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eBook growth in libraries: It’s been geometric!

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At the World Library and Information Congress: 75th IFLA General Conference and Council held in Milan, Italy, in August 2009, Barbara A. Genco presented a paper titled “It’s been Geometric! Documenting the Growth and Acceptance of eBooks in America’s Urban Public Libraries.” The report featured the results of an online survey revealing information on current and best practices of collection development librarians concerning eBooks.  The 41 responding libraries show a geometric increase in collection content, vendor services, titles, and eFormats offered.

Here’s a summary of her findings:

  • The first foray of many American public libraries into the eBook format began with the launch of netLibrary in 1998.
  • All but one of the 41 public libraries offered eBooks.
  • The libraries collected the following content formats: Adobe Reader (82.9%), MobiPocket (51.2%), and ePUB (22.0%).
  • When asked when they began collecting ebooks: 4.9% responded in 1997-1999, 31.7% started in 2000-2002, 14.6% in 2003-2005, with the majority (46.3%) starting in 2006-2008. Only 2.4% started in 2009.
  • In March-April 2009 (the survey date), 33 responding libraries had a total of 438,513 downloadable eFormat items, an average of 13,288.
  • Most libraries (58.5%) had non-circulating reference eBooks.
  • eFormats were available for adults (100%), young adults (92.7%), and children (82.9%).
  • Most libraries (46.3%) did not allow library patrons to download eBooks with on-site “download stations,” while 34.1% did, and 19.5% were considering it.
  • Since a library first added downloadable content, the library circulation had increased in 87.8% of the libraries. Only 2.4% reported a decline, while 9.8% saw no change.
  • What had been the actual growth?  One library reported a 1200% growth.  Ten libraries reported a growth of 100%-300%. Eight libraries saw a 31-99% growth. And seven libraries saw a 5-30% growth.
  • The growth in eBook circulation far outstripped the circulation of most library content.

Genco’s summary is that her research shows the “swift and wide acceptance of the eBook” by US public libraries.  There are but two industry leaders in providing eBooks to libraries: OverDrive and NetLibrary.  Public libraries have experienced:

  • growth in circulation
  • growth in demand
  • eBooks supplanting other formats
  • eBooks being popular with all ages
  • attracting from digital natives as well as digital immigrants
  • eBooks as a cost-effective choice

Written by Larry S. Bonura

11 November 2009 at 07:21

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