Numbers, Facts and Trends Shaping Your World

Libraries, patrons, and e-books: A guide to our new report

As you may know, we recently published a big report about e-book lending at libraries. The main headline from the report is that 12% of e-book readers ages 16 and older have borrowed an e-book from the library in the past year. However, another striking finding is that a majority of Americans (including a majority of library card holders) do not know if their library offers e-books for check-out—though the ALA reports that about three-quarters of libraries offer e-book lending.

We’ll have some posts exploring different aspects of the report in the coming weeks, but you can also read the entire report online (or download the PDF, if you prefer). And if you want to jump to a specific section, here’s a brief outline of the findings:



Part 1: An introduction to the issues surrounding libraries and e-books – A brief background section on the current issues faced by libraries and publishers, as well as other players like e-book distributor OverDrive and online retailer Amazon.

Part 2: Where people discover and get their books – This part takes another look at how people find out about books and where they go to find them, including a special analysis of how library card holders’ patterns differ from other Americans.

Part 3: Library users – This part examines the demographics and reading habits of library card holders, as well as how different groups see the role of the local library in their lives.

Part 4: How people used the library in the past year – How different groups used the library in the past year for a variety of purposes, including research, book-borrowing, and accessing periodicals like newspapers and magazines.

Part 5: Libraries in transition – This qualitative section includes quotes from librarians and patrons about changes in library holdings and patrons’ book-borrowing habits, and the evolving roles of librarians. We also asked librarians about how their libraries introduced e-book lending, including their experiences with training staff and patrons.

Part 6: A closer look at e-book borrowing – Using both quantitative data and quotes from our online respondents, this section explores the e-book borrowing process and common issues that patrons and librarians encounter, as well as how the process could be improved in the future.

Part 7: Non-e-book borrowers – This section examines why people don’t borrow e-books from libraries (and finds that a majority of Americans do not know if their libraries even offer e-books). It also shows which groups of non-borrowers would be interested in library resources such as pre-loaded e-readers or classes on how to use e-readers and check out e-books.

Part 8: Final thoughts – Our final section takes a step back to look at larger trends in library services and patrons’ reading habits, and what patrons and librarians expect from the “library of the future.”


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