E-Book Borrowing from The Library

Until March 23rd 2020, e-book borrowing from the library had been very much a minority but a slowly growing  interest as more people possessed i-pads and tablets on which they could comfortably read downloaded e-books. Many of us who enjoy reading both printed as well as e-books, have had Kindles  for some time, in my case, since 2011. These books from Amazon are bought at a price, less than that we would pay in a bookshop. Now however, with the addition of postage, many books from Amazon Kindle can be nearly the same price as those from our local bookshop. Amazon were not the first to offer e-books to the public. That honour goes to Project Gutenberg  https://www.gutenberg.org/  which from the 1970s has offered as free downloads, in several formats and languages, of more than 60,000  fiction and non-fiction books, all of which have  been published before the American copyright cut-off date, at present 1925. These books are in the public domain; they are not borrowed; they are ours to keep on our device, if we wish.


I learned from members of an online Book Group in 2011 how to down-load from Gutenberg on to my Kindle using a USB cable.  Now, the download process is much easier. I do not think I would have been able to have delivered the Talks I gave in the library some 3-4 years ago, on the History and Development of the English Novel, and then on Murder, Mystery, and Thrillers had I not been able to download   free from Gutenberg, all the examples of English classic literature I wished to consult and keep. I started with Beowulf  and continued with examples to the present day. I explain how to use Gutenberg as well as the main  North Yorkshire library web sites below.


Gutenberg poses no threat to the North Yorkshire library service. A link to the Gutenberg web site is given on the North Yorkshire web site. 



North Yorkshire continue to hold printed copies of classic books more than 50 years old, but in reduced numbers, a few in e-book format. Jane Austen’s books are some of the exceptions. There are plenty of library copies of her titles.  In normal times, thousands of books, many of them fiction, are published every month. Whether their books go into e-book or e-Audiobook format, or not, writers need to have books in printed format to make money if they can, and novelists in particular, are anxious that their books should be present in their local library. Physical storage has now become a real problem. There is a policy of removal of worn and least- read books to avoid libraries being overwhelmed.  E-books take little invisible computer storage space, and if they  go into “cloud storage”, like my Kindle books, you only see the print when you choose to download the publication. You can select, order and begin to read an e-book  at home without leaving the comfort of your chair. 


Since the pandemic lock-down, e-book borrowing has become a significant minority interest . During the lock down, the libraries were closed so no printed books were going in or out. E-books and e-Audiobooks were the only borrowing concerns of the libraries nation-wide. No printing presses were operating and therefore, no new printed books were being published. One major supplier of new books to North Yorkshire County library went out of business. The movement of people was severely curtailed. Even when there was an easing of restrictions, and libraries were opening their doors again, albeit in a carefully managed way, many older and the most vulnerable borrowers stayed at home, fearful of going out into a public space. The footfall in libraries country-wide was much reduced. At the time of writing, with the steady increase of corvid 19 cases again in the country, another national  lock-down is about to come into force. By a fortunate coincidence, North Yorkshire had just completed an overhaul of their comprehensive library web-site just before their branch libraries close for a second time, giving us a chance to re-consider our e- borrowing options.


In recent days, there has been considerable discussion nation-wide about the rise in the numbers of borrowers asking for more e-books to. These titles are not cheap for libraries to procure. North Yorkshire Library been holding titles in e-format for some time. I’ve made a note of nearly 100 e-book authors which interest me, some of whose books I have read as either e-books or printed copies. I append some of them (my choice, of course) to give you an idea of the  choice our library has to offer. More are appearing each time I look. See https://northyorks.overdrive.com/  for the latest impressive number, and you can download any of these by clicking/finger-tapping any one of your choice, if you already have the Overdrive – Libby app on your device. See below.


The e-book format  usually accompanies the book in hard back, paperback, eAudiobook and CD formats on the web site. I have found one exception; there maybe more. Margaret Irwin whose historical novels inspired Alison Weir and Philippa Gregory, is represented by just 4 e-books. I loved her books as a teenager, especially,  Young Bess. Josephine Tey, the great crime writer who like Margaret Irwin,  wrote from the 1930s-50s is represented by a number  of titles. I have just  downloaded the single e-book copy of her book The Daughter of Time, voted in 1990 by the Crime Writer’s Association as no. 1 in The Top 100 Crime Novels of all Time. It concerns a modern police officer’s investigation into the alleged crimes of Richard III. Did he kill those little princes in the tower? The e-book was  being  borrowed initially, but I was informed by email 3 days after, that it was available for download. This highlights a growing problem with e-book borrowing when the number of copies available of a popular book is only 1. Will the library eventually be able to afford more than 1 copy?  


