According to a new study conducted by Pew’s Internet & American Life Project, nearly six out of ten library patrons weren’t even aware that they could borrow e-books for free from their library. Furthermore, only twelve percent of Americans above the age of 16 have borrowed an e-book from their local library in the past twelve months. Specific to technology, fifty-three percent of tablet owners didn’t know about the availability of library e-books and 48 percent of Kindle and Nook owners were just as uninformed. In addition, approximately half of respondents that have read at least one e-book in the past year weren’t aware about library e-book borrowing .
Of the small portion of people that have checked out an e-book in the last year, half of those people haven’t been able to locate a particular book in an electronic format or found a long waiting list to get access to the book.
Since libraries pay for a limited number of copies to legally lend out, many libraries use an email waiting list to notify a patron about the availability of the book. Once the book is returned by another patron, the next patron on the waiting list receives an email and has a limited amount of time to download the title. An additional eighteen percent of those people were able to locate the correct book, but the book format wasn’t compatible with their e-reader or tablet.
Americans that do have a library card are much more likely to own and use more technology than people without cards. Pew researchers found that eighty-seven percent of library card holders owned their own desktop or laptop computer compared to sixty-seven percent of people without a library card. However, that difference was much smaller with mobile phone ownership.
Likely interesting to companies like Amazon that sell e-books, over forty percent of the people that regularly read e-books checked out from the library purchased the last book that they read. In addition, library card holders also read about twice as many books per year as people without a library card.
This is likely one reason why Amazon promotes the Lending Library feature in order to encourage Kindle owners to use the e-reader more and discover new books. When it comes to finding new books, an e-book borrower is much more likely to get a book recommendation from an online review over a recommendation from a staff member at a bookstore or a librarian.
When Pew researchers asked librarians about the influence of e-books on the library, many librarians stated that library patrons were visiting the physical library location less and seeking out information about the library’s collection through the Internet. In addition, the purchasing policy is shifting at most libraries to free up funds to purchase more copies of e-books. Money to fund these purchases is being moved from physical, printed copies as well as audio books on compact disc. The role of librarians is also shifting to a larger role in technical support in order to help library patrons download copies of e-books to their devices as well as search the library catalog through an online site instead of a local database.