Digital Books Becoming Mainstream, but Public Libraries Aren't Going Anywhere

By Rachel Ramsey January 22, 2013

In December, a Pew Internet Research Center survey found that readers of traditional books dropped from 72 percent to 67 percent, those owning an e-book device or tablet jumped from 18 percent to 33 percent and awareness that libraries offer digital texts grew from 24 percent to 31 percent. If it wasn’t apparent that digital books are en route to replacing traditional, physical books, the first public bookless library, BiblioTech, was announced in San Antonio, Texas last week.

This isn’t to say the demise of the physical book or the public library is happening. Public libraries are continuing to adapt to the digital age with services such as OverDrive and OneClick Digital.

A more recent Pew Internet Research Center report, “Library Services in the Digital Age,” assures that even in the digital age, libraries continue to serve a variety of functions. Nearly 60 percent of respondents had some kind of interaction with a library in the last 12 months, with 91 percent saying that public libraries are important to their communities.

The vast majority of the 2,252 Americans ages 16 and older who were surveyed, 73 percent still visit libraries to browse the shelves and borrow print books. Only 26 percent of respondents use library computers or Wi-Fi connections to go online.

Image via Los Angeles Times

In a recent workshop on libraries and e-books, Barbara Genco, manager of special projects at Library Journal, revealed that 89 percent of libraries offer e-books and the 2012 expenditures on e-books could hit $90 million. Genco also revealed that 71 percent of readers who borrow e-books use the library for e-book discovery and 40 percent use the libraries’ e-book catalogs for discovery.

According to Nicholas Carr, an American writer on technology, business and culture and a finalist for a 2011 Pulitzer Prize, “It may be that e-books, rather than replacing printed books, will ultimately serve a role more like that of audio books—a complement to traditional reading, not a substitute.”

In addition to public libraries, consumers have multiple options when it comes to reading books digitally. Amazon, Google and Apple all offer a digital book service for their respective devices, and there is also the soon-to-launch Oyster, a subscription service for unlimited access to an ever-growing library of books.

Edited by Allison Boccamazzo

TechZone360 Web Editor

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