Driving to a library and physically checking out books is slowly becoming a thing of the past.

To comply with the high demand from patrons to make e-books available to be checked out online through library websites, the North Carolina Digital Library consortium — a collection of 20 libraries in the state — released a collection of books this fall that can be downloaded straight from a library’s website onto personal Amazon Kindle devices or the Kindle reading app.

But although patrons are getting the service they asked for, the e-book downloading option for Kindles comes with a higher price tag for the libraries. Regina Reitzel, a Catawba County information services librarian, said books for Kindles cost more than it costs the library to purchase paper books, however, the libraries can justify spending more on books if it pleases the patrons.

“It’s adding services for the customers, and they believe in allowing anyone to read a book freely,” Reitzel said. “That’s the philosophy. So we do pay more money than a person would just buying it.”

Patrons previously had the option of checking out e-books from the North Carolina Digital library, but now the service extends to a Kindle option. Reitzel said the consortium works with Cleveland-based digital distributor OverDrive to assist with working with publishers to purchase e-books in different formats.

For patrons looking to check out books on a Kindle, they must first have a good-standing library account with one of the 20 libraries in the consortium.

A patron can go online and through one of the consortium’s library websites, then browse the list of e-books available on Kindle. Reitzel said because e-books on Kindle cost more for the library to purchase than paper library books, there are limited copies of Kindle e-books that patrons can download.

According to Amazon, once the patron has selected an e-book on the library’s site, he or she is directed to Amazon.com to complete the check-out process. For those interested in checking out library books to be downloaded onto a Kindle, an Amazon account is required.

For Kindle devices with Wi-Fi capability, the books can be downloaded wirelessly, however, older models of the Kindle require being plugged into a PC so the book can be properly downloaded, Reitzel said. Most Kindle-friendly e-books have about a two-week checkout period before they are due back at the library — the same duration paper books can be checked out from the library.

In September, Amazon officially announced that more than 11,000 libraries nationwide have Kindle e-books available for downloading.

According to the September announcement, Amazon’s Whispersync technology allows patrons who have downloaded the e-books to their Kindles to wirelessly sync the books with notes, highlights and a “last page read” notification along with other capabilities.

The Seattle Public Library was also one of the 11,000 libraries to make e-books available on Kindles and as of September, patrons could access more than 25,000 titles in the library’s e-book collection, according to a Seattle Public Library press release.

“Many patrons have wanted the ability to use our e-books on their Kindles and until now, it wasn’t possible,” city librarian Marcellus Turner said in a statement.

Sarah Rich, Staff Writer Sarah Rich  |  Staff Writer

In 2008, Sarah Rich graduated from California State University, Chico, where she majored in news-editorial journalism and minored in sociology. Since 2010, Sarah has written for Government Technology magazine and covers a spectrum of public-sector IT topics, including cloud computing, transparency, broadband, and other innovative projects and trends. She currently lives in Sacramento, Calif.