Demanding Options

The eBook: Another Format, yet Another Option

I experienced the eBook revolution more so as a library employee than as a reader. That is to say, it would have taken me a lot longer to embrace the change, if it wasn’t for the patrons asking me about Adobe Reader, OverDrive, and KOBO. I did not own, and still do not own, an eReader. However, I quickly downloaded OverDrive to my iPhone in order to confront all the questions. Staff would gear up for the post-Christmas season of eReader troubleshooting. We read endless emails about help functions to direct patrons to and pamphlets to hand out. You could add “Device Expert” next to “Reader’s Advisory” on my list of duties.

To be completely honest, I wasn’t a complete expert then, nor am I one now. What I am is really interested in eBooks, as they pertain to libraries. BookNet Canada’s President, Noah Genner, pointed out that, “The research suggests that the eBook market in Canada may have reached a plateau…Early 2013 data backs this up”. After the eReader boom, and the surge of backlist titles into the digital market alongside new releases, the waters are just now beginning to calm. EBooks are not going anywhere folks. Just give them a chance to get comfortable.

It seems that publishers and libraries alike got really excited, or scared, and began adapting as necessary, expanding their digital output. Is a plateau really that bad though? Sure, sales aren’t going up, but they aren’t going down either. The glass is half full. Not long ago we were worried physical books were fading out. Perhaps this fear was brought on by major publications ceasing to exist in a physical format such as: Encyclopedia Britannica (1768-2012), Oxford English Dictionary (1884-2010) and Newsweek (1933-2012).

Let’s have a moment of silence.

Truth is physical books are still in demand, and now here we are worrying about eBook sales. It seems “Canadians still prefer to buy their books in physical stores. 34% of book purchases were made in non-book retailers, 37% in bookstores and 25% online—print book purchases made online account for 19% of those online sales” (Canadian Ebook Market Plateaus). So why is that, do you think?

Perhaps now is a time of stepping back and gathering data from consumers. Consumers, who are getting to know their own reading styles and preferences. The more I talk to people the more I realize it doesn’t come down to a commitment to electronic over physical. It’s both! Pamela Millar, the Director of Customer Relations at BooknNet Canada relays, “We’ve found that the dominant factor in selecting a retailer is convenience”. What if the same goes for reader’s preferences? Maybe I prefer to read on my KOBO during my commute to work, but can’t wait to get my hands on a heavy hardcover when I get home. Likewise, patrons at the library demand options for their own convenience.

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