Inspiration from an Unlikely Source

I don’t need to go to an Internet café to go online. I have access to multiple computers when I am work. My daytime home is the local library. People come in all day long to do research. Sometimes the topics are mundane and sometimes they are esoteric. Is there information out there that can’t be found? I tell my computer class students that the answer is no. I give them a variety of subjects and they test this hypothesis. What you want to know is there, but it might be from an unlikely source. Believe it or not, people read print vehicles like newspapers and magazines. They still exist in a special reading corner of my library. I have been known to thumb the pages of a fashion mag now and then. I have a reason for this new practice. I am self-conscious about my pale, short eyelashes. You can hardly see them at all. I am loath to wear mascara or false eyelash extensions. What else can I do but settle for my plight in life?

I saw a headline on a web site about eyelash growth serums here: I guess other people have my problem. I read about how one’s appearance affects self-esteem. Women are most sensitive to a bare-looking eye. Either they aren’t born with thick lashes or they pull them out. Yes, people do that. It is a nervous habit that is hard to cure. According to the article, these women seek therapy. They learn to say “no” whenever the desire to pick at a lash arises. They also moisturize their lashes so that they are less brittle. The instinct to pull out a soft lash is less intense. I certainly learned something new about psychological problems. Mine lack of lashes is simpler. I wasn’t born with many. I didn’t singe them off standing too close to the flame of my gas stove. I wasn’t endowed at birth. I envy those children whose eyes look so deep and dark. I remember not wanting my photo taken when I was a kid.

No, I don’t have any nostalgia about class photo time. Now I am an adult and can take the matter in hand. I will use an eyelash growth serum. There is a whole section of the article devoted to over-the-counter products. You can try a home remedy as well. The drugstore is loaded with solutions as is the Internet. You can go to your doctor for a prescription for a medical treatment to your problem. This route sounds very promising as the product has undergone FDA clinical trials. With other serums, you take your chances and can spend a lot of money trying them all out. It takes a few months to see results, so if you are testing products, you need a half a year’s time. Am I willing to wait that long. I decide why not. If I am one of the lucky ones that the article talks about, and if I achieve success, I will feel like a new person. I can present my face to the public with more pride.

Not Your Parents’ Library

Libraries have come a long way over the last decade or so. We are not just books, microfiche, andtemperamental old photocopiers anymore. Most people are aware that their libraries have computers available for patron use, but that is only a little of what we have to offer.

One great way to check out what today’s high-tech libraries offer is to check out their website. Typically, you will find a handy calendar of events, have access to the library’s catalog to reserve books and other media, and log into your account to pay fines or renew books. But many libraries go beyond this. Some offer an online tutoring portal through their site. Others have genealogy archives, job hunting resources, and research materials that you can use without ever leaving your house. Way better than dusty old card catalogs and out of date encyclopedias, and you don’t have to worry about anybody judging you on your USB heated cow slippers. Admit it, now you’re totally jealous of me—as well you should be.

I’m sure you’ve seen the poor selection of magazines at your library. The most current issue is usually gone, pages are missing from whatever dog-eared castoffs are left, and all the puzzles have already been done. But many libraries are moving toward digital magazines. Ours does, and I’m addicted. You download a free app (we use Zinio to get started and then you can look through what the library has digital subscriptions for. You check out the title you want and it appears in the app. There typically isn’t a limit on how many issues you can take out, nor do they typically have a due date. You keep them as long as you need them, and they go away when YOU delete them. Sounds good, doesn’t it? The only catch I have ever found is that you have to check titles out through the library’s website instead of the app. Considering the cost of magazine subscriptions, it is a small price to play, isn’t it?

Are you a music fan? I certainly am. In addition to ebooks and emagazines, I found out that our library offers streaming music. Your library service might be different from ours, but I can listen to new releases with CD quality sound for free. Through the site, I am able to download a certain amount of songs each week (this will vary by library). The music is DRM free so I can basically do what I want with them—upload them to whatever music service I use, burn them to a cd, and so on.   Obviously, I am limited by what artists are in the library’s database so I don’t always get everything I’m looing for but I do find enough music to keep me happy. I don’t know about you, but I can’t find a better deal than that anywhere else!

You will never know what your library has available to you unless you check it out. Go ask a librarian (tell them Lewis sent you), or pull up your local library’s site yourself and start looking around. You might be surprised at what you find.

Ebooks Are Expensive. Library Cards Are Free.

