Electronic readers will make their debut this week at Anne Arundel County public libraries, when 200 e-readers become available for patrons to take home.
E-reader technology allows a user to have hundreds of hours of reading materials on a portable, lightweight gadget that can slip into a purse, backpack or briefcase. A user can adjust the type size, sidestepping the question of whether a book is available in large print.
"We are in the business of books and reading, and this is simply a different format. It is a very important part of the new world of reading," said Hampton "Skip" Auld, library administrator. "This is a new avenue for people to read."
Adding the devices opens the technology to those considering buying an e-reader and expands options for borrowers, Auld said.
"Not everyone can afford to go out and buy it or afford the books that go with it," Auld said.
The e-readers can be checked out starting Wednesday at all 15 library branches. The check-out period is three weeks, the same as for many other materials, library officials said. Like books, e-readers can be reserved — but not until the kickoff, which will be at 11 a.m. Wednesday at the Annapolis Area Library, where librarians will demonstrate how to use the readers.
The $50,000 worth of preloaded devices puts the county on a growing list of library systems, including Baltimore City and Howard County, that have added e-readers to the materials that patrons can borrow. Anne Arundel's program is among the largest in the state, Auld said.
Nook and Kindle e-readers are loaded only with adult titles. Color Nooks include books for children. Each is preloaded with up to 30 titles, said Laurie Hayes, library spokeswoman. The mix includes best-selling fiction and nonfiction, as well as longtime favorites. Borrowers will not be able to add books to the devices.
The Anne Arundel County Public Library Foundation, the library system's fundraising organization, gave the library the money to buy the e-readers and their accessories.
The library's board turned to the foundation for the devices, which have been an instant hit in library systems that have added them, but which were beyond the library's $18 million operating budget. The foundation has previously refurbished children's sections and paid for staff resources.
"My wife and I kind of battle over it," said Eric Edstrom, the Nook-owning president of the library foundation. "I truly like the feel of paper, but what I really like is that when I wake up or I am in bed, I don't have to wake her up by turning the light on to read."
Auld said he thinks it will take about 1,000 e-readers to meet the demand and is looking for more donations. Libraries elsewhere have months-long waits.
Here are the e-readers and books preloaded on them that will be available for patrons to borrow from the Anne Arundel County libraries starting Wednesday:
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
10th Anniversary by James Patterson
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Silent Girl by Tess Gerritsen