You can of course, download eAudiobooks, but not CDs, for which there is a rental to pay in the library. In around  6 months, from March 2020, some 3000 borrowers and would -be borrowers  asked North Yorkshire library service to provide more e-books. With branch libraries closed or partially open, more people are joining the library online to make use of North Yorkshire’s e-book  collections. Normally, if you want to join, and it is free, you would go to your local library, or online to  https://www.northyorks.gov.uk/libraries-general-information, but the covid pandemic has made other arrangements necessary. 

Membership card numbers and PIN will be emailed to you separately. To join the library, renew 

membership or get your PIN number, please call  tel. 01609 533878.   


Equipment, and Overdrive – Libby App Required 

You cannot download and read any library  ebook, or listen to any eAudiobook until you have installed the Overdrive – Libby app from either the Google Play Apps or Apple Apps (for i-pads). For more help, go to the main web site https://www.northyorks.gov.uk/libraries-0  and choose  Digital Library/Download e-books, e-magazines and digital audio books.   Scan the list below on the screen to find Launch Overdrive and Libby…..  I am  not yet an e-Audiobook listener. I have also a desk top PC. for main typing tasks.


Since  2018,  I have used an Amazon Fire 10,  a combined tablet-Kindle for e-book reading, the internet and email.  Amazon then did not provide easy access to Google Play to get the Overdrive Libby app.  I had to seek expert advice to down-load the app.  However, there was success eventually. The Overdrive – Libby App was down-loaded and I’m very happy with the result. Now, I understand from a friend who has recently acquired an Amazon Fire 10, that the download for her presented no problem whatsoever, and like me, she is thoroughly satisfied with the tablet and is enjoying having the best of  all worlds.  There are dedicated e-readers available to buy online , but some people  go for an Apple i-pad , or a tablet to have access to email and the internet as well. Choose a tablet  or i-pad, if possible with a viewing screen  of 8 or10 inch in size, with a back- lit screen and access to Google Play, if non-Apple. If you have an old Kindle and want to upgrade, go for the Amazon Fire 10. Reading from it is a very comfortable experience indeed. It also has an excellent camera for Zoom.  E-books can be read uncomfortably from an i-phone or Smart phone.


How to borrow an e-book or e-Audiobook  and a selection of Authors with e-books in the North Yorkshire Library, 

The selection below is based on the authors of some e-books I’ve read and also what I observed from borrowing habits relating to printed books when I was working as a library volunteer in Settle Community library. In each case, I checked whether the author’s work was offered also in the e-book format.  To see what is on offer, go to https://capitadiscovery.co.uk/northyorkshire/   and save the web site as a Favourite. This web site is a link from the main one  (above). You will use the capitaldiscovery web site the most. It is a good idea to become thoroughly acquainted with what it has to offer.  On my P.C., I need only to type in the Search slot once, but on my tablet, a second or third attempt is often required. The experience with your device may be different. The web site demands a correct spelling. It has no imagination to guess a title or author’s name with just one  letter missing or  one incorrect. Therefore, type correctly a chosen author’s name. When the list of  his/her publications appears, scroll down to find which is in e-format. 


If you would like to borrow any, click/finger-tap Check Availability. When the next screen appears, read the information carefully. Have you membership and pin numbers  ready and then   click/finger-tap Log in to request . Follow the rest of the instructions. Decide whether you want 7, 14 or 21 days of borrowing time. The e-book or e Audiobook will go into your Download folder. To activate the e-book, click/finger tap  on the download. The book opens and its presence is then located in the Overdrive folder where you are told to choose the reading time from 7,14 or 21days  The number decreases day by day.  At the end, the book disappears. Delete it from the Downloads.  Recently I chose 21 days to read Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments, a sequel to and better than The Handmaid’s Tale in my view. As I had read it in a week, a polite request appeared to the effect that since I had read the book, did I want it removed before the 21 days of borrowing time were up? I wrote “Yes”, and the e-book melted into the ether. You can borrow 3-4 e-books at any one time and can download an e-book for a second time, provided it is not reserved for anyone else.