So you finally did it: shelled out the money for an ereader. Or you downloaded a free ereader app. Then you start looking for books and suffer sticker shock: how in the world does an ebook cost nearly the same amount as a hard copy? Did you just buy a glorified paperweight because you’re uncomfortable shelling out over $10 every time you want to buy something to read? I wondered the same thing. If you figure that the price of a book includes the publisher’s cost of physically making the book and getting it to you—the cost of paper, the printer, shipping the book, and the like, a digital copy should absolutely be cheaper. A digital file, on the other hand, has to be created one way or the other, right? So why is the average new book from a major publisher priced at $12.99? I did a little digging, and according to publishers, the cost of making and distributing the book is actually pretty small. The stuff that costs a lot—paying the author’s royalties, the editor, copywriter, art department for that sweet cover design, and stuff like sales and publicity—is still going to get passed to you to pay. Also, they usually add DRM and format the book into several file formats to make it compatible with most ereaders.

You might luck out with self-published books, where authors get to keep the majority of the profit and are more likely to keep the book to $5.99 or less. But those can be a bit hit or miss with the quality, as anybody with a computer can publish an ebook. There’s also books that are available for free. Some are classics with no copywrite issues from sites like Project Gutenberg, which offers over 50,000 books from authors like Twain, Tolstoy, and Austen for free. They typically take a little work to get onto your device, so get comfortable with the drag-and-drop technique of side loading. Another technique publishers and authors alike use is giving away a book for free if it is the first book in a series or some of the back catalog when a new book comes out. This generates buzz for the rest of the author’s catalog with the hope of driving up sales. It is an easy way to get a reader hooked and coming back for more.

But the best way to get free ebooks is to borrow them from your library. It’s true. I’ve read an incredible amount of brand new books and bestsellers that would have cost me between $9.99 and $12.99 each by borrowing them from the library where I work. I love the convenience of an ebook. If I had to put a hold on it, the book automatically checks out to me when it comes in. I pick how long I want to borrow it for (up to 21 days), and then I read it. If I want to return it early, I can. If not, the book magically disappears from my account the day it is due. No late fees, no running to the library’s drop bin at some crazy hour of my day. I literally do nothing and the book gets back where it needs to go.

Some libraries will even allow patrons to recommend books for the library to purchase. That’s even less money out of your pocket if they take you up on that recommendation, and you can set it up so you are notified when it is available. Other libraries who use the Overdrive Advantage system are able to add additional copies of popular books to help reduce wait times. True, the more popular a book is, the lengthier the wait time will be.But if you read a lot, you’ll definitely be saving yourself some money. I like to go in, put a book on hold and then use the “available now” search feature to find something to tide me over. Sure, waitingmy turn sucks, but it’s money in my pocket.

Ask yourself: what’s more important, reading the book NOW or reading it for free? The answer to that question will dictate whether you should click on that “buy” or “borrow” button.


Curling up by the fire with a good book. Imagine that! This is many people’s idea of pure heaven. It is available to most anyone. On a cold winter afternoon, think of the blazing flames that emit a barrage of radiating heat, just enough to warm those thawing bones. What a respite after a walk in the brisk air. What could be better? Now add a cup of hot tea, maybe laced with a bit of bourbon, and you have the recipe for rest and relaxation. You can get rid of season woes in a flash. The question is which book?

I have my own candidates and no doubt you have yours. There are a lot of options in my opinion. Something intriguing and engrossing like a mystery or perhaps some nonfiction. There is a lot of history to catch up on these days. Politics or religion anyone? Given the vagaries of my imagination, I decided one Christmas to act on one of my best ideas and create a book display in the library for visitors. It revolved around a fireplace since it has all the charm and symbolism you could want for readers at this time of year.

It was holiday time within weeks so the winter imagery was most apt. So how would the display be configured? I could use a Lego fireplace or a plastic model. Tacky, I thought. I could draw it but my skills are nil. Then I had a flash of ideation. I didn’t want to tell anyone until it was all in place. It would be a surprise, and hopefully a delightful one.

I looked at photos of fireplaces and wood stoves first to be sure. They were nice, but clichéd in a book display. It would look like little effort had been made. A painting would be nice if one existed in the immediate vicinity. No, this was not the answer. What it turned out to be was my trusty tablet turned to the fireplace producing app. There indeed such an animal in case you didn’t know!

