Payson Public Library’s new library director Emily Linkey loves to read. No surprise there: Whenever she goes on vacation, books take up about half the space in her luggage.
But taking books with her just got a whole lot easier with the Gila County library system now offering electronic books or e-books available for download free online.
The system launched just a few weeks ago and so far offers several hundred titles. However, the choices include John Grisham legal thrillers, the ever-popular “Fifty Shades of Grey” novel series, “Tuesdays with Morrie” and a good collection of the teen books Linkey loves to read.
The only area severely lacking is nonfiction, with just five titles.
“Obviously we cannot have in e-format what we have in the book format,” she said. “Particularity if you are looking for nonfiction, you are going to want to come into the library.”
Still, getting an e-book platform is huge for Gila County, which has lagged years behind Pima and Maricopa County libraries.
Purchasing an e-book platform is expensive and rural libraries generally could not afford to sign on. But earlier this year, Linkey learned the Arizona State Library Archives and Public Records was bringing such a system to Gila County.
“One of their main goals this year was to make sure that all public library users within the state have access to e-books,” she said.
The state purchased the Baker and Taylor Access 360 platform, which is slightly different than the Overdrive system many Valley cardholders have used.
Still, all e-book platforms function roughly the same.
Library cardholders sign up for an account online, log in and download books onto their computer, smartphone and certain e-readers. Books are “checked out” for 15 days and once that time elapses, the books automatically disappear from the device.
Like a single copy of a book in a library, only one person at a time can check out the e-book. Users can’t renew the book online if they haven’t finished it, but can check it out again.
The limited copies of online books have been the major hiccup for larger libraries, with lengthy waiting lists for popular titles and best sellers.
With only a handful of the 7,700 active Payson library cardholders using the online system, books remain readily available. Moreover, the Gila County library district is working with Santa Cruz County to add more titles all the time.
Still, it could take some time before the e-books server matches the 8,000 books on the library shelves in Payson.
Linkey sees e-books as a major step forward in modernizing the library and attracting more readers.
“E-books are becoming more and more important for libraries and while they are very handy for the older set they are becoming more and more popular with the younger guys,” she said. “This is a format that is particularity attractive to them because they are not afraid to figure out how to download an app.”
Setting up an account and downloading the application to a smartphone or tablet is the hardest part of the system, Linkey admits. After that, users can download books anywhere and at anytime, including from home in the middle of the night.
“If anyone wants instructions on (downloading books), just come over to the library because getting set up the first time is a bit clunky, so it is helpful if we are able to walk you through and you can call and we will walk you through over the phone.”
Also at the library, cardholders can look over the e-readers available, including the iPad, Nook and Kindle Fire. The devices are only for demonstration purposes and must remain in the library.
Linkey said it gives people a good idea how the e-readers differ and which one fits their needs. On the iPad, for example, a digital format book looks like a hard copy with illustrations and the pages even digitally “turn” like a book.
But unlike a hard copy, readers can enlarge the type on most e-readers, make notes and look up words.
Also, an e-book is never going to get lost or fall apart.
In addition to e-books, the library has electronic magazines and audio books available online free.
Unlike e-books, any number of people can check out a magazine or audio book.
Magazines and audio books are accessible through a separate application, but it is no harder to learn than the e-book platform.
“(Audio e-books) haven’t been heavily used, so possibly it is a secret people don’t know about or the technology may be a little frightening for people, I am not sure,” Linkey said.
For more information on e-books and magazines, contact the Payson library at (928) 474-9260. Visit www.gcldaz.org and click the Axis360 link for e-books, the Zinio icon for e-magazines and the One Click Digital icon for audio books.