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Florida Polytechnic University has just opened their doors and instead of dusty bookshelves full of books, they are embracing digital. This marks the first time diligent young scholars can borrow eBooks on their Kindles, Nooks or iPads and there is not a tangible book in sight.

The inaugural class of 500 students will have access to over 135,000 eBooks and digital textbooks for the upcoming September semester. “Our on-campus library is entirely digital,” said director of libraries Kathryn Miller. “We have access to print books through the state university system’s interlibrary loan program. However, we strongly encourage our students to read and work with information digitally.”

The new university is primarily focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Students are better prepared for lives in the technology sector by being able to read, absorb, manage and search digital documents and conduct digital research.

Florida is not the only intuition to embrace eBooks at the expense of physical books. Bexar County opened up the first all digital library a few months ago. Patrons can easily access over 10,000 eBooks and residents will be able read them on one of the 600 E-readers, 9 laptops or 40 tablets that are available for loan.

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The Publishing industry has firmly embraced making the vast majority of their titles to libraries in the United States. The big 5 have either initiated a major pilot project or have committed themselves to a broad rollout. With all of the news primarily focused on the US, what does the landscape look like for the rest of the world? A new research report by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions seeks to address some of these queries.

Australia and New Zealand

Public libraries in Australia and New Zealand report sustained and continuing growth in eBook provision and use. State of Victoria public libraries report 298,809 eBook downloads in 2011/12 and 497,045 downloads in 2012/13 (+66%) Users of the State Library of Western Australia downloaded 9,130 eBooks in January 2013 and 21,564 eBooks in January 2014 (+136%). The January 2014 loans constituted 1.4 loans per title available. Users of Brisbane City Libraries downloaded 4,212 eBooks in 2008 and 116,272 eBooks in 2012. New Zealand public libraries report 2012/13 holdings of 111,336 (growth of 1,762% in two years), downloads of 354,066 (growth of 1,968% in two years) and expenditure of $1,038,543 NZ[$900,868 US/€654,011] (growth of 363% in two years).


Five large urban public libraries in Canada with mature digital collections serving a combined population of 8,402,000 reported the following combined digital use statistics: Downloadable eBook circulation in 2013 was 2,871,514 downloads or 0.34 per capita. This is a 1,313.3% increase over 2010 downloads and a 60.9% increase over 2012 downloads. 139,023 downloadable eBook titles were in their collections (an increase of 526% over 2010) and 244,951 eBook “volumes” 1.8 “volumes” per title. In 2013 the average annual downloads per volume was 12. The libraries provide access to 37,369 downloadable audio titles.

In Quebec, 71 public libraries belong to BIBLIOPRESTO.CA. Library users downloaded 661,598 eBooks in 2012/13 and it is projected that downloads will double in the next 12 months. Individual library data is indicative of strong growth in eBook availability and use Montreal Public Library downloads grew from 9,559 in 2012 to 31,708 in 2013 (+232%) Quebec City Public Library downloads grew from 27,417 in 2012 to 69,951 in 2013 (+155%).


As is the case with the publishing sector, libraries in the European Union have been slower to adopt eBooks, especially in non-English speaking countries. eBook availability in EU libraries varies significantly from country to country depending upon factors such as the funding available for library purchasing, indigenous publishing practice, library governance structure and preferred licensing regimes.


The International Publishers Association estimates that 90% of overall publishing revenue in Africa is derived from education markets. It is not a surprise that the availability of eBooks from African libraries is limited largely to university collections with an emphasis on streamed scholarly publishing content originating outside the continent. The 2013 South African Book Fair had as its focus “The future of eBooks: the impact of the digital eBook phenomenon” and the comments from publishing executives solely dealt with the education market and the potential for acceptance of digital textbooks.


eBook data reported from Asian countries indicates wide variations in library availability and use. Apabi Chinese eBooks are published in Mainland China and its content emphasises more scholarly rather than leisure reading content.

Hong Kong public libraries report 186,497 eBook titles in their collections, 72,500 which are Apabi eBooks. The balance is made up of streamed bundle services including ebrary Academic Complete and EBSCOhost. The relatively low use of eBook collections (annual use of 1.1 per title) is attributed by library staff to the lack of leisure reading titles available and the confusing access requirements for the different databases.

