The future of e-books at libraries

Our online panelists’ dreams for e-books at libraries echoed a common theme: All possible titles in all possible formats, available to all patrons on every type of device.

One college-aged respondent, for instance, wrote that he would like to see “a system that would provide unlimited downloads of titles. A system that would easily sync with all devices.” Another respondent in her late twenties wrote that she would like to see libraries’ e-book collections “expanding to include a bigger selection and have then in Mac compatible formats.”

A panelist in his late twenties said that he hoped libraries would move their entire catalogs to a digital format, adding, “I think it would be important to make e-readers either borrowable or figure out a way to subsidize or make available for free to low earners.”

Final thoughts

The e-book borrowers on our online panel were usually enthusiastic about the future of e-books at libraries, and the future of libraries in general. As one college-aged panelist told us, “[E-books are] an important service and has made me read more not less!” Added another: “[E-books are] the future of libraries, and I am very excited about it.”

“I would like to see libraries do more of an outreach to patrons to ask what e-books they would like to see available, and/or what patrons can do to make sure more e-books are available. I think e-reading has been supported by libraries thus far, though there are growing pains (such as publishers not having a great lending model available for libraries yet for e-books),” a college-aged respondent wrote. “If there was something that we as patrons could do to help support this endeavor of our libraries, I would like for them to publicize it! I would definitely do what I could to support this in my library!”

At the same time, however, few panelists seemed to see e-books as a replacement for print books. “Though e-books are important,” one panelist wrote, “we must keep an emphasis on our physical libraries as a community space and option for lower income and lower education neighborhoods who may not have access or knowledge of e-book devices and e-book use.” Another panelist, in her late twenties, echoed this view: “As much as I love using my Kindle, I would find it devastating if the library were to dramatically reduce its print collection. I love the feel of physical books.”