Saturday, 27 May 2023

Public libraries ...

 Since I retired I've used public libraries quite a lot as places to work, but not actually as places to borrow books from, purely because libraries don't always have the books I want to read.

This actually isn't quite true, they certainly have some of the books I might want to read but until recently it's been a case of going to library and seeing what they have on their selves. Very old school, and something I've lost the habit of.

Instead, I've developed a whole bunch of alternative strategies.

As far as factual books go, I usually end up buying them second hand from one of the online market places, but for fiction, I usually buy the kindle version - more due to habit than anything else.

Kindles are light, portable, have excellent battery life and can be preloaded with several books - ideal for travelling.

But, while I do travel, I don't travel so much these days, and as the price of kindle books creeps up I find I'm spending quite a lot of money on books I'll probably only ever read once, and while I do occasionally buy fiction second hand, we've only one decent second hand bookshop locally, meaning that often means using one of the online second hand  charity retailers such as Brotherhood Books.

Unfortunately, postage costs are also creeping upwards, meaning that sometimes the Kindle edition is the cheapest way to go.

All these strategies require you to have an idea in advance of what you would want. Fortunately there's quite a few crime fiction lovers websites out there allowing you to get an idea of what you might like and by whom,

So, in an effort to contain costs and stop swamping the house with stacks of paperbacks, I thought I'd give the public library service a go.

Now, the last time I borrowed a book from a public library was in Canberra in 2005. I'd used public libraries both in the UK and Australia before, but as my tastes became specialised - Roman history for example - I'd found them less and less useful, and at the same time, with more disposable income had taken to buying my fix of crime fiction from specialist retailers such as the long gone but still lamented Murder One in London.

In Canberra, I found the opening hours of public libraries incredibly inconvenient with the nearest convenient branch closing at 5.30pm during the week. It wasn't on my normal route home if I drove, parking was a pain, and if I got the bus, I simply couldn't get there in time.

And the time when I might have been able to use the library, Saturday afternoons, they closed early, and the buses on Saturdays were crap anyway.

When I moved to country Victoria, I joined the local library in the main to use the free wifi before we could get a working phone and internet service at home. As we're in a little pocket with very poor phone reception I couldn't just simply use my then 3G wifi router as  a stopgap while we waited for Telstra do their thing. In fact for a critical few days after we moved, using the local library's wifi was kind of a necessity.

But, I havn't ever actually like borrowed a book from them.

And of course, during the pandemic, we tended to avoid locations like libraries to reduce the risk of contact.

However, perhaps in part due to the pandemic,  it's now possible to browse their catalogue and reserve books online, as well as borrow e-books from them so I decided that perhaps I ought to try using the library to borrow books.

One thing I find good about the kindle is the size of the device, with a page size roughly the same as small paperback and the weight is about right for reading in bed. My 10" Android tablet, while it's light enough is not that comfortable to hold in portrait mode for long periods of time.

However, I have an alternative - the dogfood tablet - which functions well as an e-reader for public domain books and makes a decent Kindle substitute when required, so this afternoon I installed the Libraries Victoria catalogue search application and the BorrowBox e book borrowing application on it.

Installing them was fun, I had of course lost my library card and forgotten both my pin and library user number in the intervening years. Fortunately I'd saved the details in the Google password manager, so after the ritual cursing when trying to enter the rather long library user number on a 8" tablet keyboard, I got them both to work.

Guess the next thing is to actually start using them ...

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