One of my favorite things about the internet and information age is that libraries have gone digital. I remember the day my library put up a flyer letting me know I could download audio books to my computer for free. I was so excited I went home and maxed out my card. When my library got pdf and epub books, I bought an ebook reader.
Now, whenever I go to a city in California, I get a library card. Since most public libraries in the state will let any California resident register for a card and all libraries have their own unique collections, sometimes I plan mini vacations in cities whose library cards I covet. Los Angeles will be one of those trips! It has a great digital library. A few other biggies are San Jose, San Francisco, Sacramento and Santa Clara. See list below. I currently have seven California cards and hope to add L.A. and San Diego in the near future.
Why So Many Cards?
If I am looking to read a book right away, I can search each library I belong to. Sometimes a book that is wildly popular with San Jose readers, is not as popular in Sacramento and may be available for download immediately or much sooner. Some libraries also offer more “fringe” books than others so by having more cards, I increase my chances of finding a specific book through a library at all.
Many libraries offer library cards to all residents in their state, regardless of what county they live in, ie. San Francisco and Boston public libraries. Likewise, some libraries restrict registration to people living, working or attending school in their counties or even cities, ie. Seattle, Washington. However, in some cases these collections can be accessed by cardholders of neighboring libraries who grant cards to a wider geographic area. So it can be worth checking out libraries of smaller cities.
Generally, I make it a practice to get a card from all libraries, whether they offer digital books or not. Most likely in the near future they will offer digital materials. The cards are free and who knows when or if you’ll visit a certain city again?
EPUB and PDF Books
Most libraries offer fiction and non-fiction titles in both formats. Some also offer books in the mobipocket format. At first I mostly downloaded novels. Then I began downloading career and how-to-find-a-job-in-the-digital-age books. Currently cookbooks are one of my favorites. You don’t need an ereader to read these books. You just need Adobe Digital Editions (ADE) which is a free download. I find reading cookbooks and research books through ADE works best for me anyway. Many titles restrict copying and printing, however. But it’s a great way to test drive a cookbook or reference book before buying. Novels I typically read on an ereader.
Safari Books Online
If you need to take a lot of notes or reference parts of books later, Safari Books Online is offered through most libraries and each provides access to a subset of the more than 10,000 books Safari offers. For example, San Francisco provides access to 3,959 Safari titles. If you are a student, reporter or blogger and need access to the latest tech books, this is a great resource. You can print a portion of text or a page of text to pdf, or One Note, or email it to yourself. Each note you email yourself links back to that book and that page without logging back into your library account, so it’s quick. Screen capture also works and can be marked up with highlights.
As far as I know, there are three types of audio book downloads and they vary by library: Netlibrary, My Library Audio or Overdrive. All have their own software to download and play the files, although some audio books can be downloaded directly and played by ipods or wma mp3 players, itunes or mediaplayer. All files can be played on an mp3 player of some sort. It’s best to login from a specific library, see links below.
Here is an incomplete list of California libraries offering digital downloads. You can peruse their collections without being logged in.