Digital Reading Resources

November 15, 2011

Boston is a community of readers. Nearby Cambridge topped Amazon’s list “of cities that purchased the most reading material, as well as the most nonfiction books,” according to statistics release by the company earlier this year.

Our neighborhood institutions, publishers, and authors are all exploring digital options for reaching readers. If an ebook reader, tablet computer, or smartphone is on your holiday shopping list, you’ll want to know about some of the resources available around Boston.

A French Collection

On November 2nd, the French Cultural Center, on Marlborough Street, launched the first French-language eLibrary in the United States. “We are proud of our physical collection, but we appreciate the convenience of e-Books, which can make French resources easily accessible to even more francophones,” said Catheline van den Branden, Executive Director. “It is exciting to provide this service to our techno-savvy members, our students, and to out-of-towners who can’t visit our physical library. We know we are venturing in somewhat unchartered waters and are looking forward to the adventure!”

The eLibrary begins with 500 hand-picked e-Books from a range of genres and subjects for French readers at all levels and ages from children to adults.

Astonishing Demand

Since 2006, Boston Public Library (BPL) patrons have increased their borrowing of digital media by an astonishing 877%. In October, the BPL added the ability to borrow e-books for Kindle devices. “If our downloadable service were an actual branch, it would be the busiest branch in the entire Boston Public Library system,” said Gina Perille Chief Communications Officer

The Athenaeum’s Approach

The Boston Athenaeum has taken a different approach to e-books. They have six Kindles pre-loaded with books within popular categories- biography, fiction, history, mystery, travel, and director’s choice. Members can borrow them for two weeks. It’s perfect for travel or as a way to try an e-reader before investing in one.

Author and Publisher Perspective

Digital media has certainly changed the world of writers and publishers. E-books are helping to balance the books for publishing industry giants. They allow smaller presses to receive income long after printed volumes are gone from bookstore shelves.

For example, Charles Street Press, was founded in 2009 to publish quality nonfiction paperbacks. “The first title, was my own book, Lone Holdout,” said publisher Linda Cox. “As a life-long lover of the book as a physical object, I resisted doing an electronic version. But several people expressed a desire for an e-book, and I decided to take the plunge about a year later.”

She prepared Charles Street Press’ first ebook on her own and published it on Amazon. Last month, her company published its second title, Learning from the Sixties: Memoir of an Organizer, by John Maher. (It’s an insider’s look at the turbulent sixties by a leading organizer and activist, with many lessons to be learned for today’s political situation.) When the author, “wanted a Nook edition for his granddaughter,” Cox hired a formatter to prepare ebooks for both platforms.

Bostonians Are Readers

“What’s encouraging is that library use overall is up. There are all kinds of readers who use the Boston Public Library and multiple ways for us to deliver titles to them,” Perille said. “As the digital universe expands, we sometimes hear about new and old colliding in unexpected ways. The anecdote that is circulating around here is about how a recent library user came to an author talk and asked an author to sign her Kindle rather than a book.”

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