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Auntie Diluviana: Navigating the world of online books, with help from library

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Posted on: April 20, 2013

Dear Auntie,

I called the library about a book the other day and was told that it was available only online. Can you help me figure out how to get a book that is online?

Confused Reader

Auntie Diluviana

Older folks like us who didn’t start learning on computers in kindergarten feel that we’re always catching up, don’t we?

To answer your question I sat down at the Hyattsville branch library with Robin Jacobsen, the administrator for public service for the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System (PGCMLS). The move to digital publishing “has really taken off in the past 10 years,” Jacobsen told me. Last year there were more than 100,000 downloads from PGCMLS, which gets its online books from the media distributor Overdrive.  Because most users download books for Kindle (and because Auntie has a Kindle), I asked Jacobsen to walk me through the process so I could tell you how it works.

So fasten your seatbelts, readers. The way to online literature is a bit bumpy, but we will eventually get there together.

The first step is to go to the PGCMLS Web site at Once there, click on “online library” and then on “download audiobooks and eBooks.”  So far, so good, right? The first things you see are extensive instructions on downloading to any number of devices. (These are a tiny bit tedious. If you are using a Kindle, stick to Auntie’s way. You can always go back if that doesn’t work for you. If not, click on the listing for the device you are using.)

Then, Kindle users, click on “connect to Overdrive,” which takes you to the online library. From there you can search for specific titles or browse the categories listed at the top of the page.

Still with me, reader?  When you find the book you want, click on it. The chart on the right will tell you if it is available in Kindle. If it is, click “borrow.” At this point, you will have to sign in using the number on your library card if you haven’t already done so. Then you have to indicate that you want to download to your Kindle – hit on the “download” next the book and then there’s a box to check. Click on “confirm and download.” This will take you to the Amazon website, where you can hit another button to download. This may be all you need to do,  and you can start reading on your Kindle.

But according to the library website, some books cannot be downloaded directly to your Kindle unless the device is connected to Wi-Fi. In that case – and every book Auntie downloaded was in this category – Amazon downloads to your computer and must be copied from the download default file to the Kindle document file, which appears when you connect the computer to the Kindle by way of a USB cable. (A cable came with your Kindle. It’s the same one you use to charge the device.)

Jacobsen said readers having trouble can bring their devices to the Hyattsville branch and a staff member will give them guidance. She acknowledges that for new users technology often demands a leap of faith, but says the results are well worth the effort.

Auntie agrees. She downloaded a book to her Kindle and an audiobook (one of Dorothy Sayers’ early Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries – what a find!) to her iPad. All without leaving home.

Auntie Diluviana is compiled by Molly Parrish, one of the founding members of Hyattsville Aging in Place.



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