Most public libraries offer a free e-book borrowing service. It’s available to everyone of course, but this service can be especially valuable to seniors who are home bound and those with visual handicaps.
There are two services available for libraries to offer — cloudLibrary and Overdrive. Some libraries offer one service or the other. I’m lucky: my library offers both.
Libraries buy the e-books from cloudLibrary and Overdrive, so the selection available through the library is limited to the titles purchased by the library. Budget permitting, libraries can elect to buy multiple copies of e-books if they expect high demand; one copy can only be checked out to one person at a time.
Libraries set their own policies for borrowing e-books through cloudLibrary and OverDrive. My library lets you check out 6 at a time, place holds on 6 at a time, and keep e-books for 21 days. Your library could have different policies.
To use these services, you download the free apps from your library’s website (or an app store) to your computer, tablet, smartphone, or other device. During setup you enter your library’s information and your library card number. It’s pretty easy although some seniors might need help if they haven’t used computers much.
Once you’re signed up, you can find out what e-books are available from your library by searching the app. If you’re looking for a particular book, you can search by author and title. Or you can browse the library’s holdings in your favorite genre.
I’ve found that reading books on an electronic device is an acquired taste. I can do it, but still prefer to read traditional books printed on paper. But that’s just me.
Audiobooks present a great way for all seniors, and especially for those with visual handicaps, to enjoy books by listening to them.
They’ve been around for a long time; you’ll find an interesting history of audiobooks in Wikipedia. The first “talking books program” was established by the American Federation for the Blind and the Library of Congress in 1931. Since then there have been many changes as various technologies evolved. The industry settled on the name “audiobook” to be inclusive of all the different formats.
Today you can download audiobooks to listen on your smartphone or other mobile device. You can stream them over the internet. And you can play them on CD and DVD players. There are lots of options.
The website LibriVox offers an easy way to listen to audiobooks for free. LibriVox includes more than 10,000 audio recordings of books in the public domain, all recorded by volunteers. I’m a Sherlock Holmes fan, so I decided to test LibriVox by listening to stories by Arthur Conan Doyle. There are 67 titles by Doyle in LibriVox. I settled on The Hound of the Baskervilles for my test and found five different recordings. In three of them, the entire book was read by a single reader. In another, chapters were read by different readers. And one was a “dramatic reading” where different readers read the parts of the various characters. I found them all to be excellent and very enjoyable.
With LibriVox you have several ways to listen:
- Download entire books in zip files for later listening.
- Click the “play” button to play in your browser.
- Click the iTunes button to download the audio files into iTunes.
- Subscribe to the RSS feed.
- Download using BitTorrent protocol.
In future posts I’ll cover some other sources for audiobooks, including today’s bestsellers.