How to Track eBook Lending in Libraries

Man with an e-book reader while his friends look for books at th

Libraries are undergoing transformation and have been for some time. Over the past few years, the demand for eBooks and eReaders has significantly increased as a result of not only technological factors, but also economic, social and legal factors.

The digital shift

This shift is nothing new in 2014. According to Pew Research, the number of adults in the United States who own eBook readers nearly doubled in the weeks between mid-December 2011 and January 2012. And according to Library Journal, 66 percent of public libraries said they saw a “dramatic” increase in request for eBooks in 2011.

The same study reported that, at the time, 82 percent of libraries offered access to eBooks and 49 percent of libraries that did not offer them planned to offer access within the next 12 months.

But now that libraries have seen the need for a strong eBook presence in their selection, they are also seeing the need to track the success and use of those materials – and how that use compares to that of physical books.

The challenge for libraries

Most libraries would agree that the more access to learning materials the better. However, increased interest in digital resources does cause a few problems on their end. While physical books can be checked out and returned in a concrete fashion, it is difficult to track the use of eBooks – especially without an advanced online checkout system.

Not to mention, just as publishers fear that the ease and convenience of eBooks could hurt physical book sales, libraries need to be wary of the effects that lending eBooks through online could have on their physical selection. With the ease of online eBooks, patrons may never have a reason to set foot in their local public library again.

A possible solution

In the library landscape, eBooks are meant to coexist with physical books, not replace them. The ideal situation is to house both digital and physical materials under one roof – both benefitting from one another. That way, patrons will take advantage of both media while continuing to bring business to your brick-and-mortar building.

Library traffic statistics gleaned from people counting software can support this. Libraries with people counting systems installed can effectively track the effectiveness and success of the eBooks and digital materials they offer.

When installed in a modern library, people counting software can answer questions like:

  • How many of your facility’s total visitors are taking advantage of your eBook selection?
  • How does it compare to the number of those who are checking out physical books?
  • How has traffic changed in the area where you offer eReaders?

Here are a few reasons why this technology is beneficial:

  1. No IT costs – For smaller libraries and those just beginning to offer eBooks, installing an intuitive “set it and forget it” system is much easier and more cost-effective than undertaking a huge IT project to set up an online lending system.
  2. More effective marketing – Although making money is not really the name of a library’s game, marketing is still an important aspect of running one. How will the public know that you offer eBooks if you don’t tell them? And if you do tell them, how will you make sure they get your message? People counting systems can be used to measure marketing efforts over peak performance periods to find out the best areas and time periods to place advertisements.
  3. Improved management – A people counting system can provide several other business benefits in addition to the monitoring of eBooks. In a nutshell, it allows libraries to gain insight into the success and reception of the services they provide, as well as comply with any laws that require them to report information to the state and use traffic information to justify requests for additional technology or resources. It also allows libraries to better manage their facilities, as the amount of people they serve can directly affect hours of operations or building needs.

How are you handling the rise in eBook lending and eReader usage in your library?