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Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County
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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.


By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, May 27, 2018


When I started in librarianship in 1977, if you had told me that someday public libraries would have something called eBooks, I would have stared blankly at you with no idea what you were talking about.


It was the 1990s when the concept of eBooks emerged on the information marketplace, and initially they were a failure.


Within a short time, technology had solved many of the problems of an electronic book and public libraries could see the advantage of this new format.


It was logical for publishers to be the source of eBooks, but they wanted to develop this new product so they wouldn’t be “taken” like they had years before with libraries buying paper books.


Publishers have sold books to public libraries forever, but they don’t like the fact that libraries use books over and over again without paying for each use.


With the development of eBooks, publishers decided to change the structure of “book sales” so they are paid for the frequency of use.


Many publishers place a download limit of 26 times per title and with technology, the eBook goes away after the 26th use and if a library still wants the title, we have to purchase another 26 uses.


Think of a paper book on the library shelf --- a librarian would have to remove the book after the 26th use and throw it away if the same theory were applied to the paper book.


Not all publishers do this form of contract; some allow endless uses of eBooks, or have alternative contracts for usage.


Another problem with eBooks is that people who purchase eBooks on their own cannot donate them to a library in the same way they can with a paper book.


Again, it is due to the technology aspect that this can even be done.


But aside from these negative issues, there are many advantages to the eBook product from the ability to adjust the font on your device to the ease of use and ability to carry an eBook easier than the standard paper book.


Of course, an eBook will return itself within a standard time period without overdue fines.


Our library system is part of a 92 library network that shares some 300,000 eBooks with our users allowing a greater number of available eBooks to be available.


eBooks have expanded in other ways, from the new Tumble Book software of thousands of children’s books and games online that uses the eBook format to interest the youngest of our library users.


The same is true for the Hoopla database that the library provides to the public which has both online movies and eBooks for the public.


Flipster is another database, which uses an eMagazine format to provide the public with current periodicals that can be downloaded into your device.


And of course, the eBook format is related to the online systems of information that floods the Internet system and allows libraries to provide millions of pages of online information through our webpage.


The Internet also allows libraries to link the traditional book collections so that the paper book can be found and requested, allowing our library system to offer 8 million items to the public instead of the 190,000 items that were accessed in 1988 with a card catalog.


Actually, our library system can expand to the worldwide network of resources beyond our local network of those “other items” that exist in library collections, or federal and state information systems.


It all begins with that little plastic library card.