Not too long ago, when bulky VHS tapes were first giving way to sleek DVDs, the York County Library System didn't exactly jump at the chance to add the new-fangled technology to its collection.
"Back then, we waited until more people had DVDs before we started buying them," said spokeswoman Deb Sullivan.
But that kind of thinking is so 1999.
This time, as digital readers become increasingly popular with literary fans, York County's libraries are riding the wave, Sullivan said. Now, a full year after the library system introduced its eBooks branch, more than 40,000 titles are available to its members in a text or audio format.
"We're always looking at what is the library of the future," Sullivan said. "It's important to us to continue to be viable and to meet the needs of our readers."
"This time we really felt it was important to be ahead of the curve," she said.
Availability: The eBranch -- where library patrons can "borrow" digital versions of everything from cookbooks to novels -- is available to anyone with a library card, which is free.
The technology has proven popular among some surprising demographics, Sullivan said.
"Some of the seniors really like it because they can increase the font size," she said.
The eBranch launched in April 2011. In its first 11 months, users borrowed nearly 60,000 items from the eBranch.
Sullivan said the library system saw a big jump in eBranch users during the holiday season, presumably because digital readers have become popular Christmas gifts.
"They were renewing their library cards so that they could be sure to be able to download eBooks to use their new technology," she said.
Devices: However, you don't need a Kindle, a Nook or an iPad to take advantage of the eBranch. Sullivan said she uses
her laptop to read from cookbooks in the kitchen and listens to audio books on her desktop computer at work.
Of the system's more than 616,000 items, about 41,000 are available on the eBranch. The most popular eBranch book in March? "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett.
No matter how people feel about digital readers, the eBranch has a major advantage over traditional libraries, Sullivan said.
"You never have late fees," she said. "For people like me who are forgetful or are extremely busy, you don't have to worry about returning it. It's going to go back automatically."
-- Reach Erin James at 505-5439 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ydcity.