With the price of e-books on the rise, thousands of St. Charles Parish readers are turning to their local library for help.
Since the program began in late 2009, more than 9,000 titles have been downloaded by library members. All a resident needs is their library card and pin number and they can download a book for up to 14 days for free. When that time is up, the book disappears from the e-reader device, making late fees a thing of the past.
The books can be downloaded on e-reader devices such as the Nook, Kindle, iPad or even cell phones.
When the parish library system decided to offer e-books, they turned to two other parishes for help, according to Head Librarian Mary des Bordes. Terrebonne and St. John parishes began offering electronic books before St. Charles, but the three library systems have now banded together.
"All of the libraries join together to purchase the books and people have access to materials from all three libraries," des Bordes said. "Because the three buy e-books every month, the selection continues to grow."
Recently, St. Bernard has joined the fray.
Thousands of titles are available, including the "Hunger Games" trilogy, the "Harry Potter" books and the "Song of Fire and Ice" series, which has since been turned into a TV show called "Game of Thrones" on HBO.
Des Bordes said that St. Charles Parish readers are heavy users of e-books.
"We are so delighted that our residents are using this service because we want to give people what they are looking for," des Bordes said.
There has been one downside to the service, however. Des Bordes said that Random House has recently tripled the cost of their e-books, which makes it harder for libraries to provide them.
Most of the titles with increased cost are also the new books from popular authors.
"Libraries all over the country are upset about this," des Bordes said. "I see this as a market restructuring, similar to what the music industry went through. Iím hoping that this will shake down fairly quickly, but we may have to wait a little longer for those hot titles."
Despite what happens with the market, des Bordes does not see the proliferation of e-books slowing down anytime soon.
"I think we are going to continue to see more and more people use e-books," she said. "I still see an awful lot of people who like to have a hard copy. What I am hearing is that a lot of people who have e-readers like it for when they travel, but there are still a lot of people who want hard copies to take home and read."
However, the ease in which e-books can be purchased and "returned" to the library might turn even hardcore, hard copy book readers into e-book fans.
"To be able to download and return a book without coming into the library is convenient," des Bordes said.
E-books will also impact the future of libraries across the country, des Bordes said.
"What I see for the future of libraries is that we are going to have two basic missions, one which will be technology access online and in databases along with downloadable books and music," she said. "The other prong will be programs. We have increased the number of programs for all levels so that people have a way to come together and experience things as a collective."
Des Bordes is confident that people will continue to visit the library no matter how big e-books get in the future.
"We will still have people come in and check out books, read newspapers and read magazines," she said. "That will continue for a long time."
To check out a book electronically, residents can visit myscpl.org and check under the catalog and reference section. From there, they will use a service called OverDrive to check out the books.
OverDrive will allow library members to search for a specific title or browse different genres. Though the books are electronic, some of the titles have only one copy, just like at a regular library.