Many libraries are investing in a digital infrastructure to allow patrons to borrow ebooks on their phones, tablets, and e-readers. Overdrive currently is the largest company that facilitates the entire lending process and many libraries are suffering from poor visibility to their visitors. Libraries traditionally spend $10,000 or more in setting up their digital ecosystem and trained staff on how to assist customers. The big issue is how do libraries promote the fact they have ebooks and what measures can they take to ensure public awareness?
Recently, staff members at Sacramento Public Library came up with a clever way to connect its physical and digital collections: they place “Now in eBook Format!” stickers on the covers of corresponding titles in the physical collection. These stickers were printed in bulk and direct customers to the library’s website where people can sign up to borrow books online. It promotes the ebook service, without having to spend more money in marketing materials.
Another great way to promote a library’s ebook collection is to develop shelf cards. These can be inserted into the books themselves or placed underneath them. This gives patrons a picture of the cover art and name of the book, as well as a web-link to the book entry in the library’s computer system. This is a little bit more extensive, but libraries have seen a 100% increase in loan-checkouts when they employ this method.
The Mid-Continent Public Library developed a number of savvy posters and then digitized them to promote it on their website. These marketing materials were aimed at people who never used an e-reader or borrowed a digital book before. It encouraged people who had an e-reader that they had the ability to borrow books for free. Since they employed this method, checkouts increased by over 54%.
eBooks dwell exclusively in the digital space and sometimes it’s hard for libraries to promote their digital strategy. Crossing over from the electronic world to the tangible world can be a daunting endeavor. Libraries can do simple things like add stickers to all of their books and make some posters in Adobe Photoshop to promote them. Setting up WIFI hotspots is also relevant so people can visit the library if they don’t have that sort of internet at home to borrow books wirelessly. Staff can also organize training sessions for borrowing ebooks. All of these things require very little overhead and are proven to increase visibility and checkouts.
In the end, it can be a daunting challenge to promote your library ebook collection. Whether you are dealing with Axis 360, Overdrive, 3M, or a myriad of others, it can be challenging. The best thing to bear in mind is that some promotion is better than none at all. e-Reader and tablet visibility are at an all time high, because of the sheer amount of stores selling them. It is critically important that if you have invested in a digital content distribution system, that you do something to advertise rather than nothing!
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.