The American Library Association in conjunction with the Book Industry Study Group conducted a survey of 2,000 people and found some disappointing news when it comes to digital content. 25% of patrons reported that they had borrowed an e-book within the past year, and even fewer (9%) said they had checked out a digital audiobook.
A recent report by the Library Journal has stated that 95% of all US libraries have an e-book collection. That’s up from 89% in both 2013, when researchers thought that adoption had plateaued for good. The average number of e-books a larger library or consortium has in their collection is around 20,244, while medium sized libraries statistically had around 10,434 titles.
In order to maintain a current catalog of 10,000 e-book titles, libraries are forced to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars. The Michael Connelly novel Burning Room costs $14.99 on Amazon, but libraries are paying $106.00 per copy. John Grisham’s Grey Mountain costs $15.99 for anyone wanting to buy the Nook version, but libraries pay $85.00. Interested in checking out the David Baldacci novel The Escape? You can purchase the Kobo digital edition for $14.99 and libraries are gouged $106.00.
Libraries are paying far too much for e-books and this has resulted in many branches to have smaller collections. The report found patrons were also far more satisfied with their library’s selection of print books than for digital content. For example, 90% of patrons were happy with the selection of print adult titles, but only 51% were happy with the choices of e-books. The pattern was repeated across all content categories, including newspapers and magazines. Only 39% of patrons said they were satisfied with the selection of both digital newspapers and magazines, while 65% were happy with the range of print magazines, and 63% satisfied with the selection of print newspapers.
I guess what this report has summarized is that librarians are not able to stretch their budget to have a great e-book collection. This is because e-books simply cost too much and the bulk of their content acquisition strategies involve buying print.
Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past ten years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times.