The Book Industry Study Group, in partnership with the ALA, conducted a survey earlier this year on US library usage. A total of 2,000 US adults were surveyed, and the report found:
The newest industry report from BISG, “Digital Content in Public Libraries: What Do Patrons Think?,” found that even though over half of library patrons surveyed are aware that their local libraries carry e-books and digital audiobooks, relatively few had borrowed them in the previous year. Only 25% of patrons reported that they had borrowed an e-book within the past year, and even fewer (9%) said they had checked out a digital audiobook.
The low rates came despite the fact that 58% of patrons said they know that their library offers both e-books and digital audiobooks. Library patrons also borrowed digital content less frequently than they use it outside libraries; 44% of patrons said they had read an e-book in the past year, while 12% had listened to a digital audiobook.
I can’t speak for you but I was surprised to read the results – not because they were so low, but because the numbers were so high.
You see, I have been following the survey reports released by the Pew Research Center. Those reports, which are based on surveys conducted semi-annually, show a much lower rate of awareness and usage.
The most recent Pew survey into library ebook usage was released in September 2015, and it found:
People are increasingly aware that they can borrow e-books at their public library. Some 38% say their public library has e-books, compared with 31% who said this in 2012. Those more likely to be aware that their library has e-books are college graduates (52% say they are aware of e-book lending), parents (44%) and those in homes where the annual income is over $75,000 (44%).
Only 16% of the 38% have checked out a library ebook, which means that only 6% of library patrons are making use of a service that many libraries offer.
In comparison, the BISG found that a far greater percentage of respondents (58%) were aware of library ebooks and had checked one out in the past year (25%).
Does anyone else wonder why the numbers are so different? better yet, does anyone else know why the numbers are different?
My current working theory, which I am still trying to confirm or deny, is that the BISG study was conducted online, while the Pew survey was conducted both offline and online.
That distinction is important because, as Pew showed us in September, results from an online survey are biased towards respondents who are richer, more technologically sophisticated, and better educated.
If I am correct about the BISG survey then it would mean that the BISG inadvertently selected the survey group for those who would be more likely to use ebooks and be familiar with their library’s digital offerings.
Alas, I do not know if I am right; I have queried BISG, and Jim Milliot at PW, but neither has responded with any info.
will update this post with more information when I get that response.
Edit: Jim Milliot has confirmed that the BISG survey was conducted online only.
O O O
Just so we’re on the same page, even if this report should prove flawed that doesn’t mean it’s not useful.
It has also affirmed that many people aren’t happy with their library’s digital offerings. To name one example, 90% of respondents were happy with the catalog of print adult titles, but only 51% were happy with the selection of ebooks.
The approval rating for print and digital newspapers and magazines were similar. While 65% of patrons were satisfied with the range of print magazines, and 63% were happy with the selection of print newspapers, only 39% of respondents indicated they were pleased with the selection of digital magazines and newspapers at their public library.
image by uberculture