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10 Answers to eBook and eReader FAQs

Posted In: Collections, Website Features
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By Anjanette Wiggins

Pratt staff member helping with an ereaderSince early 2011, the Pratt Library has offered customers presentations about eBooks and eReaders. Yet, as digital reading technology continues to evolve, people still have plenty of questions. Though we cannot answer every question customers may ask about eBooks and eReaders, Pratt staff members strive to provide as much information as possible. With that goal in mind, here are ten frequently-asked questions and answers about eBooks and eReaders:

1. Is every book in the library available as an eBook?

Unfortunately, no. There are a variety of reasons why a book may not be available in the Library as an eBook. Some of these reasons include:

  • Unavailability as an eBook: Some publishers (and authors) purposely choose to restrict the formats in which their books can be published. Additionally, older materials that are out of print, but still covered by copyright protection, may not have been converted to eBook format.
  • The eBook is unavailable to libraries: Some publishers (or copyright owners) do not license their eBooks to libraries for public lending. The reasons stated for this decision include concerns about piracy and the possible effect on eBook sales.
  • The eBook may be prohibitively expensive: Currently, eBook and digital audiobook prices widely vary. Some eBooks may not be worth the cost if they are unlikely to get any use.
  • The eBook is not available through the Library’s current vendors: Pratt Library uses OverDrive as its eBook provider for materials that can be checked out. The Library also provides access to databases that feature full-text materials that can be read online. These databases include Safari Books Online, Black Drama, Black Short Fiction, and Black Thought and Culture.

2. I didn’t know the Library had eBooks. How long has that been going on?

The Pratt Library has offered eBooks and digital audiobooks for checkout to its customers since 2005.

3. Will library eBooks work with my eReader (or tablet, smartphone, computer, etc.)?

eBooks borrowed from the Library will work with most digital devices. The eBooks available come in a variety of formats to accommodate a wide selection of devices.

4. Do I have to have a library card to get eBooks?

That depends. To borrow eBooks from the Maryland Digital eLibrary collection, customers must log in with a library card account. This is not the case with all materials on the Maryland eLibrary website, though. eBooks in the Always Available collection, which consists mostly of free public domain materials, can be downloaded without logging into an account, and these eBooks do not expire and can be kept. Other websites that provide public domain materials, like Project Gutenberg, do not require accounts, either.

To read the eBooks available through the Pratt Library’s databases, you will need a valid library card to access the content.

5. Do I have to pay for all eBooks?

No. There are websites that allow users to download eBooks freely, like Project Gutenberg and Open Library, and readers also have the option to borrow eBooks from the Library, or read eBooks from the databases Safari Books Online, Black Drama, Black Short Fiction, and Black Thought and Culture.

The Maryland Digital eLibrary Consortium Web site 

6. Do I need special software to read eBooks?

That depends. eBooks borrowed from the Maryland Digital eLibrary collection can be downloaded onto a computer or device, or they can be read directly in a Web browser without downloading a file. If you choose to download an eBook for offline reading, special software is needed. For computers and most eReaders, except Kindle, the Adobe Digital Editions application is required to read eBooks downloaded from the Maryland eLibrary collection. For tablets and smartphones, the OverDrive Media Console app is needed to download and read borrowed eBooks.

Readers borrowing eBooks from the Maryland Digital eLibrary collection also have the option to read directly in the Web browser using the OverDrive READ feature. No extra software is needed, but an Internet connection is needed to use this feature. Similarly, eBooks available through Pratt databases are read using the Web browser.

7. Why doesn’t this eBook work with my device?

There may be a few reasons why an eBook is not working on your device, including compatibility issues, DRM technology, or problems with the eBook file or device.

eBooks come in a wide variety of formats. It is important to know which formats your equipment can support. For example, Kindle eReaders and apps cannot open eBooks in the ePUB format, while other types of eReaders, like NOOK, cannot open Kindle eBooks. Information about the file types supported by your equipment can be found in the device’s user guide or online.

Another issue that can interfere with eBook use is DRM, or Digital Rights Management. In many cases, with the exception of public domain materials, eBooks are protected by software that controls how that eBook works. These controls can include when and where an eBook can be used, who can access it, and how many times it can be accessed. When a user or a device does not have permission to access or use that eBook, DRM technology will "lock" that file to prevent it from opening.

Sometimes, an eBook file may have technical problems that prevent it from functioning properly. If the file is corrupted, it will not work, and the file may have to be deleted and downloaded again. Users should also check their equipment to ensure that it is not the source of the issue.

8. Why can’t I borrow this eBook from the Library even though I can purchase it?

Libraries obtain licenses to lend eBooks to their customers. However, there are publishers, authors, and copyright holders who do not license their ebooks to libraries for public lending. The reasons stated for this decision include concerns about piracy and the possible effect on eBook sales.

9. Can I renew the eBooks I borrow from the Library?

Currently, eBooks borrowed from the library cannot be renewed. Customers can check out the eBook again by visiting the Maryland Digital eLibrary website.

10. Where can I get help for eReaders and eBooks?

Customers can get help with eBooks and eReaders a number of ways:

  • First, talk to a librarian. Pratt staff members have several resources available to help answer your questions. Some libraries provide eReader consultations by appointment, in addition to public events about eBooks and eReaders.
  • Check the user guide that came with your device. Basic operating instructions and troubleshooting tips are often included the user guide, and reading it can help you get started with your equipment.
  • Read information on the Internet. There is a wealth of information online about eBooks and eReaders that address everything from the most basic tips to advanced hacks. The Pratt Library has information about eReaders and eBooks on its website, and the Maryland Digital eLibrary website features in-depth help pages. YouTube is another source of information about eReaders and eBooks.

It's unclear from this article whether any of your ebooks or audio books are accessible to patrons who are blind, or whether you have considered this question.
Posted by: Chris Danielsen at 4/29/2013 12:52 p.m.


The ebooks and digital audiobooks available from the Library's collection can be used on ereaders and tablets with features for the blind. An example would be iOS devices like the iPad or iPhone, which have VoiceOver commands. The OverDrive Media Console app for tablets works with VoiceOver.
Posted by: Anjanette( Visit ) at 4/29/2013 1:05 p.m.


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