With the rise of everything electronic, some libraries may find it difficult to keep pace.
While some voracious readers still prefer books made of paper, many are turning to e-readers to satisfy their need for the printed word. With more e-readers comes a greater call for e-books.
In response to that demand, the Schlow Centre Region Library began purchasing e-books in 2010, said library Director Cathi Alloway. It now boasts a collection of more than 7,000 titles available on all e-reader platforms.
The library also holds almost 2,000 e-audio titles as well, Alloway said. And the collection for all things “e” continues to grow. For example, as of December 2012, the library held only 5,000 book titles and 1,500 audio titles.
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According to the library, e-book usage has grown 1,500 percent since the library first invested in e-titles. To help keep up with the demand for e-books, the Friends of Schlow Library recently designated $3,000 “to supplement the e-book collection,” the library said.
“The support of the Friends allows Schlow to continue meeting the rapidly growing demand for electronic books,” said Anita Ditz, head of children’s services at Schlow, in a library news release.
Alloway said that “a healthy turnover rate for books” is between 2 and 4 percent, and Schlow’s 120,548 print titles have fallen into that range, with a turnover of 2 percent so far this year.
The 7,047 e-book titles have seen a turnover of 2.2 percent, she said.
“That is definitely showing us, per title, the e-books are a little bit more popular than print,” she said. “I’m predicting by the end of the year, we could have a 3 or 4 percent turnover rate for e-books.”
E-books seem like the wave of the future for libraries, but they do have their downfall.
“The difficulty comes with pricing,” Alloway said.
She used John Grisham’s “Sycamore Row,” released in October, as an example. As one of the top 25 e-book sellers, according to Digital Book World, it’s naturally in high demand and Schlow would want to have multiple copies available for loan, she said. Through Ingram Content Group, the library’s printed book distributor, a print copy of that title will cost the library $15.92.
Schlow typically purchases one book per every three or four requests for the title, Alloway said. The higher number of holds, the more copies they purchase. For an author like Grisham, the library will purchase about 10 copies.
However, through OverDrive Inc., the company that drives the library’s e-book lending system, “Sycamore Row” costs $85 for a single copy.
“Publishers for some reason are threatened by libraries loaning e-books,” Alloway said. “They’re also afraid of digital piracy.
“What’s ironic, though, is even before e-books were invented, libraries loaning reading material built sales ultimately for authors and publishers.”
E-books can be downloaded using a patron’s library card, Alloway said. It remains on the reader’s device for three weeks, or it can be returned early if the individual finishes before the three weeks is up.
“My 12-year-old was able to download a book,” said communications Manager Susanna Paul. “It’s an easy process.”
Schlow also offers “gadget classes” for patrons who are new to the world of e-readers.
“If people should receive a gift of some kind of e-reader and are not quite sure where to start with it, we are more than happy to help people learn how to use that device to get the most of it,” Paul said.
The library also lends out e-readers of its own. Nooks are available for loan through a grant that was used to explore the idea of using e-resources for interlibrary loan requests, Paul said.
“We were able to purchase a good number of fiction and nonfiction titles using this grant money,” she said.
These Nooks come preloaded with either 100 fiction or nonfiction titles and can be checked out in the same manner as a book or DVD.
“For someone who is maybe going on vacation and doesn’t want to take a suitcase full of books, it’s the perfect solution,” Paul said. “They can also explore what it’s like to own an e-reader without the investment.”