SLJ Survey indicates two-thirds of U.S. schools offer e-books, representing a slow but stable growth in e-book access

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Image credit: School Library Journal

As part of our look at e-book usage in U.S. libraries for 2014, we see in School Library Journal’s latest survey of school libraries that e-books are not faring quite as well in this environment as they are in public libraries. In fact, in the survey of 835 U.S. school libraries, one of the most frequent responses given by librarians is that they are far more enthusiastic about e-books than the students. School librarians report that demand exists but is not astounding, and less than half (44%) have seen demand increase. Although two-thirds of responding schools across the U.S. offer e-books (a 10% increase from last year), a shortage of devices and the cost of e-books were cited as the biggest barriers to access and usage.

One growing trend is for schools to provide e-reading devices in a one-to-one ratio for at least a portion of the students’ day. Nearly 1 in 5 (17%) respondents to the SLJ survey have a 1:1 device program in place, and demand for e-books is higher in these schools than in those that do not provide individual devices for students. Different school grade levels also show fluctuations in demand. While the demand for e-books in high schools seems to have peaked, it is actually increasing slightly in both elementary and middle schools.

While demand and usage of e-books in school libraries has not displayed the same dramatic trends as in public libraries, the SLJ survey indicates that school libraries are slowly warming up to e-books. Even though meager budgets will continue to be an issue for most school libraries to grapple with, librarians expect e-book spending to quadruple from its current rate by 2019, up to 13% of the total budget. How to get more devices into the hands of students and how to convince them that e-books have something to offer that print books do not, though, will be hurdles that school libraries will continue to face in future years.

Do you want to know about e-book collections and usage in Colorado schools? Check out our 2013-14 Annual Colorado School Library Survey Fast Facts, which reports that e-book collections have risen by 557% since 2008-09.

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.

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