A large majority of Japanese public libraries do not provide eBooks at this time. Korean public libraries report over 3 million eBook titles available and annual expenditure of 3.6 million US dollars (2012).
Singapore reports 3,062,002 eBook titles, circulation of 8,247,966 and annual expenditure of $1,268,857 US (all 2012). Taiwan public libraries report eBook title holdings of 255,278 (2012) and annual circulation of 562,482 (2013).

United States

According to Library Journal’s “2013 Report on E-Books in Public Libraries”, where 89% of US public libraries offer eBooks, collection size and circulation have increased: 45% increase in median number of e-books between 2012 (5,080) and 2013 (7,380) 145% circulation increase from 2011 to 2012 (with anticipated 2013 increase of +38.9%) These numbers reflect all points of access, including those directly licensed or purchased by an individual library and those available through a consortium. 91% of library eBooks are accessed one user at a time comprising: 70% downloaded copies, 21% web based access copies 9% are unlimited, simultaneous access.Public demand for eBooks in the US public libraries has held steady at 6:1 holds to copy eBook ratio (unchanged from 2011 and 2013).

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Macmillan started a limited US eBook pilot program for libraries at the beginning of 2013. The company only contributed titles at first from their Minotaur imprint to gauge market acceptance to their terms and conditions.  The publisher is very satisfied with the amount of capital they are gleaning their established relationships with 3M, Baker & Taylor and Overdrive.  This has prompted Macmillan to open up their entire catalog of 15,000 eBooks, including ones that just came out.

Macmillan is one of the those publishers that took ponderous steps to fully accept contributing their eBooks to libraries.  They originally started with around 1,000 titles from Minotaur Press and then in October 2013 contributed their vast backlist catalog.  This week the company has announced that they will also start selling their frontlist, which is a fancy way of saying any new book that comes out, even bestsellers.

All of the frontlist titles will be available for libraries in the United States to start purchasing in early August. It is important to note that each title is going to cost $60 each, which is well beyond the $9.99 cover price found on Amazon. Once the digital title is bought, it is only good for  52 loans or two years of library ownership.

Alison Lazarus, President, of Macmillan Sales comments: “Librarians have been asking for our frontlist titles for their collections. With more than a year of our current pilot behind us and a better sense of the market, we feel comfortable expanding our offering to our full catalog.”

Libraries are clamoring for the oportonity to offer best sellers for all of their patrons, but the terms and conditions of publishers leave something to be desired. Simon and Schuster mandates that in order for libraries to buy their eBooks, they have to offer a BUY IT NOW button on their website. Macmillan is forcing libraries to pay almost $50 more than the cover price found on Amazon, B&N or Kobo.

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Northern Ireland libraries have been loaning out eBooks since 2009. Patrons have recently been embracing the digital platform, as the digital collection improves.

When eBooks first became available at Northern Ireland Libraries in 2011, there was only 363 eBooks to loan out. In 2014, the collection has grown and 9,439 titles were downloaded in a single month. On average, they are loaning out 363 a day.

Since the start of this year, the most popular genre for e-book borrowers in Northern Ireland has been romantic fiction, followed by the work of crime writers.

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The English department and student library are undergoing some trying times when it comes to reading classic literature. A very high majority of young scholars find it a chore to have to read or being forced to do it. The libraries are seeing record number of seminal classics such as The Odyssey, Catcher in the Rye or the Great Gatsby not even being checked out once in a school year. This is resulting in some libraries removing classic novels from the shelves and sold off, or offered as donations.

Wisconsin parents and librarians are concerned that classic novels are being removed from schools. This is prompting a ton of complaints against the Department of Education. District workers over the summer are removing thousands of books and school workers at a loss why.

District workers who lack library training and collection management are entering libraries and removing of books that had been rarely checked out or were older than 2000, including classics, often without the knowledge or input of the librarian on staff, because they are on summer holidays.

One of the hardest-hit schools was Mitchell Middle School, according to Gabrielle Sharrock, she lamented “I was not consulted about books being removed and two days after the school was “weeded” I found dozens of boxes full of books slated to be destroyed, numerous shelves bare and most of the non-fiction section nearly cleared out.”

