39% of U.S. Public Libraries without e-books

I missed this report when it was released back in December, 2011 by COSLA, the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies.  According to a survey of state libraries from the summer of 2011, 39% of public libraries reported offering no downloadable media service – no ebooks, no audiobooks, and no videos.

Here is more from the press release:

The Chief Officers of State Library agencies recently surveyed their membership to determine the extent to which U.S. public libraries are offering downloadable ebooks, audiobooks and videos for use on portable devices like e-readers and smartphones.

The results of the survey, conducted this summer, showed that 39% of public libraries in the U.S. had not yet begun to offer downloadable media service to their communities, a matter of great concern to state librarians.

The 39% of public libraries not yet offering downloadable media serve about 16% of the US population served by libraries.

While the COSLA survey did not attempt to discover the characteristics of the libraries lagging behind in offering downloadable media, the COSLA E-Book Task Force believes that most are small and rural public libraries with small budgets. COSLA has adopted a goal for all U.S. public libraries to offer ebooks and other downloadable media by 2015 at the latest.

Library Journal also has a nice article on the COSLA survey.

5 thoughts on “39% of U.S. Public Libraries without e-books”

  1. Are e-books purchased with general government funding? If so, perhaps using new technologies to determine the number of patrons accessing the library can help. By showing an increased number of patrons you can increase governement funds to your library enabling the purchase of e-books and other downloadable media.

    Is there a way for small libraries in a region to join forces and offer e-books and media together?

    Thanks for the thought provoking article! (found on Twitter) Hope to see you at PLA next month!

  2. Jessica, I did get a response from OverDrive yesterday. Yes, several consortia have been formed to accommodate smaller libraries. They offered the West Texas Digital Consortium http://westtexas.lib.overdrive.com as an example. I’ve sent the question to 3M but have not received a response.

  3. There are city-funded libraries (I’ve been to a few) that don’t offer downloadable media like ebooks because nearby county libraries do, and patrons have access to resources from both libraries, so the city library figures it’s saving money by pointing patrons to the county library.

    I wonder how the survey is factoring in that overlapping.

  4. Julian,
    That’s an interesting observation. Unfortunately, I don’t know the answer to that. Library Journal did a survey of ebook penetration the last two years and their numbers are different. 72% in 2010 offered ebooks and 82% in 2011. The LJ survey was open to any public library, and may have attracted responses from libraries more involved with ebooks. I’m not sure of the details with the COSLA survey respondents.

  5. The terrible state that many local government’s budgets are in and as a consequence the large cuts of public libraries’ budgets makes this number seem logical if not desirable. But it looks that the economy is turning around and hopefully that percentage will shrink.

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