When patrons consider where to acquire a book, their public library is the first source that comes to mind. Amazon follows closely behind. Digital-only book sources, such as the iTunes/iBooks store, ranked lowly as a source for books.
In general, library patrons are voracious readers, and are very loyal to their public library as a source of books. 44% of the books read by those surveyed were borrowed from a library. 38% were purchased.
While 99% (!!) of patrons said they had visited a public library in person within the last year, only 63% said they had gone to a library online. The results show that while patrons are accessing libraries through the web, they remain more committed to going to the library in person.
However, when seeking information about books, patrons are most likely to turn to Amazon. 39% say they look for information about books on Amazon; 37% turn to family, friends, or colleagues. 32% consult their librarian or library. Rounding out the top six are physical bookstores and booksellers, magazine ads and reviews, and social media.
44% of those surveyed indicated that they had read at least one e-book within the past 12 months. However, most still indicate that, in general, they prefer print formats. Audio and digital audio books were even less popular. Only 12% of library patrons surveyed said that they had listened to any form of audiobook in the past year. (Keep in mind here that as the survey was conducted online, we know that all respondents are internet users; this population may be more likely to read e-books than all library patrons on average.)
Unlike the general population – where awareness is lower – most survey respondents were aware that their local public library offered e-books for loan.
E-book BORROWING, however, remains limited. Only 23% of those surveyed said they had borrowed an e-book from a public library at any time.
Borrowing print books remains the #1 reason why patrons pay a visit to their public library, followed by computer or wifi access, accessing research materials, reading newspapers and magazines, and attending events. Borrowing ebooks or audiobooks does not even appear on the chart!
In general, patrons are much happier with their library’s selection of print books than ebooks. A full 90% say they are satisfied with the selection of print books for adults, compared with only 51% for e-books.
Many respondents indicated that they do not read or borrow children’s books – especially in ebook formats -- hence the much larger “neutral” categories for the children’s genre.
Finally, 46% of patrons say they are satisfied with the selection of physical audiobooks, and 42% with digital audio. Again, these formats tend to be selected by fewer patrons, leading to a large amount who indicate they are neutral towards the selection available.
Most e-book readers freely mix formats, including reading both print and e-books. Only 7% say they exclusively read e-books and do not read print at all. 22% also listen to digital audiobooks. Children’s books remain unpopular in digital formats; those surveyed are much more likely to choose an e-book when reading fiction or nonfiction for adults.
These are the factors library patrons who are e-book readers consider when deciding which format to read. They choose the format that’s most convenient first; then they think about price, portability, and genre and length of book.
When looking for e-books or digital audiobooks, patrons much preferred to use the library’s online catalog to search for a title, rather than any other method. Using the website of a library’s e-content vendor was second. Use of apps ranked below the other, website-based options. Using the app of an vendor such as OverDrive or 3M was the least popular option at 19%.
If the e-book they want to borrow is unavailable, most library patrons (36%) will choose to wait for it, and will add their name to the waiting list. Next, 24% will borrow a print copy of the book instead. After that, 14% will purchase a digital copy of the book.
ALA NISO-BISG Forum - Andrew Albanese
Let’s Play Our Game!
Andrew Richard Albanese
Senior Writer and Features Editor at
Survey jointly prepared by
ALA and BISG
2,000 public library patron
Survey fielded by Nielsen
Conducted entirely online
(all respondents are
Publishers Weekly Poll
• Not a scientific survey
• Conducted over two weeks at the end of May, 20126,
online, and in person at the PW-sponsored Librarians
Lounge at BEA
• Featured write-in comments
• 190 Librarians participated, answering some or all of
• Includes libraries of all sizes, and good regional
When choosing where to
acquire a book, the public
library is the first source
that comes to mind.
99% of patrons had visited
their public library in person
within the past year.
63% visited their library online.
Many survey respondents
are e-book readers,
but most still prefer
Most survey respondents
were aware of e-book
offerings at their
local public library.
E-book borrowing, however,
remains somewhat limited.
Only 23% of those surveyed said they had
borrowed an e-book from a public library
at any time.
PW poll: 30% of respondents said less
than 5% of patrons check out e-books;
32% put that between 5-10%
For what reasons do you typically visit a
0% 20% 40% 60% 80%
Accessing research materials
Borrowing print books
Only 7% read exclusively e-books and no
22% also listen to digital audiobooks
43% prefer to read e-books on a tablet
Most likely to choose digital formats for
adult fiction/non-fiction; least likely for
WHAT ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT
CRITERIA YOU USE IN DECIDING
WHETHER TO READ IN PRINT OR
Get the Full Results
PDF report published November 2015
Writing and editorial content by Jim Milliot
Complete demographic breakdowns, including
gender, age, and geography
Member pricing: full report: $99; executive
Order online at www.bisg.org/publications
TREND: E-Book Sales Are Down
• “E-Books market share peaked at 24% in the
first quarter of 2014, but has not topped 20%
since the second quarter of that year.” –Jim
Milliot (PW, 1/04/16)
• No uptick in January e-book sales in 2015,
suggests “saturation” in terms of devices.
• After limping across the finish line in 2014,
(up 1% ) annual trade e-book sales are on
pace to finish down for the first time since the
Kindle era began.
• Publishers say they not concerned. But, they
are definitely keeping an eye on things.
Overdrive reported that in 2015 total e-book
circulation was up 19% over 2014.
33 library systems circulated 1 million or
more e-books in 2015
Growth to be expected, as catalogs
expanded, more libraries served, and indies
like Norton joined.
Libraries still on upswing, but are they also
trending down? OverDrive’s e-book
circultation was up 33% in 2014; 46% in
E-Books Slowing in Libraries,
Print: Not Dead Yet!
Print Is Back and It's
Trouncing E-Book Sales
(Gizmodo, Sept. 15)
The Plot Twist: E-Book
Sales Slip, and Print Is Far
(New York Times, Sept. 22)
Print sales for the year are
up about 2.4%.
Image from 2010 Slate article titled Bold
Prediction: Why e-books will never replace
• Dangerous time: basic
achieved, but do not
• May be a quiet period,
but vital you stay
• It’s not all about
publishers. Are you
getting everything out of
• Publishers need your
• You are the closest thing
the public has to a voice
in the room as the digital
future is hashed out.
You Can’t Win, If you Don’t Play: Participate. Share.