Can a Reader Have too Many E-book Library Cards?
I don't think so and I'll tell you why, and where to get more e-book library cards
In my FB reading/book groups, I see posts from readers that their library doesn’t have a good selection of books, the wait time for the new releases is months, and for e-book readers, the wait times can be even longer. Libraries are usually city or county-run and, unfortunately, subject to the municipality’s budget constraints that operate them. The cost of a print book is far less than an e-book, and the print book lasts until it falls apart or is pulled from use. The e-book is licensed for a finite period of time and must be renewed, or the library loses the use of that copy of the book. I know there are many excellent libraries, so this may not apply to your specific public library, but the problems above are more prevalent in small towns and rural areas.
Each library has its own rules; some are very generous and have few requirements, while others are stringent. To get a library card for your local library, most require proof that you live in the area the library serves. If you live in a small town or a rural area, the surrounding towns may have reciprocity agreements with other libraries in the area. I do not live in a rural area, but the city next to where I live has an agreement with my city, but it is only for print books; there is no reciprocity for e-books (darn). This city is larger than my city and has five library branches and overall, has more books available than the one big library in my city. During the pandemic, many libraries relaxed their requirements for who could get a library card even if they hadn’t offered reciprocity with neighboring towns in the past. Be sure to inquire at the libraries around your city or town to find out their requirements as this can be a big help if your library never seems to have enough books for the demand causing long waits.
Some libraries have you reaffirm your residency periodically to make sure you still live in the area the library serves. When you move away from the area and get a library card in your new city, don’t get rid of your prior library card just because you don’t live there anymore. While you may not normally read e-books, your library card will most likely still work for checking out e-books through the system the library uses for its e-book distribution. If you are moving from a larger library system/metropolitan area to a smaller one, this may be beneficial as the availability of e-books for new releases from your old library may be better than what your new smaller town library has available in print.
My library only uses Overdrive/Libby for its e-book distribution system. I know there are other systems such as Hoopla and Cloud Library (there may be more that I’m not aware of), but I have never used any other than Overdrive/Libby, so I can’t speak to either of them. I wanted to mention a few things related to Overdrive. According to the folks at Overdrive, this app will be leaving the App Store in February 2022, and updates will not be made after that date. While it may continue to work, the Overdrive/Libby people want everyone to switch to start using the Libby app. I switched over to the Libby app several years ago, and there are only two things that Libby doesn’t do that Overdrive did. The first one is that the wish list didn’t carry over to the Libby app, and the second thing is that Libby doesn’t allow you to make recommendations like the Overdrive app does. Beyond those two things, I didn’t notice any other differences between the two apps other than the look and feel of the apps. Like most things, change takes a while to get used to; make the switch now before you are forced to when Overdrive quits working altogether. Lastly, each library maintains its separate collection of e-books on Overdrive, and each library also has its own rules about how many e-books can be put on hold or checked out and how long an e-book can be checked out for. That is why you will find differences between different library cards and the hold and checkout times.
Out of state e-book library cards
A few libraries in the US allow out-of-state people to apply for and receive a library card to their system. I’m only aware of three; I hear there are more, but I cannot locate any other than the ones I mention below. All three require an annual fee, but the Houston Public Library is free for Texas residents only. Listed below is the information about these three libraries and the link for each one to apply for an out-of-state library card.
Brooklyn Public Library - This library offers an out-of-state library card for a $50 annual fee. It has 400,000 e-books, magazines, and audiobooks available. Up to twenty e-books can be checked out, and you can have up to ten holds at any time, and all can be kept for three weeks maximum. The library always has popular new releases, and they order additional e-book licenses based on the number of holds on the books. I’ve seen it add a couple of hundred copies as the holds fluctuate. The thing that this library does that the others below don’t do is a couple of weeks before the release date of the book, it will allow you to put a hold on the new release, thereby getting a jump on other e-book readers.
Fairfax County Virginia Public Library - This library offers an out-of-state library card for a $27 annual fee. I can’t find any source for the number of e-books, magazines, and audiobooks it has available for use, but I believe it is probably less than BPL just based on the hold times. The hold times aren’t as good as BPL, but they are not as long as HPL below or my local library’s hold times. This library lets you have up to ten e-books checked out and up to fifteen holds at any time, and all can be kept for three weeks maximum. Unfortunately, they do not put the book up ahead of the publication date, so you have to really stalk it to get on the list quickly when they do put it up. It does have the new releases, and it will also purchase additional e-book licenses based on the number of holds.
Houston Public Library - This is the first out-of-area library card I started with, and that was because it was free. I learned quickly that there was a great demand for and not enough supply of e-books, so I began searching for others. The annual fee is $40, and it would be the last one I would pay for before getting a card from the other two above. This library allows for up to fifteen loans and ten holds at any time, and all can be kept for two weeks maximum. This library does have Hoopla, so that might be the advantage over the others above as I don’t think either has Hoopla. The hold time is so long for new releases, but if it is an older book, the wait is shorter or frequently available to borrow immediately. I keep this card because it is free, but I wouldn’t keep it if I had to pay the annual fee. The only reason I’m mentioning it is as a free resource for Texas residents.
Having an e-reader and access to one or more library cards makes sense when traveling. It’s a lot easier to download many books to your e-reader and carry it with you versus loading a suitcase full of books to take on your vacation. You will never run out of books while you are traveling and the e-reader takes up very little space. Overdrive/Libby works around the world and as long as there is an internet connection, books can be downloaded to the e-reader and then read any time and anywhere.
I hope this information has been beneficial to you, and maybe something I’ve said has sparked an interest in giving e-books a try in your future. You don’t have to have a dedicated e-reader; you can download the Overdrive/Libby app to most phones and tablets and try it to see if it works for you.
If you read e-books and are unsatisfied with your library’s e-book selection, the number of holds allowed, or the time available to retain the book while reading, check out one of the libraries above. My favorite is the BPL, but Fairfax County Public Library is great also. I’d love to hear if you know of out-of-state library cards that aren’t mentioned above and if you plan to get another library card for e-books. You can tell me in the comments below.
Coming up next week, I’ll tell you about some fantastic bookish newsletters that you can check out, and maybe a few will interest you. I’ve met some bookish internet friends, and I’m looking forward to introducing them to you. I hope you have a good week, and be sure to take a little time to relax and read. Happy reading!