Correction to This Article
An earlier version of this column incorrectly described the speed of an entry-level digital-subscriber-line Internet connection. It is 1.5 megabits, not megabytes, per second. This version has been corrected.
Help File

E-book readers, except Kindle, offer digital loans from libraries

Barnes & Noble's NookColor
Barnes & Noble's NookColor (Barnes & Noble Nook Color)
  Enlarge Photo    
By Rob Pegoraro
Sunday, February 13, 2011

Q: What e-book readers will let me take out digital loans from local libraries?

A: The answer boils down to "anything but the Kindle." Amazon's e-reader has many virtues, but compatibility with e-book library loans is not one of them. Amazon has yet to add the necessary software.

Most other e-book devices, however, do support the digitally locked files available at an increasing number of libraries.

The District's public libraries and those of most nearby cities and counties, for example, use the OverDrive e-lending system. A list of compatible devices on that Cleveland firm's site includes Barnes & Noble's Nook and NookColor, Sony's line of Reader devices and the Kobo eReader - but not the Kindle.

OverDrive also provides software for the iPhone and iPad, Android devices, BlackBerry and Windows Mobile phones, and computers running Windows or Mac OS X.

A few libraries have found a different way to provide Kindle-compatible e-book loans: They lend Kindles to patrons.

Q: Will the DSL service I can get at home - 1.5 megabits per second - enable me to download television programs?

A: That speed, about 26 times a dial-up connection, was once an upper limit for most home broadband services. It's now more of a floor; many mobile-broadband services offer faster downloads.

It's still fast enough to download even high-definition video for offline viewing, given enough time. But for streaming - viewing a program in real time off a site - it will only allow standard-definition quality, and even that might drop out at times.

© 2011 The Washington Post Company