My 2012 readings: Why aren’t readers borrowing books from the library?

Recently, someone asked me where I get my books, and this sent me to plot the data from my book list so I can generate some statistics. In 2012, I read a total of 29 books, in print and e-book formats. According to a study by the Pew Research center, a non e-book reader reads an average of 15 books per year while the combined e-book/print readers read an average of 24 books per year.
Bottom line: combined readers read more, and my numbers are further evidence.

Like, 21% of Americans, I too read e-books, and have been encouraged to read more, but unlike most Americans, my first choice is always to get my books from the public library. In fact, of the 29 books I read this year, 17 were library books. These include 13 kindle books and 4 print books. Of the 13 kindle books I read this year, 9 were borrowed from the New York Public Library.

Like 88% of American e-book readers, I read printed books as well. As I said, I read
17 print books this year, 13 of them were library books.

But this is where I differ from most American: My fist choice is always to borrow books from the library.
The Pew study reports that these readers
… are also more likely than others to have bought their most recent book, rather than
borrowed it, and they are more likely than others to say they prefer to purchase books in
general, often starting their search online.

As you can see 45% of the books I read this whether print and e-books were borrowed from the library. Not all the books I wanted to read were available at the library, but that was not the only reason I bought book. Four of the 29 books I read were in Hebrew and not available from the library. Some had long waiting periods at the library and for whatever reason I could not wait, and some I wanted to own.

I have many grievances against NYPL (maybe subject for a future post), but I am first to admit that their offering of e-books has increased. I read 13 e-books this year, 9 from the library and 4 from Amazon. Of the four, two were available from NYPL, but I could not wait for whatever reason.
If, as the Pew study reports, most readers prefer to buy books than borrow them from the library, then the library isn’t doing a good enough job in getting their message across to readers. The question is what should we be doing?

As I was riding the subway this week I noticed the Audible campaign ad and could not help but wonder on the possible impact if NYPL engaged in such a campaign. Most New Yorkers, I suspect, are not aware of the resources available from their library.


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