the original loan. For the platforms that don’t have a renewal option, like Cloud Library, it’s as simple as manually borrowing the book again.
Access to these digital book lending platforms are one of the many ways libraries promote reading and enrich our lives. Libraries have long been important centres of community and learning, physical or virtual. They often host book clubs and other events to help people engage with fellow readers. Currently Oxfordshire Libraries are promoting digital literacy and recruiting ‘Digital Helpers’. Volunteering is a great way to support your local library.
If you’re in need of support, the library is there for you as well. Read our bibliotherapy post to find out more.