Library Patrons Buy Books They Borrow, Study Says

By Jeremy Greenfield, Editorial Director, Digital Book World, @JDGsaid

While publishers and libraries work out their relationship in the digital age, a new study suggests that publishers may be leaving money on the table.

Library patrons use the library to discover new books, and many of them buy books they discover there or even buy books that they have previously borrowed, according to a survey of 2,000 library patrons by Library Journal and Bowker.

Related: E-Book Lending Rises, Publishers Grapple With Change

Nearly a fifth of all patrons use the library to discover near content, a quarter purchased a book they discovered at a library and a quarter bought a book by an author they had discovered through the library.

The results among library “power patrons,” those who visit the library most often, about 21% of the whole, were even better. More than a third of power patrons use the library to discover new content, nearly 40% purchased a book they discovered and nearly two thirds bought a book by an author discovered through the library.

For every two books they borrow, power patrons buy one. And, maybe most surprising, nearly two thirds of power patrons buy books that they had previously borrowed at the library.

While most libraries have e-book collections, their collections average about 4,000 titles, far too few to meet demand, said Barbara Genco, who delivered the survey results at the Tools of Change conference in New York this morning.

Genco made a passionate plea to publishers to work with libraries to help drive discoverability while serving library patrons.

“Don’t let library patrons be casualties in the e-book wars,” she said.

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