In their fifth annual study of e-book usage in U.S. public libraries, Library Journal found that while e-book demand is still on the rise, there has been a significant waning in its intensity, based on the responses from the 538 libraries that participated in their survey. LJ suggests that a strong possibility for this apparent tapering off of enthusiasm is the fact that nearly all (95%) of public libraries now offer e-books, so their widespread adoption may mean that they have successfully integrated into mainstream reading practices. The rise of tablets seems to have helped, as tablets have edged out dedicated e-book readers as the most popular devices on which to access e-books.
The little resistance to e-books that does remain is due to a lack of funding for e-book collections and concern over the ease of use, according to LJ. However, a limited collection is no longer a major factor inhibiting e-book usage. U.S. public libraries spent nearly $113 million on e-books in the 2014 fiscal year (on average 7% of each library’s budget), and the median size of e-book collections now exceeds 10,000. Respondents indicated that adult titles account for more than two-thirds of e-book collections, so there is still plenty of room to grow in children’s and young adult titles.
What is next for the future of e-book usage in U.S. public libraries, then? Based on survey responses, LJ predicts that e-books will continue to see increased demand and steady rather than drastic circulation growth. Small and medium sized libraries are still working to catch up to their larger counterparts in terms of e-book offerings, but e-reader lending remains the most popular among this population group. None of the numbers provided by the survey seemed to indicate that e-books were a threat to traditional print. Instead, LJ suggests that e-books are increasingly seen as a complement to other formats. In other words, they are simply becoming more firmly entrenched among the variety of formats that we may interact with on a day to day basis.
Note: This post is part of our series, “The Weekly Number.” In this series, we highlight statistics that help tell the story of the 21st-century library.