A few months back Library Journal hosted a full day webinar called eBooks: The New Normal which featured a number of sessions discussing the impact of eBooks on school, academic, and public libraries. The opening presentation was by Ian Singer, VP, Group Publisher, Library Journal, School Library Journal, and The Horn Book, and he shared the results of a large (2,446 responses) survey of U.S. public libraries. The results are interesting:
- Average number of e-Books in public libraries: 4,350
- Circulation is expected to double in next year
- Percentage of libraries who loan pre-loaded e-readers: 15
- Percentage of e-Book use on dedicated e-Book reader: 85
- Most popular e-Book format: ePub
- Percentage of libraries reporting dramatic increase in eBook requests: 66
- Percentage of libraries that believe eBooks have brought in new customers: 76
- Average percentage of materials budget spent on eBooks in 2011: 4
- Predicted average percentage of materials budget spent on eBooks in 2016: 8
- Biggest barriers for customers: lack of support for preferred device (Kindle), complexity of downloads, lack of awareness.
Conversations with TPL staff on these survey results has revealed mixed opinions. While almost every location has seen a big increase in questions and requests for support around eBooks, many feel that these are coming from regular customers, not necessarily new ones. The predicted doubling of spending on eBooks in five years to 8% seems low to some, with the publishing industry predicting a tripling in sales from $3.2 billion in 2011 to $9.7 billion in 2016. At that rate, a much larger portion of the materials budget will likely be spent on eBooks in five years - perhaps 25% or more.
The role of eBooks in public libraries has changed so much in the last two years. It will be very interesting to see the results of a survey of this size done annually.