Kindles, Nooks, iPads, they're everywhere. Over the past holiday season hand-held reading devices quickly became the must-have gift. With price points often as low as $100, eReaders (electronic readers) have entered the mainstream. Compact, convenient, and incredibly user-friendly, these devices are now in the hands of not only adults, but children as young as preschool age.
But the first lesson that new eReader owners must come to grips with is that most eBooks (electronic books) aren't cheap. Sure one can often find older, public domain titles for free or at low cost, but the popular, new releases that readers usually want are certainly not free. In fact, most eBooks are usually only a few dollars cheaper than corresponding print editions. This is particularly an issue for students and children who don't have credit or debit cards required to make online purchases. So without a constant revenue stream to purchase new books, that shiny new eReader can quickly become just one more underutilized device.
Anticipating this unmet need, The Portage Township Schools have created the PTS Digital Download Library. Portage students and staff now have free access to a growing collection of more than 250 downloadable eBooks and audio books ranging from elementary picture books to college bound classics. The PTS website is operated by OverDrive, one of the largest online eBook vendors, and is compatible with nearly all brands of hand-held reading devices.
The Digital Download Library is accessed through PTS Webpage (www.portage.k12.in.us). Users need to open the Online Resources link found on the left menu bar of the homepage. Clicking on the Digital Download Library link will open a new page. It is highly recommended that first time users click on the "My Help" box found in the upper left hand corner of the webpage. This will pop up specific step-by-step instructions needed to download the free software required for your device.
Too frequently, users try to skip this first essential step and encounter the frustration of error messages. Be prepared to spend 15 minutes or so prepping your equipment to receive downloads. Once this step is complete, patrons can now search the online catalog using a variety of options listed on the left hand menu of the page.
In many ways a digital library mirrors the operation of a traditional print library. The PTS Media Department purchases audio and eBooks that are accessed through the website. Like print items, the library owns a specific number of "copies" of each item that patrons may check out. For the majority of copyrighted materials, only one user may possess a copy at one time, so some items may be checked out and unavailable at any given time. Patrons may request items that are currently checked out and are notified by email when they become available. Users must have their full barcode number, found on their PTS I.D card, to check out materials. The lending period of digital downloads is set at two weeks. After two weeks, the item is automatically "returned" to the library and is now available to other patrons. If you haven't finished reading your eBook, you simply download it again and continue reading.
I'd like to encourage all Portage students and their parents to explore the PTS Digital Download Library, and share in this unique opportunity to discover yet one more venue to instill in your children a life-long love for reading and learning.
This column solely represents the writer's opinion.