The display was on a long wooden table, dead center. There were stacks of books artfully arranged in strategic groupings. Library visitors could touch them and pick them up if they liked. I was prepared for nightly resorting. If a few were loaned out it would be easy to get new ones. After all, it was meant to instigate reading.

In the center of the display was the tablet, propped up on an easel. The fireplace was glowing brightly, a beacon to readers of all ages. Come and see! There are books awaiting! You will never be the same! A new world awaits! And it went on and on.

The display was a big hit and no one sarcastically declared “fire!” I was asked to keep it going by popular demand beyond the holiday season. I am sure it will reappear next year. It was so easy. The tablet was concealed by some leaves and miniature logs to add to the ambience. It was simple, but striking. My job is in IT and who knew I was a quasi-designer? I will have to add it to my resume for sure.

Step Into the Digital Age With Me

One might think, with libraries being a free service and all, that there’s no incentive to really cater to the people who frequent it. Yet—and thank goodness—people usually feel the exact opposite. Libraries, part of the essential infrastructure of any community, should meet the needs of its people and provide a valuable service to those who walk through its doors. A poorly attended library does no good to the community at large.

As times have changed, so have libraries. I remember having to go to the library as a kid to use the computer because we didn’t have one at home, and they were just so fast! Now the majority of homes have their own computer or tablet and have some form of high-speed internet. My mom was the queen of the card catalog (sorry Mom if I just basically outed you as a dinosaur) but now everything is a type and click digital search on a computer. People went from having to sift through pages and pages of newspapers to spools of microfiche to electronic searches. Technology has made information easier and more accessible—where before it would have taken volumes and volumes of heavy encyclopedias and atlases that rapidly went out of date to give people information, we now have the whole internet to offer to our patrons. And you don’t even need to give them all a computer station. Many people are happy with free Wi-Fi for their own devices, and in the long run, it is a cost-effective measure too.

Nowadays, libraries are more like community centers than dark, musty halls of knowledge. They offer a huge variety of meeting rooms, classes, and services, in addition to a wealth of materials to the community. It is the job of the library to adapt and change to continue to be relevant for its patrons. In this day and age, it means going above and beyond a book. For example, do you have an event that you don’t get the high turnout you should? Have you tried to promote it on your website or on a digital sign near the street? What about social media? Your community can be reached in so many ways, you just have to know where they are looking for information.

I went to a conference where one library employee in a neighboring state was talking about people weren’t utilizing their ebooks. The head librarian was surprised, as they had a wonderful selection and ebooks available for borrowing to make it even more appealing. They decided to display the e-readers right next to the bestsellers in the front of the library and BOOM. Now they have a waitlist for the readers, and their digital book borrowing has tripled. It was something so simple that brought more awareness to a feature, despite the library’s best intentions, continued to go unnoticed.

There are so many opportunities for libraries to serve their communities, and with the rapid developments in technology, there will be ways that you can reach new patrons and light their path in learning.

Digital Rights Management: Something to Think About

Digital Rights Management

If you want to embrace the future of library services and go digital, you are going to come across some terms that might not make any sense to you. One thing you will hear over and over is Digital Rights Management. The logic behind the premise is fairly simple: to maintain the copyright access to the work is controlled. When you think about it, Digital Rights Management (or DRM), is all around you. It is the reason you can’t just burn a copy of that blockbuster DVD you bought. It’s the reason you have to purchase a license to operate programs like Microsoft Office or Adobe Photoshop.

So how does this come into play with ebooks? Simple. You apply the same premise: the copyright holder restricts access. If someone borrows a book from the library in hardcover, they probably aren’t going to pick up a pen and hand copy every page. Nor are they likely to photocopy or scan every page either. It’s labor intensive and there isn’t a whole lot of payoff, so it doesn’t happen often.

However, it’s pretty easy to copy or share a file. DRM prevents people from doing that. It protects the copyright owner’s work and allows them control over how and where that work is distributed. The terms of DRM are usually explained in the end-user license agreement that nobody ever reads, but probably should. There is DRM on a sufficient amount of the digital content that’s out there. Most e-readers are going to run on proprietary software, meaning the operating system only talks to a certain type (or types) of files.In other words, if you have a Kindle ereader, you can’t download a file formatted for iBooks and expect it to open.  Apple has their own DRM that can only be used with their devices; Amazon has their own as well. Adobe has the ADEPT DRM, which works with theEPUB format as well as PDF (which makes sense being as they created the .pdf in the first place). Unlike Apple and Amazon, though, Adobe sells their technology to anyone who wants it—meaning if you decided to switch from, say, a Kobo to a Nook, you could bring over your whole library because it would all be the same DRM. Same for books from the google play store. There is a little more compatibility with Amazon than Apple, as you can actually install the Kindle app on most computers, android devices, and—believe it or not—iOS devices.

