eBook borrowing up at libraries

Clark County Library sees a 107% surge in downloadable lending.

On-demand eBook borrowing at libraries is surging both locally and across the state.

Four area libraries —the Clark County Public Library, New Carlisle Library, Champaign County Library and Mechanicsburg Public Library — have all seen an increase in the use of their e-resources in 2012.

Champaign County Library Director Ty Henderson said while many have speculated about the end of libraries, he said the increase in the use e-resources are a sign that libraries are “continually changing to meet the needs of the public.”

“People want what they want, when they want it,” Henderson said. “That’s what on-demand access is all about.”

At the Clark County Public Library, 7,926 items have been checked out electronically through May, an increase of 107 percent from May 2011 (3,836 items checked out).

The Champaign County Library has had more than 2,600 items of e-content checked out so far in 2012; that’s up from 1,715 items checked out for all of 2011.

The State Library of Ohio facilitates the Ohio eBook project, a consortium of Ohio libraries that provide downloadable content to library patrons.

The statewide project, which was launched in 2005, helps make the service as affordable as possible for libraries.

Clark County, Champaign and the Mechanicsburg libraries use the eBook project, while New Carlisle offers eBooks through the Serving Every Ohioan consortium.

“It helps keep the costs down for everyone involved,” Peck said.

The state library contracts through Overdrive Inc., which specializes in distributing eBooks across the world.

As of January 2012, more than 100,000 people have borrowed books through the eBook project, which has 31,000 books, 19,000 audiobooks and 1,000 videos available to all member libraries.

The eBook project has spent more than $650,000 on new materials since 2005, including more than 141,000 in 2010. As the demand for e-resources increases with the number of people purchasing tablets and e-readers, the number of libraries becoming involved in the eBook project has dramatically increased in the last two years, according to Amanda Knapp, a library consultant with the State Library.

The eBook project plans to spend $364,000 on new material in 2012, more than what it spent in each of the last three years combined.

Allison Peck, public relations manager for the Clark County Public Library, said member libraries are required to use 2 percent of their total materials budget for the eBook project, which equated to more than $8,900 in 2012. The library used to pledge .5 percent of its materials budget, but that number varies from year to year and increased in 2012.

Peck said the cost to join the program is still very reasonable, and also helps keep the physical inventory at the library at more manageable levels.

“In the grand spectrum of costs of things, it’s a good deal,” Peck said.

Henderson said the Champaign County Library spent more than $5,000 this year, and he said it was money well spent. “We have access to over 50,000 items that we could never be able to afford to provide for our patrons,” Henderson said.

Henderson said when the Amazon Kindle e-reader joined late last year, demand for e-resources “skyrocketed overnight.”

Last winter, the Clark County Public Library offered seven e-reader workshops for patrons. Peck said every class was filled to capacity and served more than 100 people.

At the same time, traditional book checkouts are down 5 percent from this time last year. The Clark County Public Library has had 284,079 books checked out through May, down from 298,826 in May 2011.

Peck said they’re not worried about the circulation numbers and believes they’ll be at 1.2 or 1.3 million this year, especially once school begins in the fall. “We still overall end up with a good circulation rate,” Peck said. “It’s on par with what other libraries our size are experiencing.

“It ebbs and flows,” Peck said.

A recent survey by the Pew Research Center showed that 12 percent of eBook readers 16 and older have downloaded a book from the library. Earlier this year, a Pew Research Center study showed that 20 percent of adults recently read an eBook.

Peck said while the library does most of its advertising in-house, they have plenty of signage and brochures showing patrons how to use the eBook website and what devices are compatible. They’re also getting plenty of questions about how it works.

“A lot of people got e-readers for Christmas, and we had a big uptick in folks wanting to know how to download those from our website,” Peck said.

Contact this reporter at (937) 328-0366 or Michael.Cooper@coxinc.com.