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).
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).
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 CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and Verge.