Tiffany Hughey is an avid reader who could easily stroll into a bookstore and spend $50 to $100.
But that chapter of her life appears to be ending.
Recently, while working as a library technician in Kaiserslautern, Germany, Hughey discovered the Army Digital Media Library. It allows library patrons to check out electronic and audio books for free, works such as “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” by Stieg Larsson or “The Confession” by John Grisham.
“It is a simple process, and you save tons of money,” said Hughey, who hasn’t purchased a book in more than five months.
To stay current with the growing number of high-tech reading devices, the Army’s electronic library offers audio, e-books and video to military ID card holders, said Eric McCarthy, a spokesman for the European Regional Library Support Center.
It all works much like a physical library, where books are checked out for a certain period of time. Patrons can check out a file, and then go online to return it when they are done so they can check out more — up to five can be checked out at a time. If it is not returned, the ability to view it or hear it will disappear when the allotted time is up.
Customers have the option of signing out electronic and audio books for up to three weeks, and videos for as long as a week, McCarthy said. Audio books cannot be returned early.
The files are protected by a digital rights management system, and cannot be duplicated by the person who has checked them out.
To get access to the site’s privileges, patrons must go to their local base library and show proof they have Morale, Welfare and Recreation privileges through their Department of Defense ID card. They then will be set up with an account, Web login and PIN.
The downloadable material on the website is compatible with devices such as iPads, iPods, Zunes and Sony Readers, but not with Amazon’s Kindle. McCarthy encouraged patrons to use the website’s help screen to figure out which devices are compatible with which downloads.
The website stockpile currently consists of 1,896 e-books, 2,266 audio books and 942 movies. The online venue offers patrons the opportunity to borrow material no matter their location.
“It is really trying to give people a library wherever they are … educational and entertainment products 24/7,” said Christina Kruger, who is in charge of purchasing for the digital media library. The site offers something for everyone from picture books for children to college-level learning material, she said.
The online library is constantly adding books, McCarthy said. When there is an especially high demand for a certain book, the library will purchase extra copies of the same book license. Library users can suggest books, which, if approved, sometimes could be available as early as the next day. They also have the opportunity to establish wish lists, and to rate books they have read.
The website was launched four years ago, but nonmilitary users have only recently been able to access it, McCarthy said. The service works in addition to Army Knowledge Online and other Army e-Learning libraries that provide additional material for ID card holders to download. Other options available are MyiLibrary and NetLibrary.
According to Kruger, online membership has increased more than 25 percent since it was opened to additional users in January.
She noted that the electronic library will not cost the Army any additional money, explaining that online books cost about the same as an actual book. However, these newfangled books don’t take up space and have the ability to reach customers that normally could not be reached.
“The sky is the limit,” Kruger said.
And for individual patrons, the price could not be better.
“It is definitely worth trying out,” Hughey said. “I mean, the items are free.”
For information, visit www.library.eur.army.mil or army.lib.overdrive.com. For additional questions or suggestions call Christina Kruger at DSN 370-6678 or 06221-57-6678. Deployed servicemembers who do not have access to a local library can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to get access to the website. Spouses can also get logins for soldiers who are deployed.