Capital News Service

of the Michigan State University School of Journalism

Libraries experience e-book boom

Capital News Service

LANSING— With the boom in e-book popularity, public library patrons are more willing to borrow them, but the demand for print books remains high.

Librarians say they welcome the growing demand for e-books.

Capital Area District Library, Traverse Area District Library, Grand Rapids Public Library and Peter White Public Library in Marquette reported rising circulation of e-books.

For example, the circulation of e-books doubled between November 2010 and January 2011 at the Capital Area District Library, according to Sarah Redman, its adult selection specialist.

“Because of the increasing demand for e-books, we have been gradually increasing our supply,” Redman said. “However, the demand for print books didn’t decrease.”

She said only one patron can check out an e-book at a time. He or she can keep it or download it into his or her own e-reader or e-book device for up to two weeks, the same loan period as a physical book.

“Some people choose print books, some people prefer e-books and some people use the mix,” she said. “But I cannot say that it is a movement that people drop print books and choose e-books.”

Library use of e-books mirrors a trend in bookselling. Monthly sales of e-books overtook hardcover books for the first time in January, according to the Association of American Publishers.

Adult paperbacks ranked first, although net sales declined from $104.2 million to $83.6 million in one year.

E-books net sales increased from $32.4 million to $69.9 million.

The increased popularity of e-books is evident at a range of libraries.

For example, Grand Rapids Public Library started buying e-books in January and now has 661 titles, according to Kristen Krueger-Corrado, the marketing and communications manager.

Krueger-Corrado said there’s a growing interest among patrons to borrow e-books. “Since January 1,101 e-books have been checked out and 59 e-book titles currently have waiting lists.”

To meet the high demand for e-books, the library added 361 titles recently.

She said e-books are more expensive than print books.

“It is difficult to project whether or not e-books will replace print copies, but e-books are enhancements to our collection,” she said.

“Many of our e-book users are regular library patrons, and adding e-books to our collection engages non-library users who can download e-books remotely with their library cards,” Krueger-Corrado said.

As for the price of e-books, Rebecca Near, the Grand Rapids collection development specialist, said it’s the same as print books because libraries buy e-books a global digital vendor that provides downloadable materials for checkout.

“We cannot buy e-books from Amazon or publishers,” Near said, so the price is not as low as for individual buyers.

In the Traverse City District Library, e-books service began in March.

“We just started it, so I cannot tell how many e-books we have, but it is a very popular service,” said Metta Lansdale, the library director.

Although e-book service is brand new, the library has already received many favorable comments.

At Marquette’s Peter White Public Library, Bruce MacDonald, the circulation services librarian, said, “Both e-books and print books are under high demand.”

Since his library started to provide e-books last April, the supply has been growing, he said.

The library shares purchases with 36 other public libraries in northern Michigan.

Currently, the library owns 806 e-book titles and 30 have a waiting list, according to MacDonald.

The circulation of e-books last May was 48 and peaked in January 2011 at 174.

“We plan to continue purchasing e-books and also downloadable audio books, but our focus is still on tangible items,” he said.

© 2011, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.



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