Here is a selected  list of authors with e-books  mostly in adult fiction:

Diane Allen, Isabel Allende, Simon Armitage, Kate Atkinson, Margaret Atwood, Jane Austen, David Baldacci, Muriel Barbery, Sebastian Barry, Julian Barnes, Alan Bennett, William Boyd, Bill Bryson, Julia Chapman, Lee Child, Tracy Chevalier, Ann Cleeves,  Bernard Cornwell, Emma Donaghue, Helen Dunmore, Sebastian Faulks, Elena Ferrante, Leah Fleming,  Ken Follett,  Gillian Galbraith, Stacey Halls, Joanne Harris, Robert Harris, Victoria Hislop, Dinah Jefferies, Linda La Plante, Hilary Mantel, Val McDermid, Ian McEwan, Santa Montefiore, Michelle Obama, Amanda Owen, Ann Patchett, Terry Pratchett, Ian Rankin, Danielle Steele, Elizabeth Strout,  Anne Tyler, Sally Vickers……and many more. 


The E-reading Experience


E- book reading has had to face some opposition. “I prefer real books” is a common utterance. I love browsing through the printed books in my several book cases. It is a pleasure to sit and look at them and sometimes, re-read. I tend to read a mixture of e-books and printed books. The authenticity of a book is less to do with whether it is digitally produced or printed, but more to do with the pleasure  and learning capacity of the reading experience. There are no physical limitations as with printed books, the library circulation of which is being severely curtailed by the covid pandemic.  Novels in an e-book format can be read quickly; you lightly touch a page to turn it, not flick it over.  Both Kindle and  the Overdrive Libby app, open at the page you have left when you return for another reading session.

 On October 23rd, the following article appeared in the Books section of the online Guardian, which explains the current situation clearly:

“Library ebook lending surges as UK turns to fiction during lock-down.”



Ebooks need not damage the library’s place in the community, nor the position of printed books at all. Krystal Vittles, the head of the Suffolk library services in a later Guardian article thinks that the digital revolution will bring advantages, not disadvantages:


No doubt, the future will reveal all.


Project Gutenberg


In c .1440, Johannes Gutenberg invented the first printing press in Strasbourg and introduced the modern era of mass communication of  information and knowledge. The e-book revolution is nowhere near as world-changing where communication and the speedy spread of knowledge are concerned. What the e-book is doing is working alongside the printed book to enlarge the sphere of communication and broaden the base along which knowledge and information are disseminated. What is most important, is  that it has the means to bring into the public domain the knowledge, learning and wisdom of past ages. The secular culture of major western countries  has had a tendency to disregard the “dead language” of the past. Many do not see it as the bedrock of what we read and learn today.  Project Gutenberg with their offer of free books for the last nearly 50 years have been doing their utmost to right the balance with their offer on every conceivable subject and in several of the world’s major languages, free books published before 1925.


To go to Gutenberg Home page , click on/finger touch   https://www.gutenberg.org  There is a lot to read on this page. You will learn eventually  that Gutenberg downloads books in several formats. If you use Overdrive, choose epub; if Kindle, choose mobi.   Alternatively, you can choose to download as txt (text), or html to read online. You can choose the latter without any extra software, so have a go.


Next, choose Search and Browse, followed by Browsing Options on the next page. Decide whether you want to go for the title or the author. I usually choose the author so that I can see what works are on offer. Scroll with your finger at the right hand side. It may take some time. As soon as you highlight the author’s or title’s name, you are taken to a list of formats to download.


I give 3 examples:


  1. I go for Wilkie Collins and his novel Armadale, which is another of his excellent mystery novels. I already have read and have kept The Woman in White, The Moonstone and No Name in my e-library.  The format I choose is epub, which is the one used by Overdrive – Libby. An instruction to OPEN appears at the bottom. I click on it and Armadale appears in the Overdrive folder, besides the books on loan from the library. Go  to  the Downloads folder on your tablet where the book first landed. The last item at the top is your book identified by a numerical code. Click/finger-tap the 3 dots at the right and choose Rename. Type the name Armadale.  You also  can Delete the book from here, when you wish to remove it.  


