Library clients turn to e-books

LOIS CAIRNS
Last updated 05:00 13/01/2014

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The popularity of e-books is soaring among Christchurch library users as the city's readers embrace modern technology.

In a "spectacular" show of growth the number of digital items loaned through the Christchurch City Libraries' electronic borrowing system, Overdrive, has jumped from 11,543 in 2010 to 93,758 last year.

"For 2013 alone the increase in downloads per month has nearly doubled, from 6443 in January to 10,921 in December - our best month yet," Christchurch City Libraries content manager Anne Anderson said.

The most popular ebook titles in 2013 were The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, and Killing Floor, by Lee Child.

Anderson said a new service, Zinio, which allowed library users to also download e-magazines had been launched on December 20 and was proving a big hit. In just two weeks customers had borrowed 8723 times from the 200-plus titles on offer.

"Most popular titles to date have been OK! magazine, followed by National Geographic Interactive and Cosmopolitan," Anderson said.

Asked whether it was young people who were driving the increase in digital borrowing, Anderson said it appeared to be across the board: "It's not particularly young people. It's not particularly geeks. It's people who like to read and who are happy to try a new way of doing it."

To date there were about 11,000 titles available through Overdrive but it was hoped to increase that figure to around 12,000 by the end of this year.

Anderson said in order to meet the growing demand for e-books, an increasing amount of money was being spent on digital content, but the bulk of the libraries' budget still went on print books. The Australian Library and Information Association was projecting that by 2020 libraries would be splitting their budgets equally between e-books and print books.

If the growth in e-book borrowing continued as projected, it was likely there would be some drop-off in the number of people physically visiting libraries.

"Trending over time, it would be reasonable to expect that as more people get their information digitally, they will have less need to come in [to libraries] to borrow material. That doesn't mean they won't still come in for other purposes."

Anderson said borrowing e-books was easy and users did not need to worry about incurring fines for overdue books as they simply disappeared off the e-reader at the end of the loan period. The libraries' e-books were compatible with most e-book readers and mobile devices, except Kindles, which could not be used because of a commercial arrangement with Amazon.

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While The Hunger Games and Killing Floor were the hot digital reads of 2013 , the most in-demand adult fiction print book was Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries. It was the most requested book of the year.

Teen readers could not get enough of Allegiant, the third instalment in author Veronica Roth's Divergent series, while the most requested children's book of the year was Hard Luck, by Jeff Kinney.

Children's classics, Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak, and And to think that I saw it on Mulberry Street, by Dr Seuss, were the most borrowed children's fiction titles. Where the Wild Things Are, which dates back to 1963, was borrowed 542 times in 2013, while the Dr Seuss classic, first published in 1937, was lent out 450 times.

The most borrowed fiction titles for adults were A Week in Winter, by Maeve Binchy, and Whisky Beach, by Nora Roberts.

- The Press

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