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Category Archives: How To

How to Start a Book Club

Is one of your New Year’s resolutions to read more?  Participating in a book club is a great way to accomplish that, plus it’s a fun way to share the books you are reading with friends.  Here are some tips on how to get a book club started.

  1. Look for a book club in your area.  If you already have access to one, why start your own?  Ask a friend in a book club if you can join, check to see if one of your coworkers has organized one at work, or go to your local library or book store.  There are probably some great options in your area.  But if you would rather have a book club with your friends or you want more of a say in choosing what to read, go ahead and start one of your own!
  2. Think about how you want to organize your book club.  How often will you meet?  How will you choose the books?  You can vote on each one or take turns selecting them.  What sort of books will you read?  You can limit it to novels, pick a certain genre, pick a theme, or just read anything that sounds good to you.
  3. Invite some friends. Don’t think you have enough friends interested in reading?  You can just invite a few, and encourage them to spread the word.
  4. Choose a location. You can take turns hosting or find somewhere to meet.  Coffee shops are a nice option (check out our “literary eats” posts for cafes in DC and California!) but you could also choose a restaurant, bar, ice cream shop, etc-anything your club would enjoy!
  5. Select your first book.  Even if you are planning to choose books together in the future, it’s a good idea to choose one book for the first meeting, just to get the ball rolling.  My favorites are The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a book about a book club, and The Lace Reader, a book that got picked up by a mainstream publisher partly because the author’s self-published version was so successful in local book clubs.
  6. Read and discuss!  As you read your book club book, keep an eye out for things you want to bring up at your book club’s meeting.  It can be a question that occurred to you as you were reading or just something you noticed while reading that you’d like to explore further.  Many recently published books and author websites provide discussion questions for book clubs to use, if you’d like to be sure that your group will have something to talk about.

All you really need is a few fellow readers and a great book!  Best of luck and happy reading!

-Elizabeth

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How to Borrow E-books from Your Local Library

Hello, everyone.  It’s Elizabeth here, with some information on how to borrow e-books from your local library.  This is based on the site used by the DC Public Libraries, but since it is administered by Overdrive, it should be relevant to libraries in other locations as well.

A few key points to remember:

  • You are borrowing this e-book, so it has due dates just like a regular library book.  The advantage here is that usually (check with your library to be sure!) you do not need to remember to return it.  The book will disappear off of your e-reader or computer after your time is up.
  • Just like hard copies, the library probably only bought one.  If the e-book you want is popular, you may still have to wait for it.  I am noticing that I have to wait longer for e-books than regular books at my local library.  Either this service is very popular, or they just don’t have a large enough collection to keep up with demand yet.
  • If you do not have an e-reader, you can use your computer (or any other device that can read a pdf file.)  My library currently offers e-books in three formats: Kindle, Adobe pdf, and Adobe digital editions (.acsm).  All you have to do to read an e-book on your computer is download the free Adobe software.
  • At my library, the audiobooks are also included on the digital media website.  You’ll want to pay attention to what you are downloading.  (But if you like audiobooks, these instructions should work for you.)
  • There is a limit to how many books you can check out at once.  My library’s limit is six books.

Let’s get started.  First, you need to go to the library’s website.  You will probably log in using your library card number.  Here’s what my library’s home page looks like:

My library’s media download homepage

Next, you search for books you’d like to read.  As you know, I’m a big fan of mysteries.  Let’s see if they have anything by Agatha Christie.  The search bar is in the orange box on the right.

My search for Agatha Christie found quite a few novels.  I chose one of my favorites, Murder on the Orient Express, first.

Placing a hold for Murder on the Orient Express

As you can see, this book is available in two formats: Kindle and Adobe.  Unfortunately, they are both checked out.  If I click the blue button that says “Place a Hold,” I will be next in line for that e-book, and they will send me an email when it becomes available.

I can also read a sample of this text by clicking the button below the picture of the book.  The sample is an Adobe download, so you will need the software.  It contains the first two chapters of the novel, which I thought was a pretty generous sample.  If you needed to read something on a deadline, for instance for class or a book club, you could start reading while you waited for the whole book to become available.

Let’s try another novel, so I can show you how the checkout process works.

The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Christie’s first novel to feature detective Hercule Poirot is available.

To download,  I need to click the blue button which says “Add to my selections.”  I am choosing the Adobe pdf format, since that will also work on my Kindle.

This will bring me to the “My Selections” page (shown below).  At this point, I have the opportunity to go look for more e-books, but today I just want this one, so I will move on to checkout.

Proceeding to checkout

Click “Proceed to Checkout.”  It is the blue link towards the bottom, on the right hand side.

The next page gives me an option of how long I want the book (one, two, or three weeks).  I will be taking the three week option, because I know that I can return the book earlier if I want to.  You theoretically have the option to renew for another three weeks as well, unless someone else places a hold on the book.

Checking out

When you’ve chosen your lending period, click the white button that says “Confirm Check Out” at the bottom.

This will bring you to the download page.  Click the white button that says “Download.”  (It’s towards the bottom.)

Downloading the e-book

At this point, the process is different, depending on the format of the e-book you are checking out.  This is an Adobe file, so since I already have the Adobe software, it downloads automatically.  (If you don’t have the software, you will be prompted to download that first.)  Just open the .acsm file and your Adobe digital edition will appear.

If you are checking out a Kindle version, you will choose “Get for Kindle” instead of “Download” (the white button is in the same place as the screenshot above.)  Then you will be taken to the Kindle store.  It will look and work just like when you purchase an e-book through Amazon.  The only difference is that the yellow button (in the green box on the right) says “Get library book,” and, of course, it’s free.

Downloading from the Kindle store

The second yellow button (in the center of the page) says “return book.”  You can do this at any time.  This is going to be particularly helpful if you have reached your limit for e-book downloads and want to return one so that you can check out a new book!

I initially found out that the DC libraries had started to carry e-books during the National Book Festival last September.  I was really excited, but I waited to learn how until I graduated this May.  (I knew it would be way too distracting!)  One of the librarians was kind enough to walk me through this process the first time I tried it.  Hopefully this tutorial helps you!