From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
The impact [new e-reader purchased during the 2011 holiday season] on area libraries was similarly dramatic. Cobb’s number of “unique library card users” checking out e-books jumped by 31 percent from November to December. Public demand was so great that the cash-strapped DeKalb County Public Library carved $10,000 out of its budget to begin lending e-books in December.
“No other [new] format has compared to e-books in terms of popularity and exponential growth,” said John Szabo, director of the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System, where e-book checkout numbers first surged noticeably during the 2010 holiday season and haven’t let up since.
“It’s a huge opportunity,” Szabo continued. “I worry about us not being able to take enough advantage of it.”
For all the excitement surrounding e-books, they’re still a small part of what libraries do. Atlanta-Fulton Library users checked out 3,863,558 items in 2011, of which 45,083 were e-books or e-audiobooks. Cobb’s 345,112 library card holders currently include 8,634 users of the digital download service.
DeKalb’s acquisitions budget, which has to cover everything from large print and children’s book purchases to DVDs and magazine subscriptions, didn’t grow to accommodate the addition of e-books.
“We wiggled the money out of something else,” said Weissinger. “We’re buying fewer extra copies of things now and having to spread them across more formats than ever.”
We believe that pricing to libraries must account for the higher value of this institutional model, which permits e-books to be repeatedly circulated without limitation,” Stuart Applebaum, a Random House spokesperson, explained in an emailed statement.