High Demand for eBooks in Libraries

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The American thirst for eBooks keeps growing, and yet, one of the cornerstones of the American reading scene is still not a big enough player: libraries have yet to offer enough eBooks to accommodate the recent surge in digital reading. According to a new study, 53% of American readers feel that there should be more eBooks in libraries. If the demand is there, why aren’t more eBooks available?

The answer is a little confusing. Large publishers are wary of offering digital titles to libraries for fear of losing some of their market. However, study after study has proven that readers who go to libraries and read eBooks, end up buying even more books than those with only the option of buying eBooks online. Until the publishers come to a consensus about how best to lend eBooks, the amount of eBooks in libraries will still remain below the apparent demand, and this is bad news for readers.

“The availability of eBooks isn’t happening fast enough,” says Christopher Platt, the Director of Collections and Circulation Operations at The New York Public Library. “The availability hasn’t kept up with the demand. The demand is there. Our eBook usage over the last few years has risen six-fold.

Libraries play a huge role in promoting technology adoption. From the Internet to tablet computing, libraries are where many Americans go to familiarize themselves with new technology. Typically, when publishers do allow eBooks to be lent by libraries, they charge them an exorbitant amount of money, virtually fleecing a public institution.

“It’s an education thing, also. We need to make sure library users are aware that we offer eBooks to begin with.We offer more workshops than we ever have,” Platt says. “The publishers have to wrestle with a new business model, but they need to allow us to do this. This train has already left the station and it’s a question of whether you’re driving the train or holding onto the caboose for dear life. This is just going to become even more exciting for libraries and how we interact with patrons.”

But this stand-off between libraries and large publishers might not last much longer: a new bill in Connecticut proposes forcing publishers to charge libraries the same amount they would charge the general public. If the bill gains support, expect similar legislation to take off nationwide.
Still, the publishers’ loss is independent authors’ gain. A smaller browsing section allows more independent titles to gain visibility and find both circulation and reputation.

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