The newest industry report from BISG, “Digital Content in Public Libraries: What Do Patrons Think?,” found that even though over half of library patrons surveyed are aware that their local libraries carry e-books and digital audiobooks, relatively few had borrowed them in the previous year. Only 25% of patrons reported that they had borrowed an e-book within the past year, and even fewer (9%) said they had checked out a digital audiobook.
The low rates came despite the fact that 58% of patrons said they know that their library offers both e-books and digital audiobooks. Library patrons also borrowed digital content less frequently than they use it outside libraries; 44% of patrons said they had read an e-book in the past year, while 12% had listened to a digital audiobook.
The report found the biggest impediment preventing patrons from borrowing more e-books was the lack of e-books’ availability, followed by a preference for print books. Another major consideration was that the loan period for e-books is too short. Patrons were also far more satisfied with their library’s selection of print books than for digital content. For example, 90% of patrons were happy with the selection of print adult titles, but only 51% were happy with the choices of e-books. The pattern was repeated across all content categories, including newspapers and magazines. Only 39% of patrons said they were satisfied with the selection of both digital newspapers and magazines, while 65% were happy with the range of print magazines, and 63% satisfied with the selection of print newspapers.
The lack of availability of an e-book did not mean, however, that many patrons would simply not read a particular title: 37% said they would put their name on the e-book waiting list, while 24% would borrow the print book, and another 12% said they would illegally download a copy. Only 3% of patrons said they would not try to read the title.
The study, conducted this spring and based on responses from 2,000 adults over the age of 18, found that patrons are not against using digital media; 58% said they read fiction in a digital format at least sometimes, a figure that dropped to 53% of patrons for reading nonfiction. Half of patrons said they never read children’s books in digital format.
For more information about the report, which was done in cooperation with the American Library Association and includes patrons’ attitudes toward digital content, organized by gender, age, and location, visit BISG at bisg.org.