The sale of e-Books — digital files read on tablets like the iPad, Kindle or Nook — more than tripled from 2009 to 2010, when the sale of the new technology made for 5 percent of all books sold that year. In February 2012, the Pew Research Center conducted a study that revealed that 21 percent of American adults had read an e-Book in the last year.
Now, thePrince George's CountyMemorial Library System is further embracing the trend, announcing last month a new e-Book service called Freading.
Freading is free, according to a release from the library system; registered library card-holders can download a select number of e-Books every week to their Apple iPad and iPhone through Freading applications. Other devices, like Android tablets and smart phones, the Kindle Fire, Nook and Kobo can also be used with Freading. The library system will pay the cost of downloads, and readers can download their books from thePrince George's County Memorial Library System's website.
"We have been waiting a long time for a service like this that delivers great content, compatibility with lots of devices and simplicity of use," Kathleen Teaze, the county's library director, said in a release. "We think this will be incredibly popular with our customers and will help the library in marketing itself to the community."
Local library-goers are already excited about the new service, said Roy Joynes, branch manager at the Laurel Library.
"It's so popular," he said. "Everyone has a Kindle, and everyone's using (Freading). We've gotten a lot of inquiries about it, and it's just getting better and better every day."
More than 20,000 books are in the basic Freading system, according to the Library Ideas Inc. website. Patrons have a wide range of options, Joynes said, and the fact that the service is free is also a draw.
"With the library budget being what it is, this new service, I think, will be tremendously successful and popular," he said. "It's so easy to use, too: You can just do it at home."
That's exactly the point, said Brian Downing, co-founder of Library Ideas.
"Freading is a unique service which will solve a lot of library and patron issues," he said in a release. "Libraries can get a lot of great content with no upfront cost and no steep platform fee, and the patrons have a great selection of books to choose from without waiting in line."
The addition of the service means even more e-Book choices for library-goers, Joynes said, as the Laurel Library already uses a system called OverDrive that has thousands of titles of contemporary books for downloads.
"There's two (services) you can choose from or use both," Joynes said. "You can do it right now: Just download, and you go off with it. With the services offering different titles, there's no duplication.
"There's just more titles to choose from. What's in OverDrive wouldn't be in Freading. High-tech people will love it, and everyone can find what they want. ... If a person likes a book, the library is going to find a way to have."
The convenience of e-Books is "like magic" Joynes said.
"Just the idea of that if you're on the Metro, on the subway, you can put (a Kindle or other reading device) in your suit pocket," he said. "They're lightweight. They're easy to carry. There's devices with no glare now. It's really great.
"You're not over-loaded. When you go to the beach, you don't want to take 10 books, or you just can't take 10 books.
"You can, now, with these things. You're not taking up space in your suitcase, and quite frankly — it's new. It's a new technology, and people like being ahead of the curve.
"We'll be ahead of it there with them."