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Library Offers New Digital Services Starting This Summer

Being able to download a library book to your tablet or e-reader has been a convenient option for several years now. In theory, it’s great; rather than having to go to the library and hope to get your hands on one of the few copies of the latest bestseller, you can download the book in the comfort of your own home and not even have to worry about any fingerprints (or worse, coffee stains.)

However, at least for Nassau residents, there’s one small problem with this system: when you try to get a hot title from the Nassau Digital Doorway, the system that all county libraries participate in, there may be 200 people in line in front of you. It may not be the hot title anymore if you have to wait several months to read it.

According to Plainview-Old Bethpage Library Director Gretchen Browne, the greatest frustration her patrons have with digital borrowing is the competition over popular books on the countywide service. While the waiting list for the digital version of the latest Jodi Picoult or Janet Evanovich tale isn’t likely to disappear anytime soon, the library is offering new programs to make reading ebooks that much more convenient.

Starting in July, POB patrons will be able to borrow Nook e-readers preloaded with bestselling fiction and nonfiction titles. Not only does this provide another chance to borrow that hot title while everyone’s still talking about it, but it gives people without their own devices a chance to experience ebooks. Browne credits the Westbury Public Library as the first library in the area to adopt the program.

“It’s a digital reading experience of the bestsellers that a lot of people have to buy because it takes so long to get them through the Overdrive program,” said Browne.

The library has 10 Nooks for adults and five for young adults, which are loaded with age-appropriate titles. Other e-readers, such as the Kindle were considered, but Browne said the library ultimately purchased the Nooks because vendor Barnes & Noble was the easiest to work with.

Of course, being able to take out something so much more expensive than a typical hardcover has its limitations; overdue fines for the Nook will be $1 a day. In addition, those under 18 will need a signed parental permission form to take out the device.

For those who may not be primarily interested in bestsellers but still want more digital reading options, the library will also offer the service Freading, an alternative to Nassau Digital Doorway. Instead of offering A-list books, Freading tends to offer titles from smaller publishers, which can be a good thing for those looking for something a little off the beaten path. The service utilizes an interesting system where patrons get tokens that they can “spend” on downloads, with books in higher demand requiring more tokens to take out. Freading ebooks are compatible with most devices, excluding Kindle (other than the Kindle Fire.)

For magazine readers, the library will offer digital copies of magazines via a service called Zinio. The magazines available online will be the complete versions, including all photos, graphics, recipes and anything else they may contain. While a list of the periodicals available to POB patrons was not available as of press time, expect to see some well-known, well-loved magazines on offer.

Switching media to music, the library now offers Freegal Music, a service that lets patrons download three songs per week. Differentiating Freegal from other services that are based on borrowing, the songs are download-to-own; once you download them, they’re yours to keep. While only a limited amount of publishers are signed up with Freegal, there are over three million songs to download. The service has already been picked up by many libraries, including nearby Jericho Public Library.

With all of these new programs, some may be concerned that the difficulty of learning how to use them might be a source of irritation: after all, a program isn’t convenient if you’re scratching your head trying to find the “search” button for 10 minutes. However, Browne asserts that these programs are user-friendly, and have been getting more intuitive over time.

“Companies are making the ability to read digitally or stream music or whatever [easier] — they’re taking out all kinds of middle steps that used to be part of the process. It’s becoming out much easier for people to read and to view and to listen than it was even a year ago,” said Browne, going on to say that Overdrive, the system behind Nassau Digital Doorway, will also be getting a digital facelift soon to make it easier to use.

Furthermore, for those who aren’t computer savvy but still would like to try some of these services, librarians at POB will be available to walk them through the process.

There are a few more services that may not be ready this summer, but are on the horizon at POB for the near future. One option the staff at the library is excited about is online program registration, which should make it much more convenient for patrons to sign up for programs for themselves and their children. Another new service would allow patrons to use their mobile device to scan the barcode of a book and check it out automatically, turning their Smartphone into a self-checkout device. Browne doesn’t know precisely when these services will be available, but both are in the works.

With the tremendous pace of technology, keeping up isn’t easy, but for Browne, being able to expand the role of the library in this way makes for exciting work.

“There’s so many more services we can offer our community that have never been possible before,” said Browne.

To start utilizing some of these services, as well as take out books from Nassau Digital Doorway, visit