One of the biggest advantages of libraries going digital is that fines on materials are a thing of the past. When a patron borrows an audiobook or e-book they normally expire after seven days. The content is unavailable on the users e-reader or tablet and is sent back to the pool so someone else can borrow it. This might not sound like a big deal, but it is.
Lets face it, e-books are a fairly large investment for libraries because often the digital content expires after a certain number of loans, in which case the library has to purchase the title again and some e-books cost 500% more than the list price at Amazon.
The San Diego public library is finding out the hard way that fines and late fees are hurting their system much more than overpriced e-books. They have just reported that 24,000 account have been turned over to the city treasurer for collection. Together they owe more than $3 million of unpaid library fines.
That doesn’t include another 337,000 accounts carrying balances under $100, whose only penalty for unpaid fines is a loss of library privileges – without the unpleasantness of the collections process. Including those, outstanding fines totaled $7.5 million, as of April.
Unpaid fines sent to the treasurer involve more than 177,000 items checked out from 36 locations, including seven laptops, five Samsung Chromebooks, four Sony portable reader systems and thousands of CDs, books and DVD.