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Old 10-22-2013, 04:37 AM   #1
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Library Thing: EPUB Borrowing in the (Non-)English World and Can I Join?

As far as I know in the US public library system for example you are free to borrow from a wide (I mean wiiiiiiide) selection of ebooks. Almost like Amazon's full library?

Coming from Eastern Europe, all this sounds too good to be true.

The question is, in which English(or even Non-English) speaking countries you have access to such a wide range of ebooks that covers almost the full Amazon library?

Are there any options for a non-resident of any of these countries to join the library system? Or any options for an international ebook library? [Not taking into consideration straight-out ebook piracy; only legal means]

Edit: if your library has a huge EPUB selection pls. just tell me the link for its search engine so I can look up what i could/couldn't have - no, not to feed my jealousy. ;]

Edit: speaking of non-resident use: do you have to be physically present to borrow ebooks or at least be in the country?

Last edited by avid01; 10-22-2013 at 04:48 AM.
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Old 10-22-2013, 07:23 AM   #2
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I am very very interested in this as well!
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Old 10-22-2013, 09:47 AM   #3
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Hello Avid,

I'm afraid this is a case of "the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence": I don't think there is any single service in the US which would give you access to anything on the scale of Amazon's library! Generally what you have access to at your local library will depend entirely on where you live in the US, and your city's library system budget.

(Edited to clarify terminology: larger cities often have multiple library buildings, called "branches", but usually these are managed under a central library budget, paid by city taxes. Each city is responsible for its own library system - or lack thereof; neighboring cities don't usually share library budgets or space.)

As far as e-books go, these are still a fairly new thing in the US. Many smaller libraries may not even have an e-book catalog, largely because: 1) publishers usually set the prices of e-books higher than paper books for libraries (sometimes several times higher!), and 2) several publishers have a limit on the number of times that an e-book can be checked out (after which the file "self-destructs" and the book can no longer be lent out) -- so in some cases, it makes more sense for the library to just stick to paper books.

The situation gets even more complicated because different publishers are experimenting with different models, so libraries often need to subscribe to multiple services at once. To use one example in Texas:

http://catalog.cityofirving.org/room...ital_Downloads

I like this example because it shows just how crazy things can get: EBSCO is for scholarly books, but there are also other systems needed for audiobooks (Overdrive), certain publishers but not others (3M Cloud Library), magazines (Zinio), and so on... it's very difficult (and expensive) for any given library to even attempt to offer everything!

Another thing to note is that these catalogues are library- or city-specific, not national: so what's offered at this library in Texas will be different than another library in Arizona, New York, etc. Also, yes, typically you need to live in that area and have a valid library card to actually use their services: most public libraries will only take library card applications in person, and will ask that you bring a few months of utility bills, or some other proof that you actually live in the area. (Some libraries are exceptions to the rule - see the Philadelphia Free Library, http://freelibrary.org/ - but this is pretty rare.)

Hope that helps to clarify, at least as a basic introduction to the system! Feel free to ask more questions, I'm happy to keep rambling.

Last edited by december; 10-22-2013 at 10:09 AM.
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Old 10-22-2013, 12:35 PM   #4
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I'm not in the U.S. but many cities and towns in Canada also have access to Overdrive, which is what most (I think...) libraries in both the U.S. and Canada use to service eBooks to their patrons.

And to echo what December said, while my library is great and I use it a lot, it doesn't come close to Amazon's offering. As of this typing, Amazon.ca has 2,162,841 Kindle titles available, and my local library (overdrive.torontopubliclibrary.ca) has 27,807. So about 1.2% the number of titles that Amazon has.

In terms of my own usage, I'd guesstimate that the library has had maybe 80% of all titles I've wanted to borrow.

Now, regarding non-Torontonians borrowing from our library, I'm afraid that's not possible. You have to go to a library branch in person to get a library card, and when doing so show proof of Toronto residency.

Last edited by K. Molen; 10-22-2013 at 02:34 PM. Reason: Fixed the percentage. Thanks SleepyBob!
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Old 10-22-2013, 01:29 PM   #5
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Or, 1.2%, if you like math.
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Old 10-22-2013, 02:32 PM   #6
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Or, 1.2%, if you like math.
Ooops.
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Old 10-22-2013, 02:33 PM   #7
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As far as I know in the US public library system for example you are free to borrow from a wide (I mean wiiiiiiide) selection of ebooks. Almost like Amazon's full library?

Coming from Eastern Europe, all this sounds too good to be true.
Unfortunately it is. Too good to be true, that is. As others have said, your selection depends on your library, just as it would for paper books. However many libraries have joined into regional consortia so that they can afford a wider selection. The downside of this is of course that you are competing with many more users for the books. This is not an issue for me personally, as I read widely and if one book isn't available then I read another that is.

