More than half of Americans with library cards don’t know whether they can borrow e-books from the library, though over 75 percent of public libraries offer this service, says a Pew study released today.
The Pew Internet study focuses on how the popularization of e-books has affected the borrowing habits of library patrons. It found that although e-books are becoming more common and library patrons are more tech-savvy than the general public, most people are still not doing their borrowing in digital form.
According to the study, library-card holders are more likely to use the Internet, own cellphones and computers, and plan to purchase e-readers or tablets. Even so, only 12 percent of American e-book readers age 15 and older borrowed an e-book in the past year. Sixty-six percent of the people who did so said that the library’s digital selection was good.
The report also states that the rise of technology has changed both patrons’ habits and the role of librarians. Patrons increasingly use library Web sites in lieu of browsing at the local branch, and a number of libraries are shifting funds toward purchasing e-books instead of printed books. In addition, many librarians noted that they are receiving more technical-support questions rather than reference-related ones.
Librarians quoted in the report expressed concerns regarding the future of library-publisher collaboration. Of the “big six” book publishers (Hachette, HarperCollins, Random House, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, and Penguin), Simon & Schuster and Macmillan still do not sell e-books to libraries. Of the remaining publishers, only Random House has no restrictions on digital titles; Hachette does not allow lending of its most recent titles, and HarperCollins requires libraries to repurchase an e-book after it has been checked out 26 times.
On June 21, Penguin Group announced that it will make its e-books available six months after initial publication for patrons of the New York Public Library and the Brooklyn Public Library.
The full report is available online at the Pew Internet Web site.