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Getting ebooks from the library is annoying.

I stopped using Kindle about ten years ago because 1) Amazon sucks and 2) I prefer real paper books over ebooks. That said, I have generally kept an ebook on my phone so as to have something to read (that is not social media) when I find myself somewhere with some time to kill and don’t happen to have an actual book on me.

My solution to this need has been to check out ebooks from my local library system via their Libby or Hoopla apps. On Hoopla, it is nearly impossible to find anything I am interested in reading; the selection of titles available on the app is terrible and I have mostly given up on using it for anything besides reading comic books.

Libby is better in this regard. While the selection of available titles available there is a scant fraction of the libraries’ full collections, I have generally been able to find something that will hold my interest.

The reading experience on these apps is not great—I find Hoopla to be particularly clunky—but they get the job done.

My big problem with Libby is this:

Screenshot of wait times in my libraries’ Libby app

Although my libraries have more titles on Libby than on Hoopla, the wait-times on Libby are CRAZY. Yes, I am aware that they are long because the number of “copies” available to the libraries on Libby is limited, and I am also aware that I could manage this by having a very long queue of holds. What I am really looking for is an experience similar to what I have with real books, where I rarely have to wait longer than a week or two for a copy of something I’ve put on hold to come in from one of the branches in the system.

None of this is the libraries’ fault, or even the app makers’ fault. It’s the publishers who hold the rights to this stuff and insist upon ridiculous licensing schemes.

Mostly, I think it is just one more reason why ebooks suck. Could they be awesome? Sure, and I know there are use cases where they offer significant advantages—being able to change the font size is a huge benefit in terms of accessibility, and I get that not everyone wants to or can have a huge collection of paper books in their homes. I also get that plenty of people have worked out systems and practices with apps like Libby that work for them.

For me, they don’t work, and I think it probably goes back to how I view books. These limitations only serve as annoyingly obvious reminders of the differences between ebooks and paper books, and I prefer the latter for bunch of personal and eccentric reasons.

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