Amazon recently announced that their flagship Kindle ebook reader was now capable of borrowing from public libraries. As my ebook budget is a source of, um, friendly banter between my husband and me, this is one functionality that was very welcome to me. However, at this point, this ability is only available in the US.
I know from past experience that the Montreal public library, of which I am a member, does have some limited ebooks to borrow, so I decided to check it out. When I last checked several months ago, the selection available, at least in terms of my preferred genre of fantasy, was extremely limited, especially in English. Well, it is the main city of Francophone Canada, so I guess I'll forgive it for having most books in French. In all fairness I believe their selection has improved markedly since my initial investigation 18 months or so ago.
My experience borrowing from the library was painful and I felt it would have been easier to write the darned book. I am no technophobe by any means, in fact more the opposite, but I found the numerous stages ponderous and unnecessary. I really hope Amazon's process is much easier.
First step was to go to the homepage of the Bibliotheque et Archives Nationales du Quebec.
First challenge: where to go for ebooks? I eventually found it under Online Resources then ebooks. Okay. Clearly, ebook lending is not a high priority at the BANQ. The ebook resource page brought me to a whole list of other resources:
So, to find a book they expect you to click on each of the links to search? The search box above is less than useless for ebooks. I searched for Percy Jackson – a book I know is there – and it found nothing. Eventually I selected the Numlog link and after logging in finally got to a selection of ebooks for borrowing. I should mention that the website flashed a warning saying that the Safari browser wasn't recommended, but I had no issues with it.
As you can see, many of the books are marked "deja emprunte" – on loan. That is a positive sign I guess. The more people in Montreal who borrow ebooks from the library, the greater likelihood of the selection's increasing. I would have welcomed a link to add myself to the waiting list for some of these, though.
I selected to borrow Percy Jackson in French and an acsm file was duly downloaded to my computer. I was already aware that the Adobe Digital Editions software and an Adobe ID were required and these were already in place. Once entering my Adobe ID I was soon set up to read the book on my Mac.
So far so good. I knew already that the Kindle is not setup to read ePub format books. Fair enough. I did want to get the book on my iPhone and iPad, however. I hooked my IDevices up to my Mac and in iTunes in the Apps pane I navigated to the acsm file to add it.
A quick Sync and I thought I'd be able to read the book in my Kobo app or the Bluefire reader. No, that would have been too easy… After much Googling I finally understood I had to navigate to the Digital Editions folder on my Mac and upload the epub file to my iDevice. Once I had understood that I was finally able to read my book on my iPhone and iPad.
One thing I haven't been able to test is the syncing of the books across the devices. One of the delights of Amazon's Kindle and Kindle apps is the Whispersync. I can start reading a book on my Mac at breakfast, then use my iPhone to read on the bus and it will automatically pick up to where I left off on the Mac. I suspect that will not be possible on this non Amazon lending. We shall see.
All in all, the process took me well over 90 minutes, although next time it will probably be quicker.
In order to be fair, I decided to borrow a second book directly on my iPad to see if that would be any easier and in all fairness it was. Once I'd navigated the mess of the ebook resources though the iPad's Safari browser, chosen a book and logged in to the library website I was asked to enter my Adobe ID in the Overdrive application and was soon reading.
As a comparison of ease of use I bought a (free) book from Amazon for my Kindle. I went to the Amazon Kindle web page and chose my book.
I clicked on the buy now button:
And within 60 seconds was reading on my Kindle, just like the ad says.
In general, I would say that the ebook borrowing process at the BANQ is painful at present. The poor website layout combined with the multi step process makes it discouraging for people to become interested in ebooks. However, I do believe that this will improve as more and more people become accustomed to ereading. I look forward to seeing the progress.