Released: June 26, 2012

E-book lending: Your public library’s best kept secret?

About three quarters of American public libraries currently lend out e-books, and in the past year libraries have seen a sharp growth in e-book borrowing. Still, well over half of U.S. library card holders don’t know whether their local public library lends e-books, according to a new Pew report.

Pew also found that 12% of all Americans age 16 and older who read e-books have borrowed an e-book from a library in the past year — and they’re generally pretty happy with the experience. Two thirds of them characterized their library’s selection of e-book titles as “excellent,” “very good” or “good.”

Of course, there are occasional hitches. Some library patrons reported waiting lists for popular e-books, or that the library e-book wasn’t offered in a format compatible with their device.

Earlier this year, Pew research found that about one in five U.S. adults have read an e-book in the past year, and that e-book users tend to read over 30% more books per year than people who only read printed material.

If e-books encourage people to read more, that’s good for public libraries — which have a core mission to foster literacy and community engagement with information, culture and civic life.

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