or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

Reference Question of the Week – 9/27/15

   October 3rd, 2015

no help dialog boxThis interaction actually happened a couple months ago, but I just now found that I had saved it as a draft.

A patron called in one day saying he needed help opening an ebook. Of course I was thinking Overdrive, but after a bit of a discussion, I learned the real story.

He had bought an ebook directly from some self-publishing website (not Amazon), and was trying to open it on his Samsung Android tablet using the Kindle app. And it wasn't working. He had downloaded it on his PC and was trying to transfer via USB to his tablet, but the computer wouldn't recognize the device.

The patron gave me the URL so at least I could see what he was talking about, and learned it was a .mobi ebook. I had hoped the website would have some instructions on opening their ebook, but no such luck. Since I wasn't getting anywhere over the phone, I told him to stop by the Reference Desk next time he came to the library and we'd figure it out.

Please Note: I say this to people all the time. I truly mean it and want to help them, but at the same time, often I need time to research whatever the problem is because I just have no idea. Generally it gives me a couple days to a week to prepare for them, so I look much smarter when they do finally come in.

There happened to be a lull at the desk right then, so I did a quick search on how to open .mobi files on Android and found a very helpful website. Nice, now I'd be ready if this patron ever does come in.

Which was good, because not fifteen minutes later this patron walks up to the desk.

The first thing we did was redownload the ebook directly to the device, instead of using the PC > USB > device route. Next, we followed the steps outlined on the website I found - and it worked perfectly.

The patron was thoroughly impressed - and of course happy. So that's all well and good, a librarian job well done. But, it's what the patron said next that really made my day:

Thanks. Now I can call the company and tell them how to do it. Ha, I would have thought they'd have known this if they are selling these ebooks.


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4 Responses to “Reference Question of the Week – 9/27/15”

  1. Chris Says:

    Interesting that his Kindle app wouldn’t open the .mobi book. Amazon’s AWZ format is based on MOBI with some DRM thrown on top. I’ve read a bunch of MOBI formatted books on both physical Kindle’s and the Android Kindle app.

  2. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Chris: oh, “interesting” questions are what public libraries are all about. Thank goodness they are rarely unique, so someone somewhere on the internet has already encountered it, solved it, and posted an answer.

  3. Emma Says:

    I wonder if he was calling from within the library when he first contacted you. It wouldn’t be the first time.

    Nice work, and I’m glad the patron appreciated it!

  4. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Emma: you know, I hadn’t thought of that. It is possible, but for some reason in this case I suspect he actually wasn’t here at the time.

    However, that reminds me of the time I found someone’s wallet left by the printer. I had no idea how long it had been there, so I looked up the patron’s name in the catalog (based on the license I found in the wallet) to call them. He answered, I said I had his wallet at the Reference Desk – and then he stood up from his work station right next to the Desk and walk over still talking to me on his cell phone. Ha.