New Survey Supports That Ebook Borrowers Buy, Too

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See the future of ebook library lending unfold at Digital Book World 2013 in January in New York — there is an entire track on ebooks and libraries. Early bird deadline for the lowest rates ends Nov. 16 — register today!

Readers who borrow ebooks from libraries also buy books at an impressive clip — and their buying has accelerated, according to a new survey.

An online poll of 75,000 library patrons conducted by Cleveland-based library lending platform OverDrive and the American Library Association found that those who borrow ebooks also buy about 3.2 print books and ebooks per month. Further, 44% of survey respondents reported that their digital content purchases have increased over the past six months.

The finding supports that of a study from earlier in the year from the Pew Internet and American Life project which found that among those who borrow ebooks, 41% bought the last book they read.

“Library lending encourages people to experiment with new authors, topics and genre — which is good for the entire reading and publishing ecosystem,” said Carrie Russell, director of the ALA’s Office for Information Technology Policy, in a statement.

The ALA and libraries nationwide are eager to convince publishers that libraries offer them a solution to one of their growing problems: How will readers discover new books in a world of disappearing bricks-and-mortar bookshelf space?

Publishers, however, have been slow to work with libraries on ebook lending with two of the largest U.S. publishers currently not selling ebooks to libraries under any conditions: Macmillan and Simon & Schuster (though there have been reports of a Macmillan library lending pilot program). Of the other four largest U.S. publishers, Random House sells ebooks to libraries at a much higher price than consumers pay; HarperCollins does so under the stipulation that each copy can only be borrowed by a patron 26 times until it must be repurchased; and Penguin and Hachette are currently running ebook lending pilot programs. Many smaller publishers work with OverDrive and 3M, another ebook library lending vendor, to allow libraries to buy and lend ebooks.

Publishers worry that if readers can borrow their ebooks for free and easily, they won’t buy them, cannibalizing their business.

With the Penguin and Hachette pilots, publishers seem to be slowly coming around to working with libraries over ebooks. Perhaps not fast enough for libraries. In Sept., an open letter from the ALA to publishers set off a tense week between libraries in publishers. The letter sharply criticized publishers for not selling their ebooks to libraries. The Association of American Publishers responded with its own strongly worded letter. The timing was poor as the associations had agreed earlier to meet in New York to an audience of publishers and press over the issue.

At the meeting, the ALA admitted that librarian patience with the ALA’s leadership on the issue had run out. Publishers later criticized the ALA for not proposing solutions that work for publishers. There hasn’t been much public movement on the issue since.

 

Other findings from the survey:

— 57% of patrons cited the public library as their primary source of book discovery
— 53% would consider purchasing books discovered on a library website
— 53% visit both the physical library and download ebooks
— 35% purchased the print or ebook after borrowing that title
— Dedicated e-reading devices were the most commonly used devices to read ebooks borrowed from the library with 84% of patrons using them
— Desktops and laptops (20%), smartphones (19%) and tablet computers (18%) were all less popular reading devices
— Mobile devices accounted for about a third of checkouts and of Web traffic at OverDrive-powered library websites in August, up 100% versus the same period last year

In the statement on the survey, OverDrive said that it is now in two-thirds of U.S. libraries and is able to service 87% of the U.S. population.

See the future of ebook library lending unfold at Digital Book World 2013 in January in New York — there is an entire track on ebooks and libraries. Early bird deadline for the lowest rates ends Nov. 16 — register today!

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