The Pew Research Center’s reports on patterns of usage and uptake for digital technologies have become something of a gold standard for defining how the Internet is reshaping American life. Last month, Pew’s researchers turned their attention to the e-book market. Their report, which is embedded below, is stuffed full of really fascinating insights from readers, mapping not just how American consumers are acquiring e-books and the devices to read them on, but also how libraries and e-lending are or aren’t fitting into this picture.
The one result that comes across very strongly from this report is that levels of awareness among consumers that libraries do offer e-book lending services continues to be relatively low. In fact 58% of people with a library card questioned did not know that e-borrowing was possible, with this figure rising to 62% among non-library card holders. Concluding that there was still a great deal of work to do in raising awareness of e-borrowing services, Pew made the key takeaway from its report Ten Top Tips for librarians looking to increase usage and demonstrate the value of their digital collections.
10 e-reading lessons for librarians
- E-reading is taking off because reading gadgets are taking off - 29% of Americans now own an e-reading device of some description, be that a dedicated e-reader or tablet device. This represents an enormous market
- The gadget doesn’t make a reader, but it may change the reader - E-reading isn’t necessarily converting non-readers into readers, but it is changing existing readers behaviours, for example making them more reliant on e-books when they’re travelling, or when they need access to books quickly
- E-book readers are reading omnivores (and probably influencers) – E-book readers are a desirable demographic, and ideally placed to act as evangelists for e-reading technologies among their own networks. If these people knew more about e-borrowing, chances are they’d do a lot of the marketing for librarians
- E-book readers are not platform snobs AND they like different platforms for different purposes – A successful borrowing strategy doesn’t necessarily mean concentrating on just one platform. As we have seen, the way people consume books and e-books is context sensitive
- Library users are not the same as library fans – Librarians shouldn’t assume that the same people who say libraries are important are their borrowers, as the Pew’s shows clear demographic differences between these groups
- E-book borrowing has following – and a whopping upside - For librarians it has the power to drastically increase usage of their collections and re-emphasise the value of libraries in the digital age
- Librarians have a gigantic public education and marketing opportunity in e-borrowing – and people want to learn and know about this new world
- Library users are book buyers – This point is a heartening one for librarians, publishers and booksellers alike, in that Pew’s research indicates that e-borrowing is additive not subtractive to the e-book retail market
- Library borrowing patterns are changing – As more people become aware of libraries’ growing collections of e-books, we are likely to see a trend away from the printed word towards its electronic equivalent, just as it is already happening with book sales in the US. It’s not yet as advanced as the retail market, but it is getting there
- Collections are changing – In addition to libraries’ collections of books for borrowing, their research materials are increasingly going online. Indeed many librarians reporting a reduction in the quantity of research requests involving printed material, and an associated upward trend in patrons turning to Google, online databases and information management requests to get access to the research they need, often in a ‘self-serve’ manner
In case you'd like to take a closer look, the executive summary of Pew’s research is available on Slideshare:-
You can also download the full report from their website here