Library e-book cases soar during pandemic

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

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

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

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

Since the start of the pandemic, e-book library cases have increased by more than 50%. And libraries expect demand for e-books to last. A hearing that can delight librarians. 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 annually or every two years, he said. But during COVID, some publishers relaxed the terms and prices for e-books. Rosenblatt said that made sense, given the challenges facing another class of customer, physical bookstores.

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

Yet, Rosenblatt said, publishers could change their library prices 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 arrangement 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, as we approach 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: “

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

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