Multiple sources are reporting today on this newly released survey (PDF) on the buying habits of library e-book borrowers. The survey questioned over 75,000 e-book borrowers, and found that more than half of them buy books, too. It also found that dedicated reading devices still account for a significant chunk of the market. (The survey was sponsored by OverDrive, with the ALA’s Office for Information Technology Policy.)

I am delighted to see these survey results confirm what I have known to be true from my own habits. Book reading is not a zero-sum game with a final ‘winner’ (and corresponding losers) in terms of format, source, media and so on.

People are diverse individuals. Some of my books, I prefer in paper. Some of my books are indie. Some are from big publishers. Some are borrowed from the library, and some are purchased. It all depends.

I do tend to favor the library for the DRM-laced stuff these days. Most of my purchases this year have been from Delphi Classics, Humble Bundle and other DRM-free sources. I buy from Amazon as well, if I’m on the go and won’t be able to download from my computer, as OverDrive requires.

Either way, my library usage has not stopped me from being a regular book buyer, too.

From OverDrive’s Digital Library Blog:

“With more than 75,000 respondents, the survey constitutes the largest study of library eBook usage to date. The findings echo 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 they first discover at the library. In the OverDrive-ALA survey, 57 percent of respondents said that the public library is their primary source of book discovery.”

Key Findings

♦ Public library is primary source of book discovery for 57 percent of respondents
♦ Library patrons purchase average of 3.2 books per month (including print and e-books)
♦ Patrons’ digital book purchases have increased in past six months (44%)
♦ 35 percent of respondents have purchased a book (print or e-book) after borrowing that title
♦ Nearly half (48 percent) of respondents report household income greater than $75,000

* * *

Follow us @TeleRead 
Join us on Facebook


  1. Great survey! I discovered so many great authors through my libraries’ websites, whose books I end up purchasing on Amazon if they are unavailable to borrow! The amont of books I purchase has increased significantly since I started e-borrowing.

    I wish they had split apart the dedicated readers by brand, and also asked about epub vs kindle and mp3 vs wma preferences. wma is not user friendly, and you can not return a wma title before it expires, which is completely nonsensical.

  2. Many readers are voracious so the survey is no real surprise. I imagine the only reason a majority of those who don’t buy books but use the library is lack of money.

    My library’s digital collection has a buy button with each selection so, apparently, some are buying the books, as well as checking them out. One reason for this is that most recent books have an incredibly long list of people waiting for it. One book by a very minor author of a paranormal mystery series had a waiting list of over 60 people. I’m still waiting after three months for one of Dean Koontz’ backlist.

    It surprises me that people find books via Overdrive. Their interface really stinks, it offers little more than a brief blurb, and they divide books so broadly that it’s hard to find anything. Science fiction and fantasy, for example, lacks subcategories, and you are as likely to find young adult dystopia as hard science fiction or a WIZARD OF OZ book as the latest urban fantasy.

    And, don’t get me started on Overdrive’s audiobook collection. It won’t work with a Mac iPod but will with a Windows iPod in the major formats. More than a bit of irony there.

The TeleRead community values your civil and thoughtful comments. We use a cache, so expect a delay. Problems? E-mail