  1. I enjoy the poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins and I’d like to have an e-book copy of  his work. I select  The Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins and then, because I have a combined-Kindle tablet, I choose mobi –for download. When the line of text appears at the bottom, telling me the book has downloaded, I select Open to check. I then close the Gutenberg web site and go to Downloads. The new file with a numerical code is at the top. I go to the 3 dots at the right and choose Re-name. The name I choose is of course, The Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins. If I want to Delete, then I choose that. Unlike, the Amazon Kindle and Overdrive systems, the page you left is not memorised, even though you have used the mobi format. The book of course, is from Gutenberg and not from an Amazon source for the Kindle. Before you end the reading session, you need to note the location. Alternatively, you could read to the end of a chapter in a novel and note the number of the next one. When you return to the book, pull out a menu from the left side, and choose either the chapter number/heading, or Go to for the location.


A disadvantage is that  e-book pages are not so easy to find without  noting down the location beforehand. That is necessary if one  wants to go back to re-read a section on a previous page. If you tap a page twice in quick succession, you learn where the location is and what percentage has been read. When you return to the book, pull out the menu from the left side, and choose   Go to for the location. Overdrive does not provide a left side pull-out contents menu.


  1. As I have explained previously, if you have a tablet that has no Overdrive-Libby or Kindle app, you can still read Gutenberg books by choosing the html format (better than txt)  and read from the internet. Save as a Favourite.  There are quite a few titles children might enjoy in Gutenberg’s store. You could download all the Beatrix Potter stories if you wish. All E.Nesbitt books are available. I’ve downloaded my favourite The Railway Children.  On my tablet, all the chapters are highlighted  on the internet screen for easy access. The background is cream , but the print is still easy to read. This is a good way to try out this new method of reading books before you download the Overdrive – Libby app.


To give you an idea what novels and stories are on offer amongst the Gutenberg books, here is a selection of novelists and writers.  Most are from the  19th or early 20th century.


Daniel Defoe, Victor Hugo, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Leo Tolstoy, William Thackeray, Mary Webb, H.G.Wells, Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Emily Bronte, Anne Bronte, Elizabeth Gaskell, George Eliot, Charles Dickens, Arnold Bennett, Anthony Trollope, John Galsworthy, E.M.Forster, Agatha Christie, Rudyard Kipling, Wilkie Collins, Louisa Alcott, Jack London, Joseph Conrad, Somerset Maugham, Nathaniel Hawthorn, O.Henry, Eden Phillpotts, Edgar Wallace, Rose Macaulay, Katherine Mansfield, Samuel Pepys,  Arthur Conan Doyle, A.E.W. Mason, Robert Louis Stevenson, Lytton Strachey, Edith Wharton, John Buchan,  Edgar Allen Poe,  Lewis Carroll, P.G. Wodehouse, F.Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Hardy, James Joyce, Oscar Wilde,  Beatrix Potter, Virginia Woolf. Jerome K Jerome, Henry James, Bram Stoker, Frederick Marryat, Sir Walter Scott. G.K. Chesterton, Rafael Sabatini, H. Rider Haggard. Oscar Wilde. Charles Kingsley.

New Developments for Book Groups

A meeting of the Book Group of which I am a member, was due to take place at the end of March 2020 and was postponed until the end of November 2020. It was my turn to introduce the book, on this occasion, Stacey Hall’s The Familiars. All the printed borrowed copies had been returned to the library, but I had the e-book copy on my tablet. Before I left home, I downloaded the book and left the tablet open at the page I wanted. The tablet then went into “sleep mode”. Because the download had not been disturbed, the book was still available for reference in a house where the tablet was not receiving wifi. This experience points the way to which tablets can be used much more in  Book Groups, especially when there is a shortage of printed copies. Book Groups cannot meet physically during a lock-down,. I’ve just heard from a friend in Surrey of a Book Group, where all the members, who live in different counties,  have tablets or i-pads. They propose to down-load from Gutenberg one of Elizabeth Gaskell’s novels and discuss its contents together on Zoom.  Only Gutenberg can offer free limitless copies of one e-book title at the present time. When the libraries are able to do that, there will indeed be a revolution in verbal, pictorial and oral communication. 


Kathleen Kinder Nov 2020