Ebook borrowing doubles but libraries experience growing pains

Canberra, 3 June 2020: During the COVID-19 lockdown, public libraries have seen ebook borrowing increase by as much as double over the same period last year, but there are still issues about availability, licensing conditions and cost, as revealed by an industry survey undertaken by the Australian Library and Information Association Book Industry and eLending Advisory Committee.

The survey provided a snapshot of the situation at the end of 2019, with 398 responses, representing a quarter of all library locations across Australia.

The top five ‘asks’ from respondents were a wider range of ebook content, better lending model conditions, improved cost per use, improved timeliness of release to libraries and improved reporting. While 83% were satisfied or very satisfied with the choice of ebooks, 91% were less than satisfied or not satisfied by the licensing conditions and costs.

ALIA CEO Sue McKerracher said, “For most libraries, ebooks still represent less than 10% of loans, but they are an important part of our collections, and during the pandemic, they have enabled us to maintain a 24/7 book borrowing service. Library users expect to be able to borrow ebooks as well as print, but one major publisher has yet to make its titles available for libraries to purchase, and where ebooks are available, libraries can be paying four or five times the retail price in print.

“We need to work with publishers and platform providers to develop terms and conditions for libraries which are fair to all and reflect the exciting opportunities to increase the reach of Australian books and authors in the digital environment.” 

About the Australian Library and Information Association
The Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) is the professional organisation for the Australian library and information services sector.
With 5,000 members across Australia, we provide the national voice of the profession in the development, promotion and delivery of quality library and information services, through leadership, advocacy and mutual support. www.alia.org.au