Middle school and high schools often employ a single librarian or a squad of two to maintain the entire collection. In order to keep the library updated district workers are dispatched during the summer months to weed out the books not loaned out at all during a school year, are in reprehensible shape or simply not relevant. Apparently classic novels such as Brave New World is not hip anymore, but Grumpy Catis permanently loaned out.

Do Students Hate the Classics?

District workers removing thousands of books and either donating or destroying them is sobering news. This does raise the interesting point of how current students view remedial reading or spending time in the library.

One student said “the point of English class is not to make you love books but trying to get you to deconstruct the author’s work. However, all throughout high school, I did no deconstructing of my own and instead just regurgitated what sparknotes said. This was partly due to laziness but more so because I didn’t actually understand the subtle points the book was trying to make.”

A recently graduated high school student countered “This is something the modern education curriculum needs to grapple with – information is now insanely pervasive, accessible, and instantaneous. It doesn’t require a dedicated night of research to figure out how to do your taxes by going to a library and digging through books.”

He continued “In terms of social benefit, through, this entire mess calls into question the systemic function of school in the first place – is deconstruction and analytical interpretation of literature a necessary skill in life? Hell no. So here is a question – why are you forcing it on all the nations youths, especially when it actively detracts from a long term healthy engagement with mentally stimulating writings? My own experiences pay privy to that notion since a good 90% of my peers haven’t read a book for leisure ever. Mainly because they were scarred by compulsory curriculum with arcane language and no modern cultural relatability.”

Finally, a current student at a Wisconsin High School said “I was utterly bored with Lord of the Flies and The Great Gatsby just because I didn’t have a choice in reading them”

Students over the years really have not changed. I remember with compulsory reading, 99% of the students hated it and used Sparknotes or Cliff Notes. At the middle or high school age students don’t like to be forced to read books and do essays on them. This is partly because of the books being unrelatable by modern conventions. It is no small wonder the books that go unread are the ones being tossed in the rubbish bin. I just hope that the future of humanity is not culturally devoid and speak exclusively in Emoji.

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Libraries in the United States have been steadily embracing digital books for the past few years. A new report has decreed that 90% of all libraries now loan out eBooks, up from 76% in 2012.

The American Library Association is the definitive body in convincing libraries to embrace digital. They frequently hold annual meetings in different States and hold sessions where key executives and librarians talk about digital.

In the past few years ALA has been petitioning major publishers to bring them onboard with the concept that loaning the eBooks out for free, does not devalue the work. Penguin-Random House, S&S, Hachette, and HarperCollins have all committed themselves to making libraries work for them, although each company has their terms and conditions.

Some publishers have 26 limit checkouts before having to purchase the book again, while others allow libraries one years worth of loans. S&S mandates that libraries need to implement a Buy IT Now button and sell the eBooks, in order to even do business with them, while Penguin offers it as an option. Despite some of the shortcomings and each publisher having their own terms, the industry is hoping for a more unified strategy in the coming years.

Digital adoption by libraries has never been higher in the history of humankind. It is ridiculously simply to borrow an audiobook, eBook or watch a streaming video. Next year, I would not be surprised if this 90% figure were to climb further.

Dr Seuss big
Kids ebooks have been slow to take off, despite the great content coming out from companies like iStoryTime and Scholastic. But Kobo, whose Kobo Kids’ Store offers younger readers a catalog of over 100,000 ebook titles, recenlty secured a deal that would add some of the most beloved children’s books of all time to its catalog. This week, Kobo announced that it would offer 40 of Dr. Seuss’ most well-known and admired titles for children, adding that content to the already dynamic ebook offerings for kids through Kobo devices and the Kobo app.

“Theodor Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, expanded our idea of what a children’s book could be. Through fantastical worlds and text both silly and inspiring, Dr. Seuss has always played and continues to play a part in igniting the imaginations of young readers,”said Michael Tamblyn, President and Chief Content Officer, Kobo, in a press release. “It is a part of childhood that every parent looks forward to passing on to their kids and we couldn’t be more pleased to be bringing these essential books to young readers in digital form.”

This offering comes at a time when studies still demonstrate that younger readers tend to not only prefer print when reading self-selected texts, but an alarming study also showed a decrease in reading comprehension when kids were required to read digital editions (as opposed to having selected the ebook for themselves). But why the push for children’s ebooks if they prefer print and perform better with paper? Because the educational landscape is changing dramatically, especially for higher education, and students who aren’t equipped to navigate an environment where their coursework is on device screens may find themselves at a disadvantage. By introducing ebooks at an early age and helping students remain focused on the book throughout its use, these readers will grow up to be better suited to the expectations of an increasing number of colleges and universities.

