Thinking about giving (or receiving!) a tablet, e-book reader or smartphone this holiday season? The Santa Barbara Public Library System has stuffed the virtual shelves with thousands of e-books that are compatible with Kindles, Nooks, iPads, iPhones and most other smartphones, tablets and reading devices.

Free e-book checkouts are available through the library’s Web site 24 hours a day, seven days a week — holidays included!

The nearly 5,000 e-books in the library system’s growing collection include bestsellers, popular books for adults, teens and children, biographies and other nonfiction, mysteries and science fiction. Checking out a library e-book is easier than ever, now that free apps are available for iPhone/iPad, Android, Blackberry and Windows Phone 7.

Library e-books can be checked out directly to your mobile device, or they can be checked out using a Microsoft Windows-compatible or Macintosh computer.

The library is adding hundreds of new titles for all ages, and additional copies of high-demand titles, just in time for the holidays. Look for these titles to show up on the library’s virtual shelves on Christmas Eve.

These additional purchases are made possible by the Friends of the Santa Barbara Public Library and other generous donations.

“The growing demand for e-books made it clear that the library needed to commit additional funds to this format,” library Director Irene Macias said. “Friends of the Library and individual donors are such an important part of our budget — without them, the library would need to greatly curtail purchases such as these.”

All that is needed to get started is a free Santa Barbara Public Library System card. For instructions and links to the free apps, click here and then click on the link for “Downloadable eBooks and Audiobooks.”

For more information, call the Central Library reference staff at 805.564.5604.

— Roger Hiles is a library services manager for the Santa Barbara Public Library System.