A new study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, Libraries, Patrons, and E-books, offers a glimpse at the current state of American libraries and finds them eager to lend e-books but struggling to do so, primarily because of budget limits and restrictions publishers place on e-book lending.
Of America’s 9,000 public library systems, 76 percent now offer e-books, up from 67 percent last year. But patrons are often unaware that libraries offer e-book lending — 62 percent of those surveyed said they didn’t know if their library lends e-books.
Twelve percent of e-book readers have tried borrowing digital books from a library, but indicate the process is cumbersome, with wait lists that can stretch for months, lack of availability for many titles, an inability to renew, and difficulty with the downloading process.
Fifty-six percent said they couldn’t find the particular e-book they wanted from their library, and 18 percent said their library’s e-books were incompatible with their e-reader.
Many patrons who borrow e-books from libraries report they don’t know how to return an e-book before it’s due, when it will simply disappear from their e-reader, and that lack of knowledge adds to wait list times. Some librarians are especially fond of e-books, however, because they never have to pester anyone about fines for overdue books.
It’s clear library patrons want to borrow e-books, and libraries want to lend them, but because e-book formats, e-readers, and agreements with publishers evolve rapidly, no one has figured out how to make it all work smoothly.
OLD SYSTEMS FOR NEW TECHNOLOGIES
In some ways, publishers artificially impose limits on e-book lending to create the same scarcity and demand that exists with printed books. According to the report, “In general, publishers’ e-book lending restrictions often attempt to mirror the logistics of print lending — for instance, only allowing an e-book to be lent out to one patron at a time through a ‘one book, one user’ arrangement.”
At the same time, cuts in library budgets in recent years and publishers’ restrictions on purchasing have made it impossible for libraries to acquire enough e-books to keep up with the demand. A Continue reading