Most Americans are unaware of e-book lending at their local public library

As our previous report noted, even though the American Library Association reports that 76% of public libraries lend e-books to patrons, most Americans are not sure whether or not their local library offers this service.16 When we asked if their public library lent e-books to patrons, 52% of respondents ages 16-29 who do not already read or borrow e-books from libraries did not know if their library lends e-books. Another 19% say that their library does lend out e-books, and 29% say that they know it does not. Though their overall responses were similar, non-borrowers ages 30 and older were more likely than younger non-borrowers to say that their library does lend out e-books, or that they weren’t sure; younger non-borrowers were more likely to say that they knew their library did not.

When we asked those who do not borrow e-books why they do not do so, there was no single dominant reason as to why not—and younger respondents generally cited the same issues as older adults. Overall, about 28% non-borrowers under age 30 cited issues of convenience, often saying it was easier to obtain e-books another way. About one in five (19%) said that they didn’t know their library offered e-books in the first place.17

About half of those who don’t currently borrow e-books would be interested in borrowing pre-loaded e-readers—especially younger age groups

We also asked those who do not get e-books at the public library (including those who do not read e-book in general) about how likely they would be to use various resources if they were offered by their public library:

  • 58% of those under age 30 who do not currently borrow e-books from libraries—including 60% of high schoolers and college-aged adults—say they would be “very” or “somewhat” likely to borrow an e-reading device pre-loaded with a book they wanted to read (compared with 46% of all respondents).
  • 33% of those under age 30 say they would be “very” or “somewhat” likely to take a library class on how to download e-books onto handheld devices (compared with 32% of all respondents).
  • 31% of those under age 30 say they would be “very” or “somewhat” likely to take a course at a library in how to use an e-reader or tablet computer (compared with 31% of all respondents).

Younger respondents about as likely as older respondents to say that they would be interested in classes or instruction on how to use e-readers or tablets, and a similar number are interested in classes on how to download library e-books to a handheld device (as shown in the chart below). Interest in e-book-related classes peaks among the 50-64 year-old age group, but is lowest with adults ages 65 and older. In fact, non-borrowers ages 65 and older are the age group least likely to be interested in any of the three resources we asked about.