Riding the eWave: eBooks transforming the BYU educational experience

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A student sits by her books in the library. An increasing number of BYU students have been turning to the eBooks as a solution to simplify the quest for reading and research material. The recently expanded OverDrive eBooks service is one of a myriad ways that Harold B. Lee Library is responding to technological advancements and increasing demand for digital services. (Photo by Maddi Dayton.)
A student sits by her books in the library. An increasing number of BYU students have been turning to the eBooks as a solution to simplify the quest for reading and research material. The recently expanded OverDrive eBooks service is one of a myriad ways that Harold B. Lee Library is responding to technological advancements and increasing demand for digital services. (Photo by Maddi Dayton.)

Heavy backpacks may fade into the past with the use of eBooks becoming increasingly popular amongst the BYU student body.

Demand for eBooks has been increasing since the Harold B. Lee library released OverDrive as its newest eBook service provider.

OverDrive was made accessible to BYU students on Feb. 17. The service offers a wide variety of titles for adults, young adults and juveniles, including both fiction and nonfiction literature.

“You can pull books onto your iPhone, your Android phone, onto your Kindle, you can access books through your web browser,” said Roger Layton, communications manager for the Harold B. Lee Library. “It’s a very easy way to access eBooks, and that’s what our patrons are looking for, so we’re happy to provide that.”

Students can also make requests for specific titles online.

The new service complements the hundreds of thousands of online books already offered on the library’s website. According to Layton, these academic resources through EBSCO, ebrary, Gale Virtual Reference Library and Project Gutenberg will still be maintained but are less user-friendly — often requiring multiple accounts, passwords and being less compatible on different devices.

OverDrive streamlines the process, allowing students to quickly look up, download and begin reading their latest selections on a variety of platforms in one reliable move.

Brandon Hunsaker, 24, a junior studying mechanical engineering, has already utilized the library’s eBook service.

Hunsaker, of Parker, Colo., recently started a drafting job that required him to acquire new technical skills. Rather than purchasing an additional textbook to learn the material, Parker located the title online and downloaded it immediately from the eBook database.

“I could go to Barnes and Noble and get the book for $30,” Hunsaker said. “Or I could download it here at the library for free.”

Hunsaker enjoys being able to instantly search the book and locate desired terms in the digital version.

Other students are less eager to abandon traditional reading methods.

Reed Reinschussel, 20, of Pleasant Grove, downloaded his first eBook during fall semester for Anthropology 101. While he appreciated the instant accessibility, he prefers the traditional touch and feel of hard-bound books for highlighting and making notes in the margins when studying.

Reinschussel noted another distinct advantage of ink and paper over a digital copy.

“My books don’t have a battery life,” Reinschussel said, “but my laptop does.”

In the future, the library hopes to add more scholarly and academic resources as they become available.

“We’d love to see some of the providers of more scholarly titles get in line on this so that our faculty and students can access the latest scholarly works as well as popular works,” Layton said.

The Harold B. Lee Library has embraced the switch to technology every step of the way.

An internal technology office works closely with librarians to stay ahead of the curve and meet the needs of the patrons, Layton said. Long before Nooks and Kindles had risen to their present popularity, the library was already testing experimental Sony reading devices in anticipation of the digital wave.

As markets and gadgets continue to advance, the Harold B. Lee library is poised to respond to the latest student demands and maintain a cutting-edge learning experience for the BYU student body and with the new, streamlined OverDrive system for checking out eBooks, the library is offering an avant-garde approach to digital technology.

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