Library Journal, a major publication in the library field, has just released the first findings from a study of library patrons. A sample of 2,421 library users whose frequency of library usage and book buying were similar to the statistical norm were surveyed to see how their library usage influenced their book buying habits. While covering both print and digital books, the study was especially important in demonstrating that readers who borrow eBooks from the library also buy eBooks.
Why is this point so important? If you download eBooks from the New Hampshire Downloadable Books Consortium, you may have noticed that titles from four of the so-called Big Six publishers are not included. That's because Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, and Hachette do not make their eBooks available for library lending. Harper Collins limits the number of check-outs to 26, making its titles a poor value for a consortium with 170 member libraries and a less than ideal budget. That leaves Penguin and Random House as the only major players, and even Penguin pulled all their titles from library lending for a few days last week before restoring all but the front-list--the titles everyone wants to read.
The major publishers fear that library lending will drain profits and author royalties. This is an understandable concern. But the study shows that library users are more likely to buy a book or eBook after reading something borrowed from the library. If they don't want to wait on a reserve list or can't finish an eBook in the 2 weeks allowed, the next obvious option is to buy. To quote from the study: "...library users are avid readers, listeners, and talkers, and ...the library is an important part of a rich ecosystem of cultural exchange that is seamlessly connected to the marketplace."
As more data is released, the Big Six need to sit up and pay attention. Libraries and consortia like ours buy eBooks. Our readers buy eBooks. By withholding their titles from library lending platforms, they are cheating themselves, their authors, and consumers. It's time to join the party. As I've said in previous posts, the eBook picture changes almost daily. This is a change that's overdue.