The Dawson County Library is now offering e-book and audiobook rentals through its Web site, and many residents are taking advantage of the new service.
Residents have rented 243 e-books since the service began in January, and the library has added 2,042 new patrons since June 2010.
"Forty-six percent of Dawson County residents have a library card," Branch Manager Stacey Leonhardt said. "And we're hoping that number will go up even more with the addition of the new services."
E-books have steadily grown in popularity, with Web sites such as Amazon.com reporting that it now sells a higher quantity of e-books than standard paper books.
"We're just trying to keep with the times," Leonhardt said. "E-books are more readily available and have lower costs, so offering them is a much more convenient option for the library and our patrons."
Rented e-books may be viewed on home computers and a large number of personal electronic devices, such as iPhones, iPads and Nooks. The books cannot yet be viewed on the Kindle, but that may change soon.
"The Kindle is really associated with amazon.com, but Georgia Download Destination, which is the online host for the e-books, is in talks with Amazon to make those available for the Kindle," Leonhardt said.
The library has more than 1,400 e-books currently available for rental and has also purchased two Nooks.
Leonhardt hopes the Nooks will be available for patron rental within the next few months.
The library's business manager, Peggy King, is an avid user of the new e-book rental system and said there are a variety of reasons why e-books have become as popular, if not more so, than standard paper books.
"(E-books) are easy, convenient and portable," King said. "If you purchase them from your device, you get them instantly."
One of the drawbacks to the library's e-book rental system, King said, is that it can be hard to get a specific book because they are in such high demand.
"Most of the library's rental e-books are on hold, so you have to get in line," King said. "It can be hard to get one."
The library only purchases the rights to one e-book, which means, much like a regular paper book, only one library patron can check out the e-book at a time.
A patron can have five e-books checked out at a time and can choose to check them out for a 7-day or 14-day period.
Leonhardt said the age range of patrons which use the e-book rental system is wide.
"We have younger readers who use them, of course, but the average ages seem to be between 30 and 50," Leonhardt said. "There is also a 90-year-old woman who calls us with questions about her Kindle, so we know that everyone is using e-books now."
Renting e-books and audiobooks from the library is free, but does require a library card. Patrons can browse book titles, put them on hold and rent them at www.chestateelibrary.org.