What does the massive popularity of e-books and e-readers mean for public libraries? Well, it’s complicated, but for North Country libraries, getting on the e-book train is apparently well worth the expense.
In an Odgensburg Journal article last week, North Country Library System director Stephen Bolton said that although e-books are substantially pricier than physical books, it’s worth it for the library.
“Promoting literature, reading and access to information is the central mission for libraries,” Bolton told the paper. “People are rediscovering what library services are available to them thanks to e-books and now e-magazines.”
Price-wise, the difference is substantial. E-books range from about $40 to $100 for the North Country libraries (hardly a Kindle “daily deal” price!), while a physical copy could be about $20. So the price is higher, but so is circulation: Bolton said while every year circulation of physical copies has gone up 2 or 3 percent, the circulation of the e-books has gone up 20 percent every year since it was established in 2011.
“This is just our third year since we established a collection. It’s still rather small, but people have responded immediately when we get new titles,” Bolton said. “If we had more money to get more books or copies of books, I know our circulation would go up.”
But Bolton said that libraries are still spending more on physical copies of books, movies, audiobooks and music. The 65 libraries in the North Country Library System still spent roughly $713,132 on physical materials in 2014.
He also said (importantly) that he doesn’t believe the introduction of e-books marks the end of libraries or physical copies of books. He believes that the transition symbolizes how local libraries are trying to adapt to meet the needs of the community.
So what do you prefer to see in your library? A smaller but growing e-book collection or an old-fashioned book from the library shelf? Or does the distinction even matter at all?