Library goes digital with magazines

Alpena County Library aims to keep pace with the latest in technology and as such, is among the first libraries in the United States to offer a wide selection of electronic magazines downloadable for free on personal digital devices.

Through its purchase of a new program called Zinio Digital Magazines, the library now is able to offer access to 136 different electronic magazines that range from ESPN the Magazine and Family Circle to Forbes, Harper’s Bazaar, Newsweek and Cosmopolitan.

“It’s an extremely new program,” said Library Director Eric Magness-Eubank. “We are one of the first libraries in the country to actually do this. There are only a handful of libraries offering this right now.”

Magness-Eubank recently came across a press release announcing availability of the new program and approached Superiorland Library Cooperative about the possibility of participating in Zinio as a group. Alpena has been a member of the cooperative, which collectively agreed to participate, since 2008. Cooperative member libraries are each paying a portion of the total cost for using Zinio, with Alpena’s annual share amounting to $2,000.

“The selection includes both popular and special interest magazines for a wide range of ages and interests,” Magness-Eubank said.

Despite the new wave of technology, the library’s print magazine section remains ever popular with patrons, and Magness-Eubank said what is offered there in print won’t be impacted at all by the new added option of downloading digital magazines.

“We are not making a move toward digital and away from print magazines,” he said. “Coming into the library and reading the newspapers and magazines is very popular for people.”

Currently available on site are a dozen different newspapers and between 150 and 160 different print version magazines.

For those interested in using Zinio, a library card is required. Patrons can read the new digital versions on just about any screen or device, including PCs, smartphones, tablets and Kindle Fire. Once a library card is obtained, an individual Zinio account is established and patrons can then check out any of the magazines.

Unlike eBooks available through the library where only one or two copies of a book are available for circulation and waiting times can last multiple weeks, the electronic magazines can be read by any number of patrons at the same time. Zinio also will send patrons notification of when new issues of magazines they like become available.

The library periodically offers computer-related classes, and one on how to use Zinio is expected in the near future.

Total circulation of materials at the library for 2012 came in at 296,000, which is up slightly from the previous year. About 20 percent of the 296,000 items checked out last year were in the form of eBooks.

The library owns 93,000 books in its print collection and about 2,000 books in its eBook collection. On average, close to 900 items are checked out each day.