image Public libraries report a double-digit growth in Internet services, according to an LISNews item summing up an ALA report. You can download the entire PDF here.

So what are the e-book angles in the report?

In 2008 51.8 percent of covered libraries offer e-book services, compared to just 38.3 percent in ’07.

I’d like to see the growth rate still higher. More money could help. But how to justify it? The Tower of eBabel, all those different e-book formats to worry about, is one barrier. And how about hard-to-use DRM? Libraries, moreover, have yet to benefit directly in a major way from the Kindle, which lacks the most library-friendly terms of service.

Curious quirks in the stats: E-book services more common in high-poverty library districts?

imageA quick skim of the report shows curious statistics on Page 51. Would you believe, e-books are available to users in 75.3 percent of high-poverty areas but only about 51 percent in low- and medium-level poverty areas? Are the numbers right? Are low-income areas getting the e-book services through special poverty-linked grants? And what’s meant by e-books? Something accessed through a horrid interface on a desktop computer? Are e-books being used as an excuse to say, "Oh, patrons can get the books if they want, since it’s in E"? What about loans of low-cost hardware for patrons to enjoy the books at home at leisure? Or maybe training?

In case you’re interested, e-book mentions appear in the report on pages 4, 10, 30, 51, 130, 135, 138 and 180. I’ll welcome further analysis from TeleBlog community members, both librarians and nonlibrarians. Click on the chart above for a more detailed view.

Needed: Funding to absorb tech

Another point in the report hit me—the lack of budgeting for libraries to absorb technology properly. When some librarians shudder at the prospects of more tech, it isn’t necessarily because they fear it, but rather because they worry they won’t have the resources to absorb it properly. I wonder how this concept might apply to e-books in high-poverty library districts. TeleRead, anyone? We need a comprehensive approach. Online collections are just the start.

Jeff Scott, meanwhile, a TeleBlog contributor who is the library director in Casa Grande, Arizona, has a Post ALA conference report, including a few words on OverDrive’s audiobooks.

And speaking of libraries: I’d love to see Sony Reader freebies—discussed by Joe Wikert—go to both university libraries and individual students.


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