In May 2011, e-retailer Amazon.com announced that sales of e-books outpaced sales of print books on its website. This past June, the Association of American Publishers issued a report indicating that for the first time in the U.S., e-book sales surpassed hardcover book sales. Similarly, tablet and e-reader ownership doubled between December 2011 and January 2012.
Clearly, digital reading and the devices that facilitate it are gaining ground with increasing rapidity. Yet, a June report from the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project found that only about 12% of library patrons borrowed e-books from their local library. Most patrons surveyed, about 62%, did not know if their local library provided e-book borrowing services, despite findings that about 76% of libraries in the U.S. now lend e-books. Libraries need to do more to market their digital lending services to their customers. In that vein, Pratt Library increased its digital lending profile over the past year by offering an e-reader lending service, presenting e-reader and e-book workshops, and expanding its collection of digital reading materials.
In August 2011, Pratt customers started borrowing Nooks from the Reisterstown Road and Waverly branches. Since then, the service has expanded to Central and all neighborhood branches in Pratt’s system. Customers can borrow the e-readers for three weeks and enjoy twenty-two preloaded e-books. The service aims to familiarize library customers with e-reader technology and give them a taste of the digital reading experience. Reserving a Nook is an easy process: visit Pratt’s online catalog, search with the keywords ‘Nook’ or ‘ereader’, then place a hold using your Pratt Library card.
Teaching customers about e-books and e-readers is another facet of Pratt’s e-reading effort. Over the past year, library customers attended workshops about e-books and e-readers. The workshops covered a variety of topics including understanding different e-book formats, reviewing and using some of the popular e-readers available, finding resources for free e-books and audiobooks, and demonstrating the e-book borrowing service available to Maryland library users through the Maryland Digital eLibrary Consortium website. The response to these workshops has been exciting and very encouraging. However, Pratt isn’t the only library system involved with digital reading services.
Pratt Library is part of a consortium to lend e-books and digital audiobooks to library customers throughout Maryland. The Maryland Digital eLibrary Consortium is a collaboration among the public library systems in the state to build and lend a collection of e-books statewide. In addition to the statewide collection, each library system has developed collections exclusively for the use of their own customers. The materials can be read with a vast selection of digital reading devices, and some e-books can be read directly in a web browser without downloading any files. New titles are added regularly, including some bestsellers.
Lending digital reading materials is another way that Pratt Library strives to stay at the forefront of providing library customers with new, interesting, and relevant services.