by Bob Smietana
I love going to the library and you should, too.
There’s nothing like walking into a library, browsing the stacks, and leaving with a dozen books or so, all without paying a dime.
Imagine that—free books, as many as you can carry. What else could any book lover want?
Even more free books.
The Wall Street Journal has a great story about the growing numbers of libraries with e-book collections that are beating retailers like Amazon—which offers a $9.99 rental service called “Kindle Unlimited—and book rental services like Oyster at their game.
“But it turns out librarians haven’t just been sitting around shushing people while the Internet drove them into irrelevance,” the Journal reports.
“More than 90% of American public libraries have amassed e-book collections you can read on your iPad, and often even on a Kindle. You don’t have to walk into a branch or risk an overdue fine. And they’re totally free.”
The process is usually pretty simple.
Patrons go the library’s website, click on the link that says “e-books” or “eLibrary,” and use the site’s search function to find a book.
Most libraries use easy-to-install software like Overdrive—which also has an app for tablets and smartphones—to help patrons download and manage their e-books and audio books.
At our local library, the e-book collections include everything from the best-seller Unbroken to G.K. Chesterton’s classic Orthodoxy, along with a host a free audiobooks to download.
And libraries often have more of the latest bestsellers than for-profit book rental services. That’s in part, because publishers see libraries as allies.
“Publishers have come to see libraries not only as a source of income, but also as a marketing vehicle,” the Journal reported. “Since the Internet has killed off so many bookstores, libraries have become de facto showrooms for discovering books.”
Getting an e-book from the library isn’t perfect. There’s still a due date on the books, which are automatically erased once the loan period expires, and sometimes there’s a short wait for popular titles.
But there’s no late fees and no need to drive to the building to turn it back in.
Point, click, and read. All for free.
Now what could be better than that?
Four ways the library can help the busy church leader
1. Keep up-to-date on popular culture
Leading a small group of teenagers and want to know about the book they keep talking about? Curious about the latest best-seller that a church member recommended on their Facebook page?
Check them out from the library and see what the fuss is about. You can respond intelligently and relevantly to the ideas being discussed in your community.
2. Listen to classic works driving
It may be difficult to carve out the time to read some classic Christian works or influential theological book, but audio books from the library allows you to use your commute to listen to them.
You don’t even have to go to the library to pick it up. Set up your library account online, use the suggested app, and download the book onto your smartphone.
3. Engage critics without buying their book
Have you ever wanted to read the latest atheist attack on Christianity or investigate for yourself the claims of a prosperity gospel pastor, but you didn’t want to give either one of them any financial support?
Borrow the book from the library and read without boosting their book on the best-seller lists or spending your money.
4. Expand your library without exploding your budget
Speaking of money, often times there are more books that you’d like to read than dollars in your bank account. The library can easily help with that.
Some books you can read and not need to look at again. Other books you may want to buy, but borrowing them from the library lets you know for sure if it’s one you want to invest in.
Bob Smietana (@bobsmietana) is senior writer for Facts & Trends.