Reading books on digital devices has proven to be quite popular with your average customer. Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo e-readers are gaining a stronger market presence and ebooks are now outselling hardcover books. Most consumers are totally unaware they can get free digital books from the library, according to a recent Pew Research poll.
Over 62% of readers in the USA didn’t know if their library had ebooks for lending, and only 12% of Americans 16 and older who read e-books had borrowed at least one from a library in the past year. When asked about what they thought of their libraries’ current selection of ebooks, 66% said their library’s selection was at least “good,” while only 4% thought theirs was “poor.” The survey had over 2,986 people respond to it and the numbers are quite telling.
Overdrive and 3M are the two primary companies in North America that lead the charge in ebook lending software for libraries. Many e-readers do not have the built in functionality to borrow books from the library and it normally involves complicated procedures. Android tablets have a bit easier of a time with official apps designed for them that make it easy. Out of everyone who was polled, 18% had incapable e-readers and software to even borrow books.
Many libraries also do not broadcast the fact they lend out electronic books and don’t have the money to launch a promotional campaign. At best, you will see the odd press release about a small-town American library getting hooked up with digital lending, but that is where it stops. Overdrive mentions new signups on their blog and 3M is eerily quiet about the new institutions it deals with. The lack of attention means users still want to buy their books, with 55% of e-book readers with library cards prefer to buy their ebooks, while 46% said they prefer purchasing printed books.
There is no surprise that many people have zero clue that they can borrow ebooks from the library. All parties involved tend to not put any serious promotional campaign and Overdrive has never launched a nationwide awareness commercial drawing attention to the matter.
In order for people to be more aware of digital library lending, two things need to happen. Overdrive and 3M need to launch a series of televised commercials and billboard campaigns to bring up the public awareness of their systems. If anything, it has to span further than just Youtube promotional videos or blog posts. Obviously their current promotional efforts is not up to snuff with 64% of people unaware they borrow digital books. The second major component is that more e-reader companies need to adapt the Sony PRS-T1 approach to make borrowing ebooks quick and easy. The device has a built in Overdrive app that makes borrowing reading books simple and elegant. I know its a pain but Overdrive and 3M need to activity court major e-reader companies and get their software on upcoming devices or via firmware updates.
Michael Kozlowski has written about audiobooks and e-readers for the past twelve years. Newspapers and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times have picked up his articles. He Lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.