There's no need to pay for e-books when you can choose from 7,300 free titles from the Sacramento Public Library. They're downloadable from anyplace that has Wi-Fi access, anywhere in the world.
"In effect, our patrons have the library with them wherever they go," said Sacramento Public Library Director Rivkah Sass.
The key to this e-world is owning a library card. You can apply for one at www.saclibrary. org, or apply in person at any library location. You can browse the Digital Media Catalog (the e-library) at www.saclibrary. org without a card, but you must have one to download e-books and audiobooks to your e-device.
If you're unsure of the download process or the intricacies of your e-reader you can schedule a how-to appointment at many of the library's 28 locations, (916) 264-2920, or just walk into any location and ask for assistance, said electronic resources librarian Amy Calhoun.
So, how hard or easy is it to learn the e-book downloading process?
Retired schoolteacher Denise Bopp of Sacramento found it "a little frustrating at first, but I was also learning to use a tablet at the same time," she said. "Now that I have it figured out, it's easy. I enjoy browsing the (e-library) at midnight in my pajamas, and I download five to six e-books a month."
To determine the download difficulty quotient for myself, I sat with the very patient Calhoun for a step-by-step tutorial, using her Kindle Touch. Our goal was to check out one book. Patrons can check out up to 10 titles at a time; after three weeks, the e-books disappear from the e-devices and "check themselves back in" to the e-library.
Go to www.saclibrary.org and click on "e-Books/Audiobooks," and the Digital Media Catalog appears.
Now's the time to log in to your account by clicking the "Log In" link. You will need your library card number and PIN.
Before you can check out e-books, you must set up your computer or tablet with compatible software. Amazon Kindles have built-in proprietary software, so that's not an issue with them.
To install software for other devices, consult the software guide on the Digital Media Catalog home page (or ask a librarian). Choices include mobile apps and software for both PCs and Macs. For guidance, look at "Additional Guides From SacLib," or click on the "Help" link in the green navigation bar at the top of the page.
Once you've installed the software, the downloading process is pretty much a template, with a few variations depending on which e-device you're using e-reader, iPad, tablet or smartphone.
The Digital Media Catalog page opens with several quick-see categories of e-books: "New," "Recently Returned," "Most Popular" and "Always Available Duke Classics."
You can download titles from them, but we wanted a broader look around. To the left of those categories, we hovered the cursor over "Browse E-books" and a list of subjects appeared on the right. Move the cursor to that list and click on a subject; we chose "Mystery & Thrillers" and 2,000 titles appeared.
Because the library's e-book collection is so popular, the big issues are availability and waiting lists. There can be frustrations, even though Calhoun "adds more copies of titles as our patrons' waiting lists grow," she said.
There are one or two copies of most titles, though some such as perennial favorite "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett have 20 and more.
Nosing around, we found that many of our targeted titles were checked out. For instance, we typed in the name of Davis-based legal-thriller author John Lescroart in the "Search For" bar and found 10 of his books. We wanted "Damage," but the caption told us the library's two copies were checked out, with one patron on the waiting list. To get on waiting lists, click on "e-request."
To save time, we backtracked to the original "Mystery & Thrillers" heading, clicked on "Available Now" and found 68 pages of titles from which to choose no waiting lists involved. We selected "Murder in the Latin Quarter" by San Francisco novelist Cara Black, and clicked on "Add to eCart."
Next, we clicked on "Proceed to Checkout," then "Confirm Checkout." Then "Get For Kindle," which took us to the Amazon website because, of course, Calhoun's Kindle Touch is an Amazon product.
We clicked on the yellow "Get Library Book" button and selected the "Kindle Touch" choice from the "Deliver To" drop-down menu.
Up popped a message from Amazon on the Kindle screen: "Thanks, Amy. Your Kindle will download Cara Black's 'Murder in the Latin Quarter' the next time it connects to Wi-Fi."
Which was immediately, as we were inside the Central Library.
"There's a bit of a learning curve (with e-book downloading), but it's easy once you get it," Calhoun said.
I'm clicking on "Agreed."