PLAYBACK: The Promise and Peril of E-Books, and the Library of the Future

Filed in: Libraries, Mobile

Filed by Christine Cupaiuolo


6.15.12 | How mobile technologies, social networking and e-reading are changing libraries; the rise of e-reading and the downside of e-books, including why the e-book you want isn’t available; and how to improve e-book quality in academia.

Libraries of the Future: Our interaction with media and information has changed dramatically over the past decade. Using the latest data on mobile technologies, social networking and e-reading, Kristen Purcell, associate director of research at Pew Internet Project, looks at how this shift is affecting libraries and the role of librarians.

Purcell delivered the keynote address for the 2012 State University of New York Librarians Association Annual Conference in New York City. As her presentation shows, 29 percent of U.S. adults now own a specialized device for e-reading—19 percent own an e-book reader, and 19 percent own a tablet computer.

Some takeways for libraries include:

  • The gadget doesn’t make the reader, but it may change the reader
  • 41% of tablet owners and 35% of e-reader owners said they are reading more since the advent of e-content
  • A majority of print readers (54%) and e-book readers (61%) prefer to purchase their own copies of books
  • Most audiobook listeners (61%) prefer to borrow their audiobooks

The Rise of E-Reading: In April, Pew Internet released new numbers on e-reading, noting that as of February 2012, 21 percent of U.S. adults reported that they have read an e-book in the past year—a jump of 5 percent from a previous survey conducted in December 2011 (prior to the holidays, when many e-readers and e-books are given as gifts).

The rise in readership is reflected in book sales as well. The Association of American Publishers reports adult eBook sales were $282.3 million for the first quarter of 2012, surpassing adult hardcover sales of $229.6 million. In the YA/Children’s category, both hardcover and e-book sales soared. Hardcover revenue was $187.7 million, up nearly 67 percent over the previous year’s first quarter, and eBook sales grew almost 233 percent to $64.3 million. Galleycat looks at this data and more.

Plus: Read Spotlight’s coverage of a “quick study” by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center comparing young children’s reading comprehension and engagement using print, basic e-books, and enhanced e-books.

The Downside of E-books: All that demand for e-books should be good news for libraries, many of which are facing budget cuts, reports Ben Bradford of WNYC public radio. After all, there’s a steep reduction in the cost of labeling, shelving and tracking physical books out on loan. And shifting to digital books can free up space for more computers and programs serving both teens and adults (such as digital literacy programs that aim to reduce the divide in both access and skills).

“But despite their potential,” says Bradford, “libraries are struggling to stock e-books.” Many books are difficult to obtain, explains Bradford, due to the publisher’s heavy restrictions or outright refusal to lend titles. And then there are the costs of licensing content through an outside company, Overdrive.

Plus: Wondering why the e-book you want isn’t for sale in your country? Read a clear explanation by Tor Books’ senior editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden, left as a comment on this good-news post by John Scalzi. (via Boing Boing)

E-book Quality in the Academic Community: “If ebooks are to sit along side traditional textbooks as vital learning resources, it is important to ensure they are of high quality—and to do so without compromising on digital progress,” Sophie Tergeist, a commissioning editor at the online publishing house Bookboon, writes at The Guardian. She offers a number of tips and best practices, for publishers and authors alike.

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