The unlikely electronic savior

By LYNDSEY RUNYAN
CONFESSIONS OF AN ACTUAL LIBRARIAN

This summer I flew out of town for a family wedding in Detroit. For some strange reason, I decided to take only one book with me, but of course I finished it on the plane ride (or rides) from Rutland. So I found myself stuck in the Midwest without anything to read — truly a coastal reader’s nightmare.

Of course, because that particular city is terribly economically depressed, there are no bookstores for miles. Man, was I really going survive a family wedding weekend without anything to read?

Flash! Bang! A light bulb lit up above my uneasy brain; I remembered that I could access Listen Up! Vermont on my iPhone. For those who aren’t in the know, Listen Up! Vermont is a website born from a collective of libraries all over the state (Green Mountain Library Consortium) seeking to provide digital content to library patrons. What started out as just a site to download audiobooks has become a place to download most bestselling audio and eBooks for free.

You would think I’d have thought of this earlier, being a librarian, but apparently some things just hide in the deep depths of my brain. What is harder to forget is that Rutland Free Library has a lot of physical books (approximately 185,000). But what you may not know, and even I (apparently) struggle to remember, is that you can borrow free eBooks and digital audiobooks from the library, too.

And for those of us lucky to have iPhones, iPads and other smart devices, the process has become very quick and easy.

While sitting in my Detroit hotel room I downloaded the OverDrive Media Console app to my iPhone, browsed the collection and downloaded a book. It literally took me five minutes, and remembering my library card number.

For me, nothing will replace a paper book, but I find that e-readers and tablets are great for traveling. I have to say I was pretty resistant to the idea of reading on a tiny smartphone screen, but it is not too bad. Mostly what is annoying is not how small the screen is (the type is adjustable), but how many swipes you have to perform with your finger to get to the next pages.

Book apps will save your place without bending the pages in your book (guilty!), make electronic notes on the page, make the text bigger and smaller, adjust the brightness of the screen and look up unknown words (joy!). Plus, e-readers save your back from having to lug around a big bag of books.

Here are some great titles available now on the Listen Up! Vermont website (www.listenupvermont.org):

‘Packing for Mars’ by Mary Roach
Roach provides a hilarious account of what it really means for humans to explore space. She tackles questions like: what happens to you when you can’t walk for a year? How do you have sex in space? Smell flowers? What happens if you vomit in your helmet during a space walk? Find out the answers to all these questions and more without having to leave Earth. (W.W. Norton & Company; e-book free at www.listenupvermont.org, $8.95 Amazon Kindle)

‘The Night Circus’ by Erin Morgenstern
A fun first novel, Morgenstern weaves together an imaginative story of greed, fate and love. A feud passed down through generations fuels this story set in a 19th-century circus. Celia and Marco are forced to use their powers of illusion to win a deadly game. Adult fans of Harry Potter are sure to love this one. (Anchor; free at www.listenupvermont.org, $9.99 Amazon Kindle; available in audio and e-book)

‘The Snowman’ by Jo Nesbo
Thriller readers are sure to love this Norwegian author, known for his intricately plotted, gritty and exhilarating books. Detective Harry Hole struggles with his love life, borderline alcoholism and general moodiness while he searches for the Snowman, a serial killer who kills his victims on the first day of snowfall. (Anchor; free at www.listenupvermont.org, $9.99 Amazon Kindle)

(And yes, if you were wondering, Fifty Shades of Grey is also available, both as an e-book and audiobook).

If this all sounds terrible to you (perhaps a lover of only paper books), the library has paper versions of all of the books reviewed and probably will for some time.

Next time, I’ll let you in on all my favorite books from 2012.

Happy Reading, Rutland (electronic or not)!

Lyndsey Runyan is the adult services librarian at the Rutland Free Library. Contact Lyndsey at lyndseyrun[at]gmail.com . Follow her on Twitter @dearlyndsey.