The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (and the Interesting) of Libraries and eBooks – Pew’s Latest Report

iRiver Story eBook Reader ReviewThis morning at 12:01 am Pew released their new report on the role of libraries in the digital age – title Libraries, patrons and ebooks. You can read the full report here and I encourage you to do so, there is a great deal of good data there. I’ve pulled out some data that I think falls under the good, the bad, the ugly and the just plain interesting sections.

The good:

Almost 70% of people believe that their local library is important to them

  • 58% of adults are library card holders.
  • 12% of Americans ages 16 and older who read e-books say they have borrowed an e-book from a library in the past year.
  • 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.

The Bad

  • 62% said they did not know if their library offered that service
  • 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.

The Ugly

  • 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.

The Interesting

  • Library card holders are more than twice as likely to have bought their most recent book than to have borrowed it from a library. Many e-book borrowers purchase e-books, too.
  • Among those who read e-books, 41% of those who borrow e-books from libraries purchased their most recent e-book.
  • 55% of  the e-book readers who also had library cards said they preferred to buy their e-books
  • 46% of library card holders said they prefer to purchase print books they want to read
  • Mobile device use increased to 22% of all checkouts
  • the OverDrive Media Console (a free e-book and audiobook app) was installed on 5 million devices, up 84% from the previous year and making the total install base 11 million users.
  • 35 million digital titles were checked out of libraries in 2011, with 17 million holds on e-books
Also worth noting are all the comments from patrons about how they visit their physical library less now and rely on the website and downloadable materials. Make sure you are including your website traffic and ebook usage in your monthly reports!

For those of us who have been embroiled in ebooks for what seems like ages, it is important to note that ebooks are still in the early stages of development and growth.

There is a LOT to think about think about in this report and as you know I’m in Anaheim for ALA right now so I’ll just leave you with this for now.

Although the number of public libraries offering ebooks has doubled in the past 5 years only about 40% of people surveyed were aware that their library offered ebooks. This number is alarming to me for two reasons – first I am surprised that it is so low, those serving on the frontlines of libraries will tell you that they are often overwhelmed with issues related to ebooks. Second if we are swamped by ebook issues now imagined if that number increase only by half and you were 50 percent busier with ebook issues that will still only be 60% of the population. And the truth is that we probably don’t want those people showing up at the library looking for ebooks right now anyway when pickings are so slim.

I know some people are going to look at this report and announce that libraries need to market “more better” but I’m going to disagree with this one. Market what? A poor selection? A cumbersome interface with needless friction. Let’s spend our energy getting a service we’re not ashamed of before we spend our energy marketing to patrons.

Libraries are still prevented by publishers from lending the majority of ebooks to the public. Libraries are still forced to used an unnecessarily complicated system to loan ebooks in the name of “friction”

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10 comments for “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (and the Interesting) of Libraries and eBooks – Pew’s Latest Report

  1. Amy
    June 22, 2012 at 6:35 pm

    Bobbi, can you clarify what this one means?

    Mobile device use increased to 22% of all checkouts the OverDrive Media

    Thx!

    • June 22, 2012 at 8:00 pm

      It’s a bullet point in the wrong place :-) it should read like this
      -Mobile device use increased to 22% of all checkouts
      -the OverDrive Media Console (a free e-book and audiobook app) was installed on 5 million devices, up 84% from the previous year and making the total install base 11 million users

  2. Amy
    June 22, 2012 at 8:02 pm

    Oh!! Thx! Ok… I WAS also wondering what the ‘console’ was and was going to go looking to download it bc I hadn’t heard of that one!!! ;-) Got it now!!! Thx!!

  3. June 25, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    “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.”

    This is about 50% of the people I help in my one on one tech classes. They don’t understand why we have the books on our shelves but they can’t get the ebook version of it.

  4. Jaylyn
    June 29, 2012 at 10:10 am

    Hi Ms. Newman,

    I would really like your opinion on something. I currently work as a GLA in an academic library and will graduate this December with my MLS. I became the happy owner of a Kindle before I started my masters and before libraries started lending ebooks. A librarian I work with is constantly lecturing me on how evil Kindles are and of course Amazon, too Mainly because of how Amazon saves the information about books you check out and purchase on your Kindle.

    I’ve told this librarian that I of course did not purchase a Kindle in support of them tracking me. I also still love checking out physical books from libraries. It’s just now I have an option to see if it’s available electronically if not I go to the library and check it out instead.

    Additionally I read an article today that was tweeted by Margaret Atwood: http://online.wsj.com/article_email/SB10001424052702304870304577490950051438304-lMyQjAxMTAyMDIwODEyNDgyWj.html

    It’s about how BN and Amazon are now tracking information about how far readers are reading into their books, what books people prefer, what lines are being highlighted the most, and what can these companies gather from this information to provide ereader users with books they prefer.

    I don’t know whether to be worried or not about this. Reading used to be an intimate pass time for me. I would admire the fact that people had no idea what kind of entertainment I was getting out of my current read, whether I finished my books or not, or whether I read multiple books at a time or just one. No one knew unless I told them or read in public.

    I was wondering what your thoughts were on eBooks reading us.

    Jaylyn

  5. Sharon Vaughn
    July 4, 2012 at 10:47 am

    Great stats. Congrats on the award, BTW. My library recently purchased 18 Simple Touch devices from the local B&N and have seen a remarkable checkout. The devices have preloaded collections of fiction and nonfiction. Just this week we launched our collection of ebooks available through 3M Cloud for patrons to download to their personal devices. I’ll let you know how that develops.

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