Venturing into ebooks

I bought a iPad. About time, you say, and you’re probably right. My grandson Alex has one, and he’s pretty adept with it. Pororo (you know, the little penguin) is a favourite, though he also has a decent swag of games and other apps he delights in.

Any excuse to insert a pic of Alex ... we're at Melbourne Museum

Any excuse to insert a pic of Alex … we’re at Melbourne Museum

As with most 3-year olds, his skills surpass mine: for example, his parents installed a volume limiter, but he quickly overcame it to allow it to work at the required volume.

I’m gradually learning the thrills of iPad ownership, downloading free apps and setting it up for my usual daily array of browsing (typically three from the list of links on the right). It also occurred to me that I might finally try an ebook (e-book, eBook) with it. Yes, of course I’ve looked at, and even browsed many ebooks over the past couple of decades, but never read an ebook from cover to cover (misplaced metaphor revealing my preference for the physical version).

With this in mind, I recalled that my local libraries house (another misplaced term) collections of ebooks. So, being of a frugal and cautionary mind, I determined to investigate further. Now note the use of plural ‘libraries’. We are fortunate to live near the boundary of two municipalities, with separate library systems, which thus provides us access to a more vast collection of books than might otherwise be the case. And as it turns out this also applies to their ebooks.

Oakleigh library ... and my bike

Oakleigh library … and my bike

It also turns out that the process of accessing the collections is not as easy as I blithely imagined. First is the matter of the library website.  Now of course I’d registered, but duly forgotten my passwords for both. The process of recovery cannot be done online: one is required to present oneself at the desk, with proof of identity in hand, to retrieve said password. I pedalled around to Oakleigh, presented myself, my library card and my driver’s licence, and was given a piece of paper with my password on it.

I pedalled triumphantly back home, only to find that the password didn’t work! Neither did a slight variation. Back to Oakleigh the next day, where I was informed that the first letter was a lower case ‘s’, not the upper case as it appeared.

Back home (all this pedalling must be doing me good) I was finally able to logon and locate the ebook collection. Having selected an enticing title, I found that I first needed to download a reader. My attempt at downloading resulted in an error message. I put my iPad down.

Undeterred, I pedalled in the opposite direction to Carnegie to retrieve my password from the other library. There I was helpfully informed that in their system, the password is simply the final four digits of your library card number.

Properly armed, I duly visited the library website and looked at the ebooks. There was a helpful page with an explanation of how to start borrowing and downloading ebooks. Fine, but you’d be amazed (then again, perhaps not) at how long and complex the instructions are. Word count on the ‘Getting started with eBooks’ page: 4000!

To illustrate: at around the fifteenth bullet point, subsection three, the instructions state “your account request must be approved by a library staff member – depending on when you request your account there may be a delay of up to 24 hours”. Having submitted my application, the positive reply was back in minutes! I can only surmise that I was the first person to ever get this far. The library’s IT person must have got a hell of a surprise.

A page (what number?) from Clive James' book

A page from Clive James’ book

So, after what seemed an infinite sequence of registering, downloading and password creation led at very long last to my first ebook: Clive James’ North Face of Soho. I’ve previously read a few of his light-hearted and engaging memoirs, and assumed that this one would be up to the mark.

To get (finally) to the point, I like it. It’s clear and readable, a boon for reading in poor light. So I’m able to read much more easily in the evening without placing myself strategically under a strong light. My only misgiving is that the page doesn’t include a number (see pic) which is initially disconcerting. Perhaps this will wear off with time. Yes, I can find the page number, place a bookmark and so on but it takes a tap of the screen.

I started this post some months ago, and personal circumstances meant that I haven’t been back since then. I think I’m ready to start posting again, and the easiest way is to complete this unfinished piece.

The loan period on North face of Soho ran out (yes, the library does of course limit your borrowing time for ebooks), and I’ve only just got back to venturing further into ebooks. This time it’s a free ebook accessed via the list on Open Culture: Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. I read it on the plane both to and from my just-completed trip to Brisbane, and enjoyed it very much – both the contents and the ebook experience. I just might grow on me, despite my penchant for the real thing (latest being the excellent biography  by Artemis Copper of Patrick Leigh Fermour).

One thought on “Venturing into ebooks

  1. Thanks for the education on borrowing e-books – I had no idea! I’m still more inclined to stick to the real thing though (types she into her device…)

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