For a library taking a turn into the digital age, you have to decide what you want to provide for your patrons. If you want to have ereaders available for people to check out, you have to decide which ones are likely to be the most appealing to the technology fans who frequent your library. Once you decide if you’re going to be providing ereaders, you can decide what types of files you’re going to offer. Most libraries offer a choice of kindle files or EPUB and let the user select the one that is compatible with their reader. You also have the option of offering something like the overdrive app, which patrons can download for free on compatible smartphones and tablets, thereby providing them with a platform to read ebooks on.

Whatever you decide, be sure to offer training to both the librarians and either virtual or library classes for patrons so that they can learn how to use ereaders and the digital library. The more comfortable people are with this kind of technology, the more likely they are to use it. We have found that holding a class in early January always attracts patrons who have gotten ereaders as holiday gifts.

Best e-readers.

There are a LOT of e-readers out there. I’ve tried a few and can tell you that thereis a nice variety of features out there to appeal to even the pickiest of readers. The problem with variety? There are so many choices. I have narrowed the field to what I consider my top three, and will explain why I like each. This way, you can decide what you value most and choose accordingly. NOTE: these are strictly e-readers, so I did not review apps, nor did I consider the kindle fire, Samsung nook, or iPad (sorry, iBooks people. You’re using an app. I’m talking dedicated devices here), as their ability to do other things makes them a tablet.

Best Kindle: Voyage. While I liked the Paperwhite and have a very soft spot in my heart for the short-lived Kindle Touch, Amazon makes it pretty clear when they’ve abandoned models by no longer rolling updates for them. The Voyage is their current Rolls-Royce of e-readers. They actually thought about button placement and put them both out of the way of an accidental push but in a natural enough location that you don’t have to fiddle to find them. You can read this thing in all light–there is no glare; when it is too dark, the screen lights itself accordingly and evenly. The text is incredibly clear thanks to the very high PPI (that’s pixels per inch). Plus, you get the whole Amazon ecosystem for your reading pleasure; I’ve always said that Amazon will put out amazing devices because they’re basically money gateways for their store. The major cons here are battery life (not as great as other models have been, between that awesome light and the haptic feedback feature) and the hefty price tag. You can buy a pretty nice tablet that you can do much more with for the cost of a Voyage.

Best Nook: Glowlight Plus. In case you can’t tell, I love a well-illuminated screen. The Glowlight Plus is waterproof (now you can read in the tub without fear! If, you know, you’re into that) which is a pretty cool feature. The resolution is quite good. It’s pretty cool looking—it isn’t black like every other thing out there, for a start, so when you’re using it, you feel more like you’re reading an actual book. Battery life is nice, too. But you can’t get books on it from anywhere other than B&N (or, at least, I haven’t figured out how, and that’s saying something; I’ve heard that B&N is supposedly developing a way to do it, but you never know) which means no library ebooks for you. The big problem here is B&N itself; they haven’t exactly been the best business model of late, and based on the fact that they’ve farmed out most of these devices to Samsung makes me question how long they’re going to support the stand-alone nook. If they go out of the e-reader game, you may have an electronic paperweight on your hands. A cool looking waterproof paperweight, but still.

Best of the Rest: Kobo Glo HD. This one was close. It actually has a better screen than the Voyage (and it’s cheaper). It’s lightweight and small but still features a 6-inch screen. The battery lasts about two months. You read that right. Two months. The reading light isn’t anything spectacular, but it is there. I picked the Glo over the Aura just based on people I know and their experiences with them, and because it feels so tiny and sleek. The Aura has a waterproof edition and allows for the use of a micro-sd card, a fantastic feature that I wish the Glo had. While you have to download books from the library to your computer and side load them onto this device, at least you have the option. And you can get books from anywhere that supports EPUB files. Their bookstore isn’t quite as extensive, and nobody integrates like Amazon, but prices for books are similar. So if you are looking for an amazon alternative, the Kobo is probably your best bet.

Did I miss your favorite, or does your library use something different? Let me know and I’ll check it out.