2011-10-02-11-14-27-Library director Erin Comeau with Kobo eReader

Kobo is giving $5.00 to libraries for every customer they refer to the platform as part of a new program. Overdrive, Baker & Taylor and 3M Cloud are all offering the ability for patrons to purchase eBooks from Penguin and Simon and Schuster. When books are purchased, retailers such as Kobo actually fulfill the order.

If a customer wants to purchase a personal copy of the title – perhaps because the waiting list is too long, or they want permanent access to the eBook – they will simply click “Buy it Now” and be taken to Kobo to purchase the title. Titles purchased via Kobo are for personal use only and cannot be donated to the library’s collection. An 8% affiliate credit of the total purchase amount will be credited back to your library to use toward your digital collection development.

When a customer clicks the Buy it Now button they have different options to buy the title from a few different resellers. Kobo is betting on libraries to promote their ecosystem, rather than the competition with a straight $5.00 referral fee. This credit will be sent straight to the library and is only paid if the customer is new to Kobo, existing users are disqualified.

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Simon & Schuster has rolled out their nationwide eBook strategy for libraries. In order to offer the digital titles to patrons librarians have to offer the ability for their patrons to buy the title. What about consortia? New information has just been revealed that libraries that belong to a consortium will have the hardest time offering the S&S titles.

There are many consortium libraries all over the United States. Some of the larger ones have close to 600 different libraries spread all over a State. They often pool their financial resources and a few collection managers will buy titles and distribute them to all of their members. What libraries don’t know right now is that the entire consortium would have to opt into selling Simon & Schuster eBooks.

This makes collection managers job very difficult, because they have to approach every single library in their network and see if they would be willing to sell books. They basically have to sell the idea that for every title they sell they get fifty cents commission.

K12 librarian Alison Hewett summed up the dire situation by proclaiming “It is hard to believe that publishers think that offering an ebook to a library for only one year softens the blow of having to be a store for them as well. To me it presents an ethical dilemma. Are book talks literary sales pitches now?

Alison is referring to the fact that libraries consortiums can purchase frontlist and backlist titles from Simon & Schuster. These books have a one copy, one loan policy in place but are only valid for one year. After the year is over, librarians have to purchase the title once again.

Libraries that belong to a consortium will undoubtedly be getting sales pitches from the main collection managers that are responsible for furnishing their locations with eBook content. It does not matter if you deal with Overdrive, 3M, BiblioCommons, and Baker & Taylor, you will have to become a retail store to buy S&S titles.

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The BiblioTech digital library in Bexar County Texas has officially opened their doors to the public.  Patrons will be able to access to over 10,000 eBooks and residents will be able checkout  600 E-readers,  9 laptops and 40 tablets to read them on.

BiblioTech branch manager Catarina Velasquez said if compared it to any other library, you’ll find one major difference. “The biggest difference that you are going to find is that you’re not going to see rows and rows of books. Instead, you’re going to see rows and rows of computers,” said Velasquez. “We have all of our content digital and online.”

Good e-Reader spoke to Laura Cole, Special Projects Coordinator of BiblioTech who mentioned “Buxer County has never run a library before and all of the surrounding county’s are limited to being established within city limits. We have been looking at ways to enhance the library services for people that normally don’t have access.  How could we address this in a cost effective manor? In the past five years the expansion of digital books and their availability to libraries is significant.”

She went on to say “We have a county owned facility that featured 4800 sq.ft  that wasn’t even being used!  This particular location is ideal, it’s a underserved area of San Antonio.  It features many schools nearby and a  seniors center across the street.”

Residents at Bexar County will be able to access the eBooks from their own device, using their library card and the 3M Cloud Library app. The BiblioTech will be open from 12 to 8 Monday through Friday, and 10 to 6 Saturday and Sunday. If you live in the area, the address is 3505 Pleasanton Road, San Antonio, TX 78221, (210) 631-0180.

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3M has released a few different generations of their self-checkout systems for libraries and their latest iteration certainly will impress. It allows for many different display languages and the ability to pay fines directly on the machine. This anonymizes the entire fine process, which is done in a safe and secure environment.

