Reading a library book no longer consists of driving to the library, checking out a stack of titles and then making sure they are returned on time to avoid late fees. With new gadgets that allow you to purchase and download books at your leisure, the same can be done with e-books from Beale Memorial Library.
For two days, the Digital Bookmobile's national tour will be in town in the parking lot of Beale to showcase free e-book and e-audiobook download services available at the library. Readers of all ages can learn how to download from the library through interactive demonstrations and high-definition instructional videos.
Learning new ways to access library books is important because it's a way of keeping up with the evolving world of technology, said Andie Apple, head of public services of Kern County Library.
"I don't think technology will replace a book anytime soon," she said. "There will always be a place for the physical book and the physical space of the library, but times are different, and we have to move along with it."
In August 2012, Beale Library began offering e-library service and has added more than 2,200 titles, in both e-books and e-audio, and has had more than 15,000 check-outs for those titles.
"The amount of check-outs we got for those titles tells me the need for this transition is growing and needed in the community," Apple said.
Readers can check out books on computers or on any reading device such as a Kindle, iPod, Nook, Android tablet and many others. No late fees are applied to any e-books or e-audio because the files automatically expire on the last day of the lending period.
"It's great because you don't have to worry about running to the library to make sure you aren't late in returning it, and readers can check out books whenever they want, even after library hours," said Judy Patterson, marketing events specialist for OverDrive Digital Bookmobile.
Sitting on a bench to catch the bus next to the library, Marquise Blackmon, 21, prefers reading books on a device because they're available right then and there.
"It takes off the stress of riding a bus to get to the library, and then maybe the book you want isn't even available," she said.
Mireya Espinoza, 17, also prefers reading books on a computer or Kindle because it is much less of a hassle.
"Reading online is more interesting and less distracting," she said. "I can spend as much time as I can reading at home and actually focusing on the reading, rather then coming to the library and being distracted by everything going on."
Providing readers e-books and e-audio costs the library more money than the average person pays for a book.
According to Patterson, Kern County pays about $30 for e-audio and $10 to $20 for e-books. But they last longer and the library doesn't need to replace them because of losses or non-returns.
Still, some community members prefer going to the library and holding a magazine or book in their hands.
Rudy Perez, 56, rides his bike everywhere, including to the library, and although he agrees with having books online for people who might not have time to go to a library, he prefers sitting inside and reading.
"I love coming to the library because if I'm at home, I don't get the same experience as when I come to the library," he said. "I enjoy reading my National Geographic for a few hours and seeing people pass by, and if everything was online, I wouldn't get that."