Digital Bookmobile Displays Latest Library Technology

The Digital Bookmobile operated by OverDrive Incorporated.

by Beverly Amsler

This isn’t the bookmobile from your youth, lined with dozens of books.  Instead, this 74-foot, 18-wheel tractor trailer is lined with audio-visual equipment to show visitors step by step how to download eBooks and audio books.

The Digital Bookmobile is operated by OverDrive, Inc. and it has been traveling the country and logging about 60,000 miles since August of 2008.  It stopped earlier this week at the Williamson Road branch of the Roanoke Library system and at Barnes & Noble behind Tanglewood Mall.

“It’s an interactive display promoting and educating people about the library’s digital downloading service”, says Dan Conochan, who travels with the bookmobile.  However, people can’t actually download from equipment inside the tractor-trailer onto their mobile device.

“People are really excited about it.  People really see that they’re really going to get a lot of great use out of it and the libraries are excited about it as well.”

“We are able to show people exactly what they need to do in order to get their books on their iPads and their other devices.

When the Digital Bookmobile began its journey more than three years ago, about 88 libraries had signed up for OverDrive’s service of a website for patrons to download eBooks and audio books from that particular library.  Now 15,000 libraries have a subscription to the service.

Conochan says the download is free to patrons. “It’s available 24/7 and all you need is a library card and an internet-connected computer or device and there are never any late fees.”

Betsy from Roanoke came to learn the process.  She’s been reading a lot of eBooks.  “I’ve just recently retired and I want to start utilizing the eReader more.”

Betsy says she’ll enjoy downloading and reading eBooks especially during the winter.

“I think once you understand the (downloading) process it gets easier.  But that’s one reason I’m here today, to try to understand more of it.”

Sheila Umberger is the Director of Roanoke Public Libraries which purchased a subscription for the system and purchases eBooks and audio books to download.

“It’s another way for us to help our customers understand a new product that we rolled out in June and it’s been very popular.”  “We’re averaging about 3600 eBook checkouts a month.  So, it’s been very successful.  We just hit 15,000 last week.”

Library officials knew it would be widely used but the numbers are higher than they expected.  “We knew it was going to be popular because people were asking for it.  It was a service that people wanted.  We’ve been really happy with how great the response has been from the community.”

She says people either have a reading device and want to know how their device works with the library’s system, or they are deciding which device to purchase for their needs.

But, she doesn’t think eBooks will replace hard bound books.

The most popular downloads have been best sellers, romances, westerns, and popular non-fiction.  Umberger says the books being used for this year’s Big Read are included as eBooks to make it easier for people to take part in the program.

After seven or 14 days the eBook disappears off the device, so they won’t get the money generated through late fees.

“Our key goal with fines is to make sure the material is available for everyone to use because we do have limited resources.”

“Don’t be afraid of the technology.”  She says librarians will be happy to help people understand the new equipment.

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