Library e-book purchases soar during pandemic

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Caley Burke has always been an avid reader. Aerospace engineer for NASA, she reads science, science fiction, literary fiction.

“I also do a lot of romance,” she says. “And you can go through them really quickly, so that’s where going to the library saves a lot of money.”

Since the arrival of COVID-19, going to the library has generally meant going online. Since March, she has viewed 97 eBooks. Burke said she loves freedom.

“It’s like a different version of scrolling through your Netflix or Hulu and saying, ‘I have this whole selection. Which books do I want to choose? ” she said.

Since the start of the pandemic, e-book purchases at libraries have skyrocketed more than 50%. And libraries expect demand for e-books to last. A hearing that can delight librarians. The editors? Probably not.

Bill Rosenblatt is president of the consulting firm GiantSteps Media Technology Strategies. “Libraries are mission-driven organizations,” he said. “Publishers are for-profit organizations.”

The license conditions of most publishers limit the number of cases and require libraries to repurchase the books every year or two, he said. But during COVID, some publishers relaxed the terms and prices for e-books. Rosenblatt said it made sense, given the challenges that another category of customers face, physical bookstores.

Despite all the digital borrowing this year, publisher e-book sales have not suffered. the Association of American Publishers reports that e-book sales have grown by more than 16% from the previous year in the first 10 months of 2020.

Yet, Rosenblatt said, publishers could change the prices of their libraries again after the pandemic.

“The cold reality is that libraries have to start thinking about this in business terms if they are to come to some kind of mutual agreement with the publishers,” he said.

But librarians say they have their own business problems.

Jennifer Rothschild selects and purchases books for the Arlington Public Library in Virginia. She said the pandemic was wreaking havoc on local government budgets.

“So for next year libraries are facing a huge funding crisis,” she said.

If they can’t afford enough e-books to meet the growing demand, Rothschild said: “So people are like, ‘Oh, my library doesn’t have this because they don’t know what is. popular and they are offline. “. “

She said this starts a cycle: people use the library less, advocate less, and this, in turn, can affect its funding.

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