Library borrowers DO buy eBooks, don’t they?

OverDrive and the ALA conducted an online survey at U.S. public library websites in June/July 2012.  They asked a variety of questions, but the most important ones revolved around eBook purchasing.  The survey asked, “If a digital audiobook or eBook is unavailable in the library’s digital collection or there is a wait time, would you consider purchasing it from an online retailer?  53% said yes and 47% said no.  They also asked, “Have you ever purchased a book (physical or digital) after borrowing that title from the library?  Only 35% said yes, while 64% said no.

OverDrive released the results last Thursday, touting “New Findings Reaffirm Library Borrowers are also Buyers.”  Below is a snip from the press release:

Cleveland–November 15–An extensive online poll of library e-book readers finds that these patrons purchase an average of 3.2 books (both print and e-books) each month, and a majority would consider purchasing books discovered on a library website. These e-book borrowers also report that their digital content purchases have increased in the past six months. Sponsored by OverDrive with the American Library Association’s Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP), the survey constitutes the largest study of library eBook usage to date, with more than 75,000 people responding.

Confirming earlier studies such as the Pew Internet Project’s “Libraries, Patrons, and E-books,” the survey found that a significant percentage of library users regularly purchase books they first discover at the library. In fact, 57 percent of those surveyed said that the public library is their primary source of book discovery.

Library e-book borrower:  Highlights

·         Public library is primary source of book discovery (57%)

·         Purchase average of 3.2 books per month (including print and e-books)

·         Would consider purchasing books discovered on library website (53%)

·         Visit both the physical library and download e-books (53%)

·         Digital book purchases have increased in past six months (44%)

·         Purchased book (print or e-book) after borrowing that title (35%)

Library e-book borrower:  Demographics

·         Female (78%)

·         Adults aged 40-64 (55%)

·         Household income $75,000+ (48%)

·         College degree or higher (74%)


There has been some backlash relating to the study and the impact of library eBook users on the publishing industry.  Mike Shatzkin, who blogs at “The Shatzkin Files” wrote earlier today, ” Much-trumpted survey proves the opposite of what the surveyors think it does.”

A clip from Shatzkin’s post:

Do library eborrowers also buy ebooks?

Well, stop the presses. OverDrive, the leading aggregator providing libaries with ebooks, and Library Journal have done research that proves that they do.

The survey results are interpreted as evidence that the big publishers are making a terrible mistake being cautious about making ebooks available for library lending. And it is being reported that way. By one outlet after another, although one made the point that the publishers aren’t listening.

Perhaps the publishers aren’t changing their policies because they actually are listening. In fact, the survey proves that caution makes sense. Here are the followup questions.

“What makes you decide to buy an ebook rather than borrow one? Might it be that you’re buying the ebooks that are not available to you through the library?”


Meanwhile, Penguin announced earlier today that they will expand their library eBook lending program.


What do you think about all of the surveys, backlash, and announcements?