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Yes, Library Borrowers Really Do Buy Books: 3.2 a Month

By Dennis Abrams

A new survey sponsored by OverDrive, a leading distributor of e- and audio books, along with the American Library Association’s Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP), provides numbers that back up what many people may have already suspected: libraries play a key role in readers’ book-buying decisions.

Conducted this summer at thousands of OverDrive powered public library websites throughout the United States, the poll found that library users purchase an average of 3.2 books (both print and e-books) each month, and a majority would consider purchasing books discovered on a library website.

With more than 75,000 respondents, the survey is the largest study of library e-book usage done to date.  And, the findings are similar to those of earlier studies, such as the Pew Internet Project’s “Libraries, Patrons, and E-Books,” revealing that a significant percentage of library users regularly purchase books that they first discover at their public library. In the OverDrive-ALA survey, 57% of respondents said that public library is their primary source of book discovery.

Among the other findings:

  • Patrons’ digital book purchases have increased 44% over the last six months.
  • 35% of respondents have purchased a book (print or e-book) after borrowing that title.
  • Nearly half (48%) of respondents report household income greater than $75,000

Read the entire study here (PDF).

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3 Comments

  1. Posted November 18, 2012 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

    Exactly. I’m a librarian and average WELL over 3.2 book purchases per month based largely on books either added to our collection or found in librarian-targeted catalogues. WELL over. Sometimes the books are by favorite authors, sometimes the wait lists are too long and sometimes lust overcomes all reasoning and I can’t help myself. Libraries provide patrons with books they sometimes want to preview before they buy and sometimes just can’t bloody afford but they do not have a significant impact on book purchases. Come see my collection if you need further proof.

  2. Posted November 19, 2012 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    Oh, sure. I’m a library patron, and I LOVE libraries. I read the beginning of the book to see if I like it, and the library is great for that. Some books I like, and some I don’t. The ones I don’t like go back for someone else to enjoy. With others. I’m happy to read the library copy. But then there are the books I love, and those are the ones I buy, either online or on paper. I’ve discovered so many books I love at the library. I never would have found these books otherwise.

    For all the emphasis on reviews, I’ve been led astray by them. I’ve bought based on reviews only a few times, and each time I’ve been disappointed. Reviews can be helpful because they give information on the book, but I’ve found out the hard way that just because one person likes a book doesn’t mean I will.

    At the library, I can preview a book. I love libraries. I wish all my tax dollars went to libraries.

  3. Sangita
    Posted November 20, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    A lot of the times I’d purchased books because I’d fallen in love with a book I had borrowed from the library. Almost my entire book collection was built due to books I’d borrowed and loved it enough to keep one for myself.

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