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Pew study: library patrons largely unaware of e-book offerings

According to a new study by the Pew Research Center, 62 percent of respondents didn't know whether or not their local library had e-books.

By Staff Writer / June 22, 2012

According to a study by the Pew Research Center, 56 percent of respondents said they'd attempted to get an e-book at their local library but it hadn't been available.

Emily Spartz/The Argus Leader/AP

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Many patrons are unaware that their libraries offer e-books, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center.

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The study reported that 62 percent of respondents didn’t know whether e-books were available at their local library. The study also revealed that only 12 percent of respondents living in the US who were older than 16 had borrowed one or more e-books from a library within the last year.

According to the report, 56 percent of those who responded said they’d tried to borrow an e-book at their library and it hadn’t been available, while 46 percent said that if given a device with the e-book they wanted already on it, they would be very or somewhat likely to borrow the device from the library.

Those who borrow e-books from libraries had read 29 books this year, the survey said, compared to 23 books for those who do not.

“Clearly there is an opportunity here for us to step up our outreach and increase public awareness," American Library Association president Molly Raphael told Publishers Weekly on the subject of patrons not knowing about e-book offerings. "Of course, awareness is not enough. Libraries cannot lend what they cannot obtain.”

Of those who responded to the survey, 58 percent of people who were older than 16 said they still possessed a library card, and 69 percent responded that the library was an important institution to them.

The question of e-books in libraries has created a point of contention between libraries and publishers, with publishers concerned about allowing patrons to borrow e-books from libraries even as they are scrambling to profit from selling those same books. Some libraries say they have been discouraged from offering e-books because of high costs publishers are charging for them and/or the circulation limits they are imposing.

Penguin Books recently announced they would be starting a pilot program for two New York libraries to try out offering their e-books at the libraries, which may cause others to follow suit.

The Pew study used 2,986 people over 16 for the survey and conducted it by phone.

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