pew-pew-catPew Research has a report out on how people interact with libraries. InfoDocket has a summary of some of the more interesting findings. Of particular note, more people now know their libraries lend e-books (38%, up from 31% in 2012) but 46% of library patrons 16 or older don’t know if their library has e-books. Given that 95% of all libraries in the US do have e-book collections, this seems like a pretty big knowledge gap.

Even those who are aware their library lends e-books don’t necessarily take advantage of it:

Some 16% of those who are aware their library lends e-books have downloaded an e-book from their public library – that amounts to 6% of all those ages 16 and older who have borrowed an e-book from their library.

The report also suggests that use of libraries is decreasing, and the ALA has announced a new publicity campaign, “Libraries Transform,” to try to turn this around.

Other interesting findings: 50% of public library website users accessed it with a mobile device (tablet or smartphone), up from 39% in 2012. Also:

45% say that libraries should “definitely” purchase new digital technologies such as 3-D printers to let people explore how to use them. Another 35% say libraries should “maybe” do this.

This puts me in mind of a panel I attended during Gen Con Trade Day, in which a librarian from Ferris State University discussed the importance of libraries as sandboxes, offering access to new digital and technological tools people couldn’t necessarily find elsewhere. At the time, the panel impressed me with a demonstration of how libraries could continue to be centers for developing knowledge and learning in more ways than just checking out books to people.

But on the other hand, I wonder just how useful that will be if people don’t know about it? If almost half of all library patrons don’t even know whether their library offers something as basic as e-books, while 95% of them do, it seems like there is a failing in passing knowledge along somehow.

But then, even among those who do know their library has e-books, only 1 in 6 has bothered to check them out. Are people just not that interested in e-books? Or do they find the process for checking out e-books too complex? I haven’t found anything that hard about checking them out from my local library, though I only download them to my PC.

It does seem a bit strange that e-books are so seldom-used, especially since you can check them out without even having to go into the library itself. You’d think they’d be more popular, given that e-book sales will be surpassing print sales within just a few years.


  1. When most e-books were under ten dollars I would just go ahead and buy them. However now that many books that I would have purchased have ballooned to 14.99 I have been strongly nudged to consider other options. I am now buying budget books that I had been underestimating and have started taking out e-books from the library. Selection is not great unfortunately. Library borrowing will pick up as consumers grow more frustrated with the agency driven pricing.
    The major publishers are really changing my buying habits. No more impulsive buys here. If I think the book will be good I wait for the library to hopefully pick it up.
    There is a small mental hurdle to starting with library borrowing…but once started it is hard to stop. Lost sales for overpriced e-books.

  2. My library uses Overdrive and I love it. I use it constantly. When brand new books come out that I want to read I just put a hold on them and I get them automatically in a few days or weeks. You can also put a book you want on a wish list for them to get. I am an voracious reader and can’t imagine paying even a dollar for each book I read. I also don’t have to store the ones I buy anywhere – after two weeks the automatically delete unless I renew. This is especially great for when I am traveling and want an audiobook to keep me awake. I much prefer the overdrive format to Kindles.
    Yeah San Diego County Library!

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