Downloading ebooks from your local public library is poised to become much more widespread.
Anthony Marx, New York Public Library President, announced in an op-ed in today’s NY Times (subscription required) that Hachette Book Group has now joined the other Big Six publishers in agreeing to allow e-lending of its titles. Citing surveys that show that most Americans don’t know that libraries offer ebooks, Marx sees a need “to educate patrons that they can download library e-books anywhere and on any device.” Library e-lending, when permitted by publishers, generally allows one-at-a-time, two week uses of ebooks. Library users may download the ebooks from their homes after using their library cards to log in to the library’s website.
Marx discusses the variations in e-lending terms among the Big Six publishers: Penguin and Simon & Schuster offer their entire lists to public libraries through licenses that expire after a year; HarperCollins also offers their entire list with licenses that expire after a title is downloaded 26 times; Random House offers its entire list for unlimited uses, charging a premium for the license; and Macmillan makes only a limited portion of its list available.
The numbers show substantial room for growth in ebook downloads from the NYPL (and, no doubt, other public libraries):
The New York Public Library had 100,000 copies of 37,000 digital titles in circulation last year, compared with 6.5 million copies in circulation of 1 million print titles. Just as libraries decide which physical books to purchase and how many of each, we now will be deciding the same for e-books.
As those with library cards learn that they “can download library e-books anywhere and on any device,” we may soon see a rapid shift in ebook buying habits.