Even though it’s not officially winter until Dec. 21, it’s getting cold and it gets dark early. It’s a great time to curl up by the fire with a good book and a hot beverage. But the library hours are limited, and who wants to go out in this weather anyway?

What if you could have access to thousands of free books, audiobooks and magazines anytime, 24/7, with just a few clicks? You can with a digital device and your HPL library card.

In conjunction with Illinois Heartland Library System, Hoopeston Public Library currently provides patrons with three different online libraries: Cloud Library, RBDigital, and Overdrive/Libby. All three are accessible with your computer (desktop or laptop), tablet or smartphone.

Because they are book-sized and portable, most digital readers prefer some type of tablet. Which one should you buy? It really depends on your budget, but the highest priced models aren’t necessarily the best.

Retail giant Amazon sells two types of reading devices: the Paperwhite e-reader and the FIRE tablet.

However, the Paperwhite is not compatible with the Hoopeston Public Library’s digital libraries.

FIRE tablets come in three sizes, with 7, 8 and 10- inch screens and are definitely the most affordable de- vices out there. During the holidays (and periodically throughout the year), Amazon runs special sales and you can pick up a 7-inch FIRE for as little as $40. The FIRE comes with either 16 or 32Gb of memory, which can be upgraded with an added SD card. The FIRE can also be used for email, games or general Internet browsing.

Barnes & Noble customers are likely acquainted with that company’s e-reader, the Nook. There are two ver- sions of Nook currently available, the Glowlight and the Nook tab. The Glowlight is not compatible with the library’s digital libraries, and is basically just an e-reader. The Nook tablet is a specially branded model of the Samsung Galaxy tab, and can use other apps from the Google Play Store. Both currently are priced at about $150.

If you are an Apple user, all of the digital libraries are compatible with all models of iPad devices. Prices on the various iPads start around $350.

Before purchasing any reading device, you should consider carefully who will be using it and what it will be used for. All of them require Wi-Fi service to set up the reading apps and download books, but once books are downloaded, they can be used anywhere. HPL’s free Wi-Fi can be accessed even from the library’s parking lot.

If you are comfortable with a smartphone, you can probably learn to use a reading tablet. In addition to the brands previously mentioned, there are many other Android tablets available in both retail stores and online, and prices on many start under $100.

The HPL staff is always available to help set up the various reading apps on patron devices, or to help you select the best model for your needs. During Covid, they can schedule appointments and will follow all proper safety protocols.

The Hoopeston Public Library is currently offering curbside services from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday and from 3-8 p.m. on Tuesday. Patrons can call the library during these hours at 217-283-6711 to order or pick-up books and materials or faxing and copying services.

The library will be closed for the holidays Dec. 24-26 and from Dec. 31-Jan. 2.

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