Library Patrons Want E-Books Over Every Other Downloadable Media

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

Library patrons, it turns out, are just like everybody else when it comes to e-books: increasingly, they want them.

According to the new Patron Profiles report from Library Journal and Bowker, 28% of library patrons want to download e-books at their local libraries. That number increases when it comes to library patrons who also read e-books: nearly two-thirds of those want e-books available at their local libraries.

E-books were more in demand among library patrons than music and video (see chart below).

The report, geared toward librarians planning for the future, recommended that libraries adjust their strategies based on the rise of tablets, other devices and downloaded media.

“There’s no question that library patrons want e-books,” said Rebecca Miller, the editor for the Patron Profiles series and editor-in-chief of School Library Journal. “The big picture context is that libraries are in this they — they want to share e-books and they want to help people discover authors and new titles through e-books.”

While demand for e-books among library patrons and the rest of the population continues to increase, some publishers have been hesitant to make their e-books available to libraries.

Of the six largest U.S. publishers, two have full-fledged agreements with libraries to lend e-books (Random House and HarperCollins), two are currently running pilot programs (Hachette and Penguin) and two are not currently making their books available to libraries (Simon & Schuster and Macmillan).

Proponents of making books available to libraries argue that library patrons who borrow e-books are also e-book buyers and that in a world of dwindling bookstore shelf space, the library is becoming an increasingly important place for readers to discover new authors and new titles — both in print and e-.

The publishers may be hesitant to make their books available to libraries for fear that consumers will borrow them rather than buy them, cutting into sales.

There have been several studies that suggest that library patrons who borrow e-books also buy e-books. The most recent of which was a study conducted by the Pew Internet and American Life project which found that among people who borrow e-books from libraries, 41% bought their last e-book.

“If they borrow, they buy,” said Miller, referring to the Pew study and others. “They discover books in the library. It’s true of e-books and print books.”

Regardless of whether it’s a good deal for publishers or not, library patrons, more than any other media, want to be able to borrow e-books from their library and libraries will be moving to provide that service to them:


Other Findings: Kindle E-Reader Is Still Top, But Tablets Are Big, Too

Among library patrons, the Kindle e-reader is the favored e-reading device, but the Kindle Fire and iPad tablets are nos. two and three respectively. Just over 20% of library patrons own a Kindle e-reader and just over 30% of library “power media users” (defined as those library patrons who borrowed or downloaded any non-tradtional media either daily, weekly or monthly) owned one. About one in five patrons owned a Kindle Fire and about one in six owned an iPad.

According to Miller, the researchers who crafted the analysis of the raw data said that library patrons are a good proxy for the general population and resemble it very closely.

Among the study’s other findings:

— Digital patrons, those patrons who have a smartphone, e-reader or tablet computer, are more active in the library than every other kind of patron across all library activities. From the report: “Currently, 12% of library patrons own tablets, 16% own ereaders, and 28% own smartphones.”

— Library patrons expressed a desire to access library services via mobile apps but many libraries don’t yet have a dedicated app and so only 3% of patrons have used one.

— Library e-patrons, defined as those who visit their library website an average of once a week, go their to determine accessibility of content and to search for information in the library’s special databases. However, they are generally dissatisfied with the quality of their library’s website.

Related: Lack of E-Book Lending Puts Free Access to Information in Jeopardy, Library Report Says | Many E-Book Borrowers Buy, Too, Says Pew Study

Write to Jeremy Greenfield


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