June 25, 2012
Exposing Potential Buyers to eBooks by Lending Them
This past year, the online resources with the highest public profile are e-books and e-readers. As demand for e-books soars, libraries of all sizes have added e-books to their collections. In the 2011-2012 study, 76.3 percent of libraries report offering access to e-books, up from 67.2 percent in 2010-2011 and 38.3 percent in 2007 (the first year this question appeared in the study). Additionally, e-readers have increasingly become a fixture in public libraries, with 39.1 percent of outlets providing access to such devices. Increasing e-book circulation statistics is likely attributed to a growing awareness of the availability of e-books at public libraries and Kindle’s compatibility with OverDrive, the subscription service that the majority of libraries with e-book collections use.
But according to Pew Internet's Libraries, patrons, and e-books survey "12% of readers of e-books borrowed an e-book from the library in the past year. But a majority of Americans do not know that this service is provided by their local library."
- 58% of all library card holders say they do not know if their library provides e-book lending services.
- 55% of all those who say the library is “very important” to them say they do not know if their library lends e-books.
- 53% of all tablet computer owners say they do not know if their library lends e-books.
- 48% of all owners of e-book reading devices such as original Kindles and NOOKs say they do not know if their library lends e-books.
- 47% of all those who read an e-book in the past year say they do not know if their library lends e-books.
Pew's survey also found that e-Book public library borrowers' expectations are not always being met for a number of reasons:
- 56% of e-book borrowers from libraries say that at one point or another they had tried to borrow a particular book and found that the library did not carry it.
- 52% of e-book borrowers say that at one point or another they discovered there was a waiting list to borrow the book.
- 18% of e-book borrowers say that at one point or another they found that an e-book they were interested in was not compatible with the e-reading device they were using.
One can make the case that eBook borrowers are not aware of the general trade industry's relucant to provide public libraries with lending copies of eBooks under a model similar to pBooks. Public library patrons expectations are based on their experience with the availability of borrowing pBooks. Since Pew's survey found that "58% of Americans have a library card, and 69% say that their local library is important to them and their family" one can expect user demand for eBooks to increase.
Pew's findings indicate that library card holders use more technology, and library card holders report that they read more books. The survey also found that many library patrons would like to learn more about borrowing eBooks.
- 46% of those who do not currently borrow e-books from libraries say they would be “very” or “somewhat” likely to borrow an e-reading device that came loaded with a book they wanted to read.
- 32% of those who do not currently borrow e-books say they would be “very” or “somewhat” likely to take a library class on how to download e-books onto handheld devices.
- 32% of those who do not currently borrow e-books say they would be “very” or “somewhat” likely to take a course at a library in how to use an e-reader or tablet computer.
Learning how to use an eReader or tablet computer is just one facet of the role public libraries play in providing tech training for patrons. According to ALA:
- Overall, 90.2 percent of public libraries offer some type of formal or informal technology training:
- Over 44 percent of libraries offer formal technology training classes. This increases to 63.2 percent for urban libraries.
- Over one-third (34.8 percent) of libraries provide one-on-one training by appointment.
- A large majority (82.7 percent) of libraries offer informal point-of-use training assistance.
- In all, over 36 percent of public libraries report increased use of technology training classes for patrons.
Being the source for tech training and digital literacy for members of the public, one can make the case that public library may enhance the sale of eBooks and eReaders to personal consumers if the general trade industry moved to a more reasonable lending solution for eBooks. Sales of eReaders and tablets and eBooks may increase after wider exposure to patrons in a public library setting.
Lending Law eBooks. The same argument can be made for law libraries' user populations. Absent a lending solution to expose and educate library users in the benefits of enhanced law eBooks and their eReader platforms, sales of single copy Law eBooks to individual practitioners could be less than what vendors are hoping for. Lexis is the only eBook-eLending publisher that has realized this right now. The eCirculation solution offered by Lexis has also solved the format compatiblity problem for user eReaders because lending copies of Lexis eBooks are available in both epub and mobi formats at no additional cost to the lending library. [JH]