I have been reading a lot during the lockdown and I’m sure many people have been too. I read a lot of books on my Kindle and thus am lucky enough to be able to digitally download ebooks from the library and buy them online. Many people also turned towards ebooks and libraries have had a big increase in ebooks being checked out.
The District of Columbia Public Libraries has seen this surge and have been trying to meet the demand. “Since the library closed on March 16, we’ve had about seven thousand people register for library cards,” said Richard Reyes-Gavilan, the Executive Director of the District of Columbia Public Libraries. Over 300,000 books have been borrowed since mid-March and that has become a problem because their collection is limited.
That is 37% higher than the same period of time last year for the city. We obviously know the why but it is still interesting to see the impact. Ebooks have grown in popularity over the years but a lot of people still prefer physical copies over digital. This pandemic might give ebooks a push to the forefront that I don’t think will go away. People will be wary of physical books and who has touched them before that person purchases it.
The District of Columbia isn’t the only place that is turning towards ebooks in high demand. Across the United States, there has been an increase of 50% over the same period of time. The data used for this info comes from Overdrive, the service libraries use to check out ebooks. Audiobooks have also seen an increase of 14%
Kids books have been the most checked out ebooks and that makes sense. Parents want to keep their kids education going while schools are closed and everyone is stuck at home. Also, kids books are short and no longer than 30 mins at most.
The problem that libraries have to deal with is that ebooks are a hassle. Digital titles are usually three to five times as expensive as physical books and ebook licenses have to be renewed more often because the licenses tend to be for shorter term. Publishing companies aren’t fans of ebook checkouts in libraries because it cuts into their profit.
That is why libraries may be in trouble. They will have to renew ebooks more often and pay the publishers more and more. Libraries are already short on cash and this will make it even harder for them. It is odd that libraries are poorly funded in this country. They are public institutions that help educate and entertain people of all ages and they also have programs for the elderly.
I spent a lot of my childhood at my local library. It was a great place to escape to read a book, play checkers or connect four or browse the internet. We need libraries to be accessible to everyone and well funded so they can keep lending books and ebooks to the millions of people that have come to rely on them. As we have seen during the pandemic, libraries are a necessity.