Plenty of people still prefer the look and feel of a physical book: the binding, the pages, the ink, the covers, the fact you don't have to plug it in or have batteries to access it.

Still, there is no denying the effect digital books have had on reading in recent years, including activities at Southwest Public Libraries.

Sometimes, library patrons will ask if we are worried about ebooks. If more people read digital copies of books, does that mean less business for the library? Actually, more people using ebooks and digital audiobooks means more business for the library. Through the library, patrons can borrow and download books.

Between Jan. 1 and Oct. 14, Southwest Public Libraries patrons checked out 127,221 digital items through OverDrive, a digital downloads collaboration that includes the system as a member. The service offers access to thousands of online books and audiobooks, and patrons can search by title, author, subject, genre and more.

Of those digital items checked out, 80,949 were ebooks and 46,270 were e-audiobooks. That is an increase of 8.3 percent compared to the same time range last year for total OverDrive circulation.

Adult fiction makes up most of the titles with more than 92,000 downloads, followed by adult nonfiction with 17,530 and young adult fiction with 9,500.

People are still opening books, just in another form.

OverDrive is not the only ebook service the library system offers.

Items also may be borrowed through Hoopla, another service patrons can access for free using their library cards. Hoopla offers access to digital books, movies and music.

From Jan. 1 to Oct. 14, Southwest library patrons circulated 10,419 items through Hoopla. Audiobooks were downloaded the most, at 3,420 times, while ebooks were downloaded 1,771 times and comic books 763. Combined, literature made up 5,954 of the items borrowed from Hoopla, or more than 57 percent.

That is impressive considering Hoopla's catalog of music, movies and TV shows. Even with other options, patrons are choosing books in one form or another.

Library patrons are limited to checking out 10 items per month through Hoopla, which is based on the fee the library pays. For OverDrive, patrons can check out up to 10 items at a time. For both catalogs, borrowed items are returned automatically, so there is no worrying about being overdue.

OverDrive and Hoopla are available through the library system's website, They are under the "ebooks and more" tab. These services can also be downloaded through any app store. To sign up and begin using these services, a patron will need a library card number and PIN.

Mark Dubovec is communications manager for Southwest Public Libraries. Contact him at