The “tablet” has come to the Warwick Public Library; more accurately, the library now has 12 Apple iPad Minis, generically known as tablets, that they loan to members.
It didn’t take long for people to discover that by simply checking out an iPad with 18 downloaded books, they also get a hand-held computer to play with.
“The big thing is the experience,” said Jana Stevenson, the library’s public service manager. “If they have never held a tablet, now they get to see what it’s all about.”
The display of the iPad Minis was the center of attention last Wednesday, as the library opened its doors. Mayor Scott Avedisian was present to praise the added feature and to endorse online books. Avedisian said he uses OverDrive to download books to his tablet.
He doesn’t read all his books on a tablet. He’s currently reading a hard copy of “Killing Lincoln” and finds it helpful to have the actual book to quickly flip though the pages to refer to something.
Online books are a big deal. Of all libraries in the state system, Warwick loans more books through OverDrive than any other. Last year, 25,000 books were checked out through the system, according to Diane Greenwald, director of the library.
Stevenson said she researched library loans of tablet hardware and discovered several Rhode Island libraries do it. She also compared several brands of tablets and settled on the Apple because of its screen lighting and ease of reading. She also said the iPad offers features for people who have visual and hearing impairments, as it is ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) compliant. Other brands the library considered did not have the same features. The iPads cost $325 each. Most of their functions continue to operate but, for administrative reasons, the cameras are disabled. Avedisian said they are insured under the city’s policy.
Ken Noonan was one of the first library patrons to learn of the tablets. He stopped by to see what all the commotion next to the display was about, just a few short steps within the door.
He won’t be checking out a tablet; he has two of this own.
Noonan uses OverDrive and can get books at home, so why does he come to the library?
“I still love coming here,” he said, to use one of the library’s computers or browse through the periodicals section. Despite extensive reading on tablets, Noonan said, “I still love the physical book.”
For libraries, the digital version represents a significant savings over the hardbound books. Depending on the book, the library’s hardcover cost is in the range of $30 to $50 each. For the same amount, the library can get six electronic copies. That explains why the library bought 12 iPads to start with. At the same time, they bought two sets of 18 titles, which can be copied as much as six times each.
The iPads are loaned for two weeks, but unlike hard copies of books that can be returned to any library in the state, the tablets must be returned to the Warwick Library.
There is no reserve list to checkout an iPad.
“It’s first come, first serve,” said Stevenson.
Greenwald said that, depending on demand, the library may expand its collection of iPads.