2012 Libraries in the Digital Age

Internet access at libraries

December 28, 2012

In a survey this fall, the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project asked whether people had accessed the internet at a library in the previous 12 months. Some 26% of those ages 16 and older said they had.

Our question was designed to include people who used the wired computers at the library and people who had used the library WiFi connection, too.

There were some notable demographic differences in the answers to this question. African-Americans and Latinos were more likely than whites to access the internet at their local library, as were parents of minor children, those under age 50, and those with some college experience. Some of these findings have been covered in a New York Times debate that began on December 27, 2012. Read More »

The smell of books

September 28, 2012

What’s in a smell? A book in any format may read the same, but it seems there’s something about the smell of print that e-books just can’t capture—for now.

Earlier this summer, New York Times tech blogger Nick Bilton wrote about wandering into a West Village bookstore on a visit to New York:

“I immediately felt a sense of nostalgia that I haven’t felt in a long time. The scent of physical books—the paper, the ink, the glue—can conjure up memories of a summer day spent reading on a beach, a fall afternoon in a coffee shop, or an overstuffed chair by a fireplace as rain patters on a windowsill.”

But amidst this nostalgic reverie, he considers the advantages of e-books: their search functionality, ease of transport, the ability to share favorite passages with friends. He leaves the bookstore without buying anything.

Yet for some, the added conveniences of electronic books can never make up for the loss of the physical experience of reading a print book. The author Ray Bradbury famously was never a fan of e-books:

“Those aren’t books. . . .  A computer does not smell. There are two perfumes to a book. If a book is new, it smells great. If a book is old, it smells even better. It smells like ancient Egypt. A book has got to smell.”

According to Bradbury, e-books themselves “smell like burned fuel.” Read More »

Notes from ALA 2012

July 09, 2012

The Rise of E-Reading

In case you missed it: Our director, Lee Rainie, shared findings from our new report on e-book lending at libraries at the 2012 ALA Annual Conference on Sunday, June 24. He also discussed general reading trends, the rise of e-books, and library patrons’ experiences with e-book borrowing. His slides are available here.

(Want to read more? Most of the data in his talk came from our new report, “Libraries, patrons, and e-books,” as well as our previous e-books report, “The rise of e-reading.”)

Lee will also be discussing this material at the ALA Virtual Conference on July 18 starting at 11:45 a.m., EDT.

Digital Differences

I also had a great time discussing our research at a session of the ALA’s Spectrum Leadership Institute on Monday, June 25. We talked about trends in technology access and use among various demographic groups, as well as what these changes might mean for libraries. My slides are available here.

As I mentioned during my talk, senior research specialist Aaron Smith just wrote a new report on “cell mostly” internet users—the 17% of cell phone owners who do most of their online browsing on their phone, rather than a computer or other device. It not only updates our 2011 data, but explores the data in greater detail. Read More »

Libraries, patrons, and e-books: A guide to our new report

July 06, 2012

As you may know, we recently published a big report about e-book lending at libraries. The main headline from the report is that 12% of e-book readers ages 16 and older have borrowed an e-book from the library in the past year. However, another striking finding is that a majority of Americans (including a majority of library card holders) do not know if their library offers e-books for check-out—though the ALA reports that about three-quarters of libraries offer e-book lending. Read More »

E-books aren’t just for e-readers: A deep dive into the data

April 20, 2012

One of my favorite findings in our recent e-reading report was the breakdown of how people read their e-books. While there is a (very understandable) tendency to associate e-books with dedicated e-reading devices, we found that among people who read e-books, just as many read their e-books on a desktop or laptop computer as on an e-book reader like a Kindle or Nook—and more people read e-books on their cell phones than on tablet computers.

Read More »

Do you borrow e-books from your local public library?

April 16, 2012

As you know, we are in the midst of a multi-year study of the changing role of public libraries in the digital age. For our next report, we’re supplementing our usual nationally representative phone surveys with non-scientific, non-representative online surveys. These surveys help us draw out deeper, richer stories about the experiences of library users that can be used to illuminate the findings of our nationally representative surveys. If you check out or download e-books from your local public library, please take the survey below and tell us about your experiences!

The survey will be confidential and we will not share your identity, although your answers may be quoted anonymously in the report. The survey should take about 15 minutes.

[Update: This survey is now closed.] Read More »

Print books vs. e-books: Which is better for what

April 13, 2012

Our recent e-reading report has received a lot of attention over the past week, and one section in particular that seemed to spark conversation was our “print vs. e-books” showdown:

We asked people who read both print books and e-books in the past year which format they thought was better for a variety of situations. We found that people prefer e-books when they need a book quickly, when they want a wide selection, or when they want to read “on-the-go” while commuting or traveling. Print, meanwhile, is the preferred format for “social reading,” such as sharing books with others or reading with a child.

And when it comes to the time-honored tradition of reading in bed? The verdict was split: 45% say e-books are best here, while 43% prefer print. Read More »

A sneak peek at our research timeline

April 09, 2012

As you may know, Pew Internet received a $1.4 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to study the role of libraries in users’ lives and in their communities. So far, we’ve released reports chronicling the adoption of e-readers and tablet computers and the rise of e-reading — but we’re just getting started. Read More »

Let us be your megaphone

April 02, 2012

Chances are, if you’re reading this post, you’re someone who loves storytelling as much as we do. And while we at Pew Internet primarily tell stories through data, we also rely heavily on qualitative research to help us better understand the larger trends we observe in our research. Sometimes a single comment to an open-ended question can generate a critically important insight or lead us to ask new questions that simply wouldn’t have occurred to us otherwise. Read More »

Libraries get a room of their own

March 30, 2012

You may notice that this website looks and feels a bit different from the home site of pewinternet.org. As part of our multi-year study of the changing role of public libraries in the digital age, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we felt it was important to give this work its own “room,” so to speak. You will still be able to find all of these reports and presentations at our home site, but you’ll also have libraries.pewinternet.org as a one-stop shop for everything that Pew Internet does that relates to libraries.

Beyond our new Gates Foundation-supported initiative, you’ll see that this site also features an archive of relevant library-focused material that Pew Internet has produced in the past. Did you happen to miss Lee Rainie’s keynote address at the Internet Librarian conference last year? Well, we’ve got it here.

We’re also very interested to hear your feedback about the new site: What do you think works well? Where can we improve? What else could we add to this site to make it an even better resource for you?

Drop us an email and let us know what you think: webmaster@pewinternet.org

NextLibraries: What do Americans want from their libraries?

March 28, 2012

Laurie Putnam at Next Libraries has a great post up discussing the plans of our new research initiative to study libraries in the digital age:

The grant will allow researchers to concentrate on libraries in a way they never have before. “It’s enormously exciting to be doing something very focused on libraries and librarians because they are primary stakeholders of our work,” says Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet Project. “I know from all the conversations I’ve had with librarians how interested they are to find out where they stand in the world, what services people expect of them, and where they might fit into the world of ebooks.”

The post also includes an overview of our research schedule and ways to participate in upcoming research. Check it out!

New Report: Tablet and e-book reader ownership nearly double over the holiday gift-giving period

January 23, 2012

Our latest report finds that the share of adults in the United States who own tablet computers nearly doubled from 10% to 19% between mid-December and early January. The same surge in growth also applied to e-book readers, which also jumped from 10% to 19% over the same time period. As a result, the number of Americans owning at least one of these digital reading devices jumped from 18% in December to 29% in January. Read More »