When the concept of lending eBooks first emerged there was skepticism about its effectiveness. Apart from the fact that it could bite into eBook revenues, there was also an uncertainty of whether the lending system would be acceptable to the consumers. However it has now been established that eBook lending is heading for a take off.
Given the rapid spread of eReaders and tablets, the lending of eBooks is on the rise, without any doubt. The tablets and smart phones have also played a considerable role in the proliferation of eBook lending. Overdrive, a major global distributor of digital content including audio books is associated with 18,000 libraries and schools, and has even collaborated with Amazon for its Kindle lending program.
The company which is also the leading provider of eBooks for the US libraries has reported that 1.6 billion book and title catalog pages were viewed in 2011, which was 130% up from 2010. It also noted that there were 99.5 million visits, up 107%.
However the correlation of reading habits and library usage has thrown out interesting facts. A study by the Pew Research Center has revealed that only 12% of Americans who read eBooks have borrowed at least an eBook in the past year. This is against the 48% of Americans who read physical books and have borrowed at least one physical book from the library. Thus there is a huge gap in library usage among the readers of eBooks and physical books. Another interesting finding is that eBook readers tend to read over 30% more books than those who read only printed books.
The research by Pew also highlighted the poor awareness of eBook lending services among its members, with 58% of library members saying that they didn’t know if the library had eBook lending. Shockingly about 53% of tablet computer owners too didn’t know if their library lent eBooks.
Embracing eBooks look more feasible and encouraging for the libraries. The eBooks enable libraries to serve more people beyond barriers of time and physical locations, particularly with many of them operating on tight budgets. A rise in eBook lending would mean less of physical stocking of books, thereby freeing more space for other reader amenities. These factors have forced libraries to consider acquiring more eBooks on a priority basis.
Although the trend to borrow eBooks is on the rise, not everyone is rushing out there, as Pew’s report determined. Among people who didn’t borrow eBooks, only about half of them expressed a possibility of borrowing an eReader with their required book loaded in it. Only about a third of them were willing to be educated on using an eReader or tablet, or learn about downloading eBooks.
However for the time being eBook lending is accelerating despite minor hiccups at the bottom, which nonetheless would transform with time. But for the time being as CNN suggests, public libraries require to spread the word that they have eBooks to lend, rather than keeping it a secret.