Last updated: February 28, 2011 - 3:23pm
Public libraries across the USA are seeing a surge in demand for electronic books at a time many are facing budget cuts that make it difficult to satisfy it.
OverDrive, which supplies electronic books to 13,000 libraries worldwide, reported a 200% increase in e-book circulation in 2010 from 2009. Though library officials see the value in providing e-books, many don't have the money to keep up. "Libraries are facing huge budget cuts all across the country," says Audra Caplan, president of the Public Library Association. In 2007, first lady Laura Bush recognized the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library in North Carolina as one of the USA's best. Now that library is closing four branches and laying off employees. "We did see a huge uptick in new users and use of our e-books," said Linda Raymond, the library's materials management manager. "And no, we don't have a way to address it because of our budget." To lend out titles, libraries buy e-book licenses from publishers. A single-copy license lets a library lend an e-book to a user for a set time, says David Burleigh, OverDrive's director of marketing. Once returned, it's available to another patron.