Library ebook lending stalls due to confusion, despite widespread interest

Scott Eells/BLOOMBERG - A digital book is displayed on an Apple Inc. iPad for a photograph in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, April 11, 2012.

More than half of Americans have a library card, and many library systems offer ebook lending. But among people who read ebooks, only 12 percent have borrowed one from the library in the past year, found a Pew Internet and American Life study. Compared to print book readers, that's a huge gap: 48 percent of Americans who read physical books have borrowed one from the library. In many cases, readers aren't even sure their library offered ebooks. 62 percent of everyone surveyed said they weren't sure whether their library had an ebook service, and 55 percent of people who considered the library "very important" still weren't sure. Even about half of ebook readers and e-reader owners didn't know.

Among people who did read library ebooks, relatively few people seemed frustrated by publishers' reticence to distribute books through systems like OverDrive. 66 percent of ebook borrowers said the selection was at least "good," with 16 percent calling it "excellent," even though 56 percent said they'd tried to borrow a particular ebook only to find the library didn't carry it. What's more, nearly half of people who didn't read ebooks said they'd be interested in borrowing an e-reader preloaded with a book they wanted, and a third said they might take a class on using e-readers to borrow books. Overall, readers were positive about their experiences... once they'd gotten over the hurdle of actually using the service.

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