Released: August 9, 2012

On Borrowing Digital Books From the Library

I had resisted the lure of electronic books for as long as I could. But this year I received an e-reader for Mother’s Day. I’m happy — but my wallet isn’t.

As I quickly learned, e-readers offer instant gratification. Read an intriguing review in The New York Times Book Review on Sunday? A click or two, and there it is on your reader. I recalled a snippet on the radio about “Escape From Camp 14,” about a boy raised in the North Korean gulag. That night, I downloaded it, and devoured it.

The downside, however, is the cumulative cost. E-books may cost less than physical ones, but the spending quickly mounts when you’re an avid reader and you download volumes at will. When I got my credit card bill for my Barnes & Noble account, which feeds my Nook reader, it gave me pause — and got me wondering about borrowing e-books from my library.

I found that borrowing digital books isn’t as easy as it should be. A study released in June from the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that 12 percent of adults who read e-books have borrowed from a library. But more than half of e-book borrowers from libraries reported that the library did not carry a book they wanted, and half said that at some point they discovered there was a waiting list to borrow the book.

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