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June 27, 2013

For summer reading, try ULS

bookSummer is traditionally the time for light reading, and with the rise of digital books, bibliophiles increasingly are trading their bulky bookbags for more convenient e-readers, tablets and iPods.

While the University Library System is better known for its scholarly books and journals, it also houses a digital collection ideal for summer reading.

ULS’s OverDrive popular listening and reading collection has grown to include more than 2,000 e-books and audiobooks. Since it first was offered three years ago, some 2,000 Pitt library users have checked out ULS’s OverDrive e-book and audiobook titles nearly 15,000 times, said Dennis Smith, ULS’s coordinator for collection development.

Smith, who has a hand in selecting the titles, said the collection includes a mixture of classic and popular fiction and nonfiction titles, chosen with Pitt students, faculty and staff in mind. Although some books may be used in the classroom, the collection isn’t intended for academic works.

“It’s supposed to be for recreational reading,” said Smith.

The collection includes novels, poetry, short stories, biographies, local-interest topics, titles from the “for Dummies” series and more among its more than 2,000 titles. Borrowers also can find academically oriented materials such as GMAT, LSAT and GRE preparation and language instruction audiobooks, Smith said.

Not surprisingly, fiction titles are most popular. ULS circulation records show the top item in the collection has been Stieg Larsson’s “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” which has been checked out more than a hundred times.

Rounding out the top five are an audio version of Suzanne Collins’s “The Hunger Games,” Larsson’s “The Girl Who Played With Fire,” Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers” and George R.R. Martin’s “Game of Thrones.”

Smith said ULS has done little formal promotion of OverDrive, noting that many patrons discover the e-book and audiobook selections as part of a PittCat search. Users also can browse at

While OverDrive digital collections are available through thousands of libraries worldwide (including the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh system) accessing popular titles through ULS, with its smaller user group, can reduce the wait for popular items, Smith noted.

Users must install free software, available through the ULS web site, to enable access to the digital materials. The OverDrive Media Console provides access to e-books and audiobooks via mobile devices while OverDrive Read is a browser-based reader that offers the advantage of reading from multiple devices rather than downloading onto one device.

Setup instructions are at Help screens provide video tutorials and detailed device-specific instructions to help new users get started.

Early compatibility issues among formats and e-readers are diminishing, Smith said. While some older devices are incompatible, most materials can be accessed via desktop platforms running Mac, Windows or Linux; mobile devices including Android, BlackBerry, iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and Windows Phone; e-book readers including Nook, Kindle, Kobo, Adobe Digital Editions and Sony Reader Wi-Fi, and, for audiobooks, MP3 and .wma audio players.

After the initial setup, borrowers can browse the collection by subject, publisher or format and simply click on a title to find more information — some titles include samples — or to borrow. The library limits users to 10 items, which can be borrowed for one-three weeks. If an item is checked out, borrowers can get onto a waiting list to be notified when the book becomes available.

If a specific book isn’t in the collection, Pitt library users can ask ULS to obtain it. “For the most part, if a user requests it, we will get it,” Smith said.

—Kimberly K. Barlow

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