I am no longer reading the book 1493 by Charles Mann (see my previous post about Mann’s earlier book, 1491, here). I was reading it but it just disappeared from my iPad. I had downloaded it via Overdrive from my local public library. My two-week loan period is over, the book vanished, and I am now back on the waiting list.
I am at a point in my life where I just don’t have time to read for fun. I just don’t have time to curl up with books any more. Young children, work responsibilities, side projects, homeownership, and the remnants of a social life (what’s left after having kids) mean that leisure reading is at a premium. Recently, my new reading space has been a local Chinese restaurant that serves tasty, unhealthy, Americanized-Chinese food. My iPad and I go for lunch, and I am able to read between between my chicken-fried rice and egg rolls.
When 1493 disappeared, I think I had just finished Chapter 1. I have a pretty good sense of the book’s organization and thesis. I was very excited about its direction and impressed at how Mann was connecting history to our modern world. But, the cruel hand of Overdrive swooped in and snatched Chapter 2 away from me. I kind of miss overdue notices.
The library where I am employed does not have access to Overdrive. We have been purposely dragging our feet. As a community college, we support research for the first two years of college, so we have focused our ebook efforts on collections of titles around specific subjects. We have found that browser-based options have been the low hanging fruit that provide useful content and easier access for our distance and off-campus students (probably many on-campus students as well). We have avoided Overdrive and some its competitors. But, we know that our ability to avoid moving in new directions is running out.
ALA’s recent report about Ebook Business Models doesn’t make me want to run our and dive into the market. James LaRue’s piece on ebooks (50 Shades of Red: Losing Our Shirts to Ebooks) doesn’t help much either (even though LaRue’s article is awesome).
I am sure that I could go out to a torrent site and find the book for free if I really tried. There is some irony that publishers are fearful of libraries, even though we do have budgets and we would like to purchase their content. My solution has been to interlibrary loan the book on CD so that I can listen to it on my drive to work. So, the race is on. Will I come off my library’s waiting list on Overdrive before the CD arrives via ILL?
Troy A. Swanson is Department Chair and Teaching & Learning Librarian at Moraine Valley Community College. He is the author of the upcoming book, Managing Social Media in Libraries. You can follow him on Twitter at @t_swanson.