The Smart Checkout system not only is able to process the payment of fines via PCI-compliant payments but also provides book discovery and customization. Libraries can employ their own branding with backgrounds, animations, logos and color scheme.

I really liked the book discovery engine that showcases similar titles to the ones you just checked out. Not only does it display books currently in the library but also ones that will be available soon. If the book you want is checked out already, you can place a hold in one click.

The cost of the smart terminals vary depending on the library, but generally costs around $15,000 to $25,000. Larger libraries will obviously need more powerful machines, while smaller ones can get away with getting a discount.


Library Collection Managers often have to buy the titles they want to make available to their patrons. eBooks, audiobooks, music and streaming movies all have to be purchased in advance in order to have them included in the catalog to be loaned out.  Sometimes the digital offerings take up a tremendous amount of capital and if a librarian is out  of touch with the needs of the community, money can sometimes be wasted.  An emerging trend is starting to catch on that may solve this conundrum, pay per use.

The pay per use model is starting to be embraced by a number of companies such as Overdrive and Hoopla. The concept allows the library to include the entire catalog of content and only pay when a customer borrows it. Instead of selectively deciding what audiobook or movie to buy, they can just display everything. Backend tools allow the collections manager to set monetary thresholds to insure they don’t go over budget.

Hoopla is an established audiobook company that has been in business for close to 20 years, but has only been doing digital for the last two. The company has one of the largest selections of audiobooks and do not charge libraries any sort of fees to use their system. Whenever a customer borrows an audio editions from the app or the website they can immediately listen to them without having to download any 3rd party apps. Librarians dig the ability to make their own collections, incase they want to manually curate the way everything is displayed.

Overdrive is experimenting with pay per use as part of their new arrangement with Warner Brothers. The company is making many backlist titles available within their Media Console App. Libraries will not have to buy the movies in advance and instead only pay when a patron borrows a title. Backend tools allow librarians to establish a daily, weekly or monthly revenue threshold, similar to Hoopla.

One of the main benefits of the pay per use model is that publishers are likely to embrace this as an avenue to further monetize their eBook sales.  Penguin Random House, Hachette, Simon and Schuster and HarperCollins all have different mindsets when it comes to selling content to libraries. Some only have a 26 checkout limit before librarians are forced to buy the title again, some expire after one  year and others mandate libraries have to sell eBooks directly. The Pay per Use model would insure frontlist and backlist titles would always be purchased, which would help drive down prices to less than wholesale.

Pay per use is not yet a fixture at libraries yet, but established players are starting to adopt. This system is still in its infancy and there is little financial information available on the costs libraries are paying or if the business model has long-term viability. Still, showing the entire catalog of content is fairly compelling. Hopefully companies like McGraw Hill and Follet start adopting pay per use to assist in more widespread adoption.

With so much happening in the world of digital publishing for the higher education market, it’s easy to forget that the public education sector is lagging behind at a pitiful pace. Ironically, it’s this K12 market that could really stand to benefit from digital learning solutions, both in terms of cost and in the ability to reach all learners in the ways that serve them best.

McGraw-Hill Education announced a new platform at a conference today that can change all that. Presenting at the International Society of Technology in Education conference in Atlanta, the company unveiled Professional Learning Environment that will help educators take charge of professional development and seek out new opportunities to stay on top of their fields.

“We strongly believe that teachers are at the center of all learning, and that their power to influence student success surpasses that of any learning tool,” said Peter Cohen, president of McGraw-Hill Education’s School Group, in a press release. “The launch of our available-anytime Professional Learning Environment reaffirms our commitment to that belief, and, like every one of our digital offerings, aims to support teachers with the best tools possible as they work to prepare students for the future.”

McGraw-Hill Education is also showcasing its student-centric digital offerings at the ISTE conference, including Engrade, LearnSmart, Time To Know, and more. The tools provide learning and assessment tools for the K12 classrooms, helping to target instruction to a more individualized approach based on what the students still need to practice and learn.

The company will be focusing on putting these tools in front of educators and administrators throughout the conference.

“We are committed to delivering new ways for school libraries to access our premier content to help students achieve success,” says Philip Ruppel, president of McGraw-Hill Professional.  “We are pleased to team up with Follett to expand student access to our digital collections.”