By Robb Murray
Free Press Staff Writer
NORTH MANKATO — Ever since the North Mankato Taylor Library started offering e-books several years ago, patrons have been asking for e-magazines.
Starting this month, the library plans to oblige them.
The library rolled out a service where 60 magazines are available online for e-readers, tablets or any personal computer. Unlike the library’s e-book service, magazines won’t be saddled with waiting periods if someone gets to a magazine before you.
Also, once you’ve signed up for the service on the library’s website, any magazine you download is yours for as long as you care to keep it on your device. No need to return it. And it won’t become unreadable after the two- or three-week period as e-books are.
This service, for contractual reasons, will only be available to North Mankato residents who have a library card.
That means Mankato and Blue Earth County residents who have a North Mankato Taylor Library card won’t be able to use the new magazine feature on the Taylor Library’s website.
“In the spirit of the contract we have with Zinio,” Taylor Library Director Lucy Lowry, said of the company they’ve contracted with to provide the magazine service, “we can only allow people from our community to use it.”
Lowry said they allowed anyone with a North Mankato library card to use the e-book service. But that decision was made when e-books were still new and few libraries were lending them.
Now, however, e-readers are common and many libraries are offering e-materials. Plus, Zinio required a limited user base. And as the e-magazine service wasn’t free for the library — they paid nearly $2,000 for service plus $850 more for the individual subscriptions — they decided the North Mankato library’s e-magazine service will be limited to North Mankato residents.
The service, Lowry said, already has been used by patrons. It works on personal computers, iPads, Kindles and other tablets. As of now, it does not work with the Barnes and Noble Nook.
Lowry said she’s been impressed with the product and she thinks library patrons will be, too.
“It looks just like as if you had the paper copy,” she said. “It’s got the ads, pictures. You can resize it, you can also read it on a phone, but that’s pretty tiny.”
As for specific titles, Lowry said they tried to choose magazines they thought people would want to read on the their e-readers or computers. And as time goes on, they’ll probably add more.
E-books continue to be a big growth area for the North Mankato library. Two years ago, there were 1,200 checkouts of 3,128 e-books and audiobooks available. Last year, that number had jumped to 15,000.
The addition of the e-magazine titles will not result in a decrease in the titles available in hard copy. What it may lead to is a decrease in the number of copies of an individual title available, which could save the library money.
This kind of change, Lowry said, isn’t new. She said they saw the same thing when VHS video was being replaced by digital. They had to purchase both for a while until the VHS format died.
She doesn’t see e-books replacing hard copy books any time soon.
“I don’t see the physical library disappearing in my lifetime,” she said.
The 15,000 checkouts of e-books is still a small portion of the nearly 209,000 total materials checked out.