Library ebooks may actually generate sales

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Book publishers could be missing a lucrative boat with their efforts to curb free circulation of their ebooks through public libraries.

Traditionally, the publishers have treated libraries almost as parasites that siphon off sales with their free-circulation practices. Through a mix of licensing agreements, high prices and, in some cases, outright refusal to deal with libraries, the publishers have tried to restrict library circulation of their e-titles.

A new survey of 75,000 library ebook readers — conducted by Overdrive and the American Library Association – suggests, however, that they may be shooting their sales in the foot with their anti-library tactics.

As Michael Kozlowski of Good E-Reader explains, “the study confirms 57 per cent of people use libraries as content discovery engines. Patrons often will see a book and will end up making the digital purchase. Fifty-three per cent of all people surveyed have thought about buying an ebook listed on the libraries website and fifty-three per cent borrow ebooks and also buy them.”

About one-third of the readers actually buy the ebook to add to their personal collection after they have read the library edition, he says.

That’s hardly the profit-eating monster that publishers have long feared.

Bearing in mind that Overdrive and the library association have a horse in this race, the study suggests library ebook circulation may actually be an effective way to market the publishers’ new offerings.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I admit I’m an enthusiastic borrower of ebooks from my public library. And I still buy way too many books – both in digital and paper format.)

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