Did you know that you can borrow Kindle e-books from your city’s library? According to a recent study, most Kindle owners didn’t know that libraries now lend out e-books to members free of charge – just like a normal book.
The study was performed by Pew’s Internet & American Life Project. It concluded that only 12% of Americans over the age of 16 have borrowed an e-book from a library within the past year. Furthermore, less than half of tablet owners even knew that e-books were available at their local library.
Among people who do know about library e-books, they tended to avoid borrowing again because of various issues with e-book distribution. Libraries buy licensing for only a select number of e-book copies, which means they can only lend out a few books at a time. For popular books and recent releases, this leads to long waiting lists.
Another problem facing libraries is the fact that many books are not yet available in e-book format. Or, if they are, the library hasn’t purchased digital copies of those books yet. This leaves library patrons with a limited choice of titles.
Furthermore, researchers suggested that readers are more likely to buy a book after reading a review online as opposed to hearing about it from a librarian. This means more people are shopping on Amazon’s online store and then walking into libraries to find the books they need.
What are libraries doing to change this trend?
According to Pew researchers, libraries have been making a conscious effort to expand e-books across their system. The process is slow and ongoing, but there has been a significant shift towards e-books already.
One of the librarians surveyed said that fewer and fewer people are walking into the library to browse through bookshelves. Instead, they’re looking at the library’s collection of books online before deciding whether they need to come in at all.
To address the long waiting lines for popular new e-books, librarians say they have created an email alert system that notifies patrons when their book is ready to download. More funding is also being funnelled towards e-books as opposed to physical copies. Since e-books are cheaper than physical texts, libraries end up with more copies when they purchase e-books.
Ultimately, this issue illustrates just how much tablets like the Kindle are changing our world. The role of librarians has changed significantly over the past few years. Today, librarians focus more than ever on technical support – they manage digital catalogs and e-book borrowing as opposed to organizing physical book placement within the library.
In twenty years, will anybody even visit a physical library? Or will all borrowing be done over the internet?
To read the complete report by Pew, click here.