The literary industry may be slow to adapt to an increasingly digital age, but when it comes to technology, Bryan-College Station's libraries are turning a new page.
The local libraries launched an eBook program in February 2012 and have steadily increased the number of titles and users since. They have accumulated 850 titles and 2,000 users, and are close to 10,000 in total circulation.
"Ebooks have been around since the late '90s, but it never caught on before," said Larry Koeninger, library system director for Bryan-College Station. "And then in the last 10 years, or less than that, the handheld devices caught on. I knew there would be a market for it."
Koeninger said offering eBooks has increased the library's popularity among some who were not using it before. He said the younger readers have taken to the next generation of reading devices, and older library patrons have brought in their devices to start using the service.
"We started talking to people in December and January before it launched, and people would come in and get a library card and say 'I want the eBooks so I want to be ready when it gets here,'" Koeninger said.
The library continues to add 40 to 50 books a month, including best sellers and kids titles. Checking out eBooks is similar to the process for the library's paper books -- interested readers still need a library card and get their book for two weeks.
For Ginny Garrison-Tate, occupational therapist for the Bryan school district and avid user of the library's eBook program, it means that when she gets up in the middle of the night to care for a sick child, she can read with one hand on her iPhone.
"You can check out a book at 11 o'clock at night, or on a Sunday, and because it's so easy to return them and check them out there's no commitment," said Garrison-Tate. "It's like reading for lazy people."
The eBooks can be checked out via the Internet and apps on smartphones, tablets and readers such as Nooks and Kindles. They also sync across platforms, keeping track of what page readers are on in all devices.
The eBooks were implemented through the help and grants of the Friends of the Library and the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
Local libraries account for 4.5 percent of Bryan's general funds -- College Station contracts with Bryan to manage and staff its library -- but Koeninger said the city relies on grants to operate the service.
"The economy has been pretty bad, although it is improving, and we did have some rough spots where both cities were looking for ways to trim their budgets and use money more wisely," Koeninger said. "We did what we could, but when you're putting in a new program, there are always new fees, and that's where the grants came in."
College Station Municipal Court Presiding Judge Ed Spillane is one of the users of the eBook program. He said libraries will continue to be the best resources for those who don't have Internet at home.
"It's good that they're keeping up with eBooks -- probably some librarians are afraid of them and think they're going to be the death of libraries, but it's really good they're keeping up with that," Spillane said.