Ok, I know I only recently posted on this subject, but I was so taken aback by what I’d just seen, I felt compelled to blog about it.
Recently, Kent County Council launched an ebook service in conjunction with Overdrive. In fact, I should probably disclose that I was involved in early discussions about launching this service. I remember at the time of discussing these proposals, many of the ‘frontline’ staff were either sceptical or lukewarm to the idea (although by no means all). Unsurprisingly, I was very enthusiastic (shock). I found that the scepticism seemed to die away, however, once I introduced them to my ereader, they were a bit more interested and a little more enthusiastic.
Skip forward a few months (I’m no longer employed by KCC), and the service is live to the public and, it appears, doing rather well. I had a quick look last night at some of the titles on offer and I was impressed with both the currency and the uptake. Franzen’s latest is there as is Jacobson’s Booker Prize winner. But the most impressive aspect was the amount on loan.
I had a quick look at both Tony Blair’s and Stephen Fry’s biographies and both had no copies available (there were 6 copies of each). Furthermore, Blair’s book had no less than SEVEN reservations outstanding. Pretty impressive stuff. And it was the same story with many other titles on offer. Lots out on loan, lots of reservations. If anything can convince the ‘not now’ brigade, surely this can? I don’t hold out much hope of that. There are vested interests at play after all.
That said, the arguments must surely be put to one side. The time for ebooks in public libraries is indeed now. They must meet the needs of their users else they face a slide into irrelevance and, heaven forbid, privatisation. A concept no lover of libraries can allow to happen.
Shortly after posting the above I discovered the following:
- Two months after launching the ebook service (July 2010), nearly 2,000 ebooks had been downloaded.
- Around 40 were being downloaded per day by September.
- The limit of ebook titles any one user could download had to increase from 3 to 6 due to public demand.
A pretty amazing response, and with little promotion aside from the website. More reason for public libraries to offer ebooks as part of their broader service. The time really is now.