ALA, BISG announce results of new joint study on print, digital library usage

For Immediate Release
Thu, 12/03/2015


Macey Morales
Deputy Director
Public Awareness Office

CHICAGO - The American Library Association (ALA) and the Book Industry Study Group (BISG) have released the results of their first joint research initiative, “Digital Content in Public Libraries: What Do Patrons Think?” Library patrons were asked about preferences for print or digital formats, collection assessment, preferred devices and other issues that affect the use and distribution of published content in public libraries. The study will serve as a tool to furthering the understanding of the e-book marketplace.  

“The ALA is particularly pleased to work with BISG on this project,” said ALA Executive Director Keith Fiels. “This is the first study to establish a benchmark - and usage trends - related to the digital reading experience of library patrons. This robust survey is one of the first steps towards understanding the digital landscape, as libraries continue to transform to meet the rapidly changing needs of their users.”

The study shows that library patrons enjoy the variety of information resources, in both print and digital form. Borrowing print books is the most cited reason to visit a public library. Public library patrons cited computer use, Wi-Fi access and attending programs as other reasons for visiting. Also 23 percent of responding patrons borrow up to 10 e-books in a year, as there is a growing demand for access to a greater selection of e-books.

 “The survey provides the publishing industry and library administrators alike with invaluable insight into how readers interact with e-books in a library environment,” said Mark Kuyper, BISG's Executive Director.

Convenience is an important factor for patrons when deciding to read a book in print or digital format, followed by price, portability, genre and length of book. During the past year, survey respondents (96 percent) said they had read a least one print book, while 44 percent read at least one e-book.  Patrons continue to check out audiobooks, with 14 percent of respondents listening to physical audiobooks and 12 percent listening to downloaded audiobooks.

Patrons rated the library’s collection of print titles, including books for adults, children’s books, newspapers and magazines, higher than the collection of digital titles. Physical audio book collections were rated higher than digital audiobooks. When asked what hinders them from borrowing more e-books, patrons (34 percent) cited not finding the book they want and 28 percent stated a preference for print books.

Study goals included:

  • Obtain solid data about what formats library patrons, from adults to children, prefer when borrowing and reading books;
  • Know how often patrons are visiting the physical and online versions of their local public library;
  • Gain insights into what urban libraries are doing right, since overall patron satisfaction in e-book selection greatly exceeds suburban and rural libraries;
  • Learn what makes younger patrons more satisfied with the selection of available e-books than older patrons;
  • Understand the differences in patron attitudes and behaviors depending on age, gender, geography and other demographic factors.

Survey results are available as an executive summary (free to BISG and ALA members), or in a complete 85-page PDF report, compiled by Jim Milliot of Publishers Weekly. Online orders are accepted at Digital Content in Public Libraries. ALA organizational members should email for a special discount code.

About ALA
The American Library Association
 (ALA) is the oldest and largest library association in the world, providing association information, news, events, and advocacy resources for members, librarians, and library users. The mission of ALA is to provide leadership for the development, promotion, and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.

About BISG
The Book Industry Study Group, Inc.
 (BISG) is the book industry’s leading trade association for standardseducation, and information. BISG facilitates the connections and conversations that solve common problems, advance new ideas, and more profitably bring published content to readers. For over 35 years, BISG has provided a forum for all industry professionals to come together and efficiently address issues and concerns to advance the book community. Members include publishers, manufacturers, suppliers, wholesalers, retailers, librarians, and others engaged in the business of print and electronic media.