Quote:
Edit: if your library has a huge EPUB selection pls. just tell me the link for its search engine so I can look up what i could/couldn't have - no, not to feed my jealousy. ;]
Overdrive search

Quote:
Edit: speaking of non-resident use: do you have to be physically present to borrow ebooks or at least be in the country?
No, I am still borrowing books from my Australian library while in the US. Not many, since my US library has a much larger selection. However I had to be physically present to obtain my library card in the first place, and at some point the library will ask me to verify my continued presence in person.
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Old 10-22-2013, 07:52 PM   #8
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Unfortunately it is. Too good to be true, that is. As others have said, your selection depends on your library, just as it would for paper books. However many libraries have joined into regional consortia so that they can afford a wider selection. The downside of this is of course that you are competing with many more users for the books. This is not an issue for me personally, as I read widely and if one book isn't available then I read another that is.
Hachette won't allow their ebooks to be sold to consortiums - and there might be another.

There's a facebook page that's specifically for posting links to ebooks that can't be sold to libraries. I'm at work, but I'll try to remember to post a link when I get home.
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Old 10-26-2013, 09:26 AM   #9
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The Free Library of Philadelphia and Overdrive seems nice so far.

As I understand they only offer library cards for workers, students and retired people. How about unemployed, self employed and illegal Mexican immigrants? Just asking.

OK, I am from Europe and just happen to have a friend right in PA. When I visit him, can I apply for membership? Just thinking out loud.
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Old 10-26-2013, 12:10 PM   #10
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The Free Library of Philadelphia and Overdrive seems nice so far.

As I understand they only offer library cards for workers, students and retired people. How about unemployed, self employed and illegal Mexican immigrants? Just asking.

OK, I am from Europe and just happen to have a friend right in PA. When I visit him, can I apply for membership? Just thinking out loud.
I'm not sure where you saw this information. They state on their site that a free card is available to anyone who "lives, works, pays taxes, or goes to school in the City of Philadelphia".

So, anyone who lives there is automatically covered, but also those who work within the City (work is work - doesn't matter if self-employed, only that the place of work is in the City), own property there (and so pays taxes) or go to school there.

There is a non-resident card available for $50 for those not eligible for a free card. I do not know if this is available to those who live outside of the US, though. Your best option would be to contact them via the web site: http://libwww.freelibrary.org/contactus/contact.cfm
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Old 10-26-2013, 08:10 PM   #11
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There is a non-resident card available for $50 for those not eligible for a free card. I do not know if this is available to those who live outside of the US, though. Your best option would be to contact them via the web site: http://libwww.freelibrary.org/contactus/contact.cfm
Doesn't look like it. They call it "out of state", not "non-resident", they only send the cards out by mail, and the online form requires a US state in the address and a five-digit zip code.
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Old 06-30-2014, 10:58 AM   #12
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I read it somewhere on the OverDrive web site (I can't find the actual page now) that it is all over the English speaking world: USA, Canada, UK, Australia, NZ and South Africa.

In theory, I can get the full catalog by being a member in any of those country's public library system?

Where can tourists sign up?
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Old 06-30-2014, 06:39 PM   #13
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I read it somewhere on the OverDrive web site (I can't find the actual page now) that it is all over the English speaking world: USA, Canada, UK, Australia, NZ and South Africa.

In theory, I can get the full catalog by being a member in any of those country's public library system?

Where can tourists sign up?
No, you won't have access to the full Overdrive catalog, just to whichever Overdrive books your library has purchased.

I don't know which libraries allow non-locals to join. Maybe someone who knows more about it than I do will come along.
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Old 06-30-2014, 07:04 PM   #14
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Then again, not all libraries sign up to Overdrive. I hassled my local/regional library for months to get ebooks, pointed them at overdrive, and they went with a completely different model which is a real PITA to access and make use of. Additionally, there is very little in the way of fiction (my preferred genre of scifi is mostly absent) and the fiction they do have is limited to one or six authors, all of whom are Australian. I like some Australian authors but I also like authors from elsewhere on the planet. I wish there was an International library. I'd be happy to pay a fee for it. Perhaps ScribD is an option after all.
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Old 07-01-2014, 05:10 AM   #15
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There is a non-resident card available for $50 for those not eligible for a free card. I do not know if this is available to those who live outside of the US, though. Your best option would be to contact them via the web site: http://libwww.freelibrary.org/contactus/contact.cfm
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Doesn't look like it. They call it "out of state", not "non-resident", they only send the cards out by mail, and the online form requires a US state in the address and a five-digit zip code.
It is possible to have a card for non-US residents. I joined in March and was able to borrow ebooks and audiobooks. The card wasn't mailed. I also send a message to the Orange county library to check and they replied it's possible for me to get a card.

There is an older thread where this was discussed: joining usa libraries from outside of USA ? and there is more info there. In short: I sent a message through the contact form, was told to print and fill in the form, scan it and email it. Around a week after that I got an email about the payment, and immediately after I paid I was able to log in and start borrowing books. There's a post in that thread with links to catalogs with all the things that can be checked out/read (aside from books you have access to videos, music, magazines - some of the magazines are very interesting and the price of a yearly subscription to one of them equals the price of the yearly fee for the library).

I'm now thinking about joining the Orange County library because it has a lot of books that I can't get from Philadelphia. It is 125$ instead of 50$, but I think it's worth it for me. Their overdrive page is http://ocls.lib.overdrive.com/
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