May 26, 2022

Pew Releases New Report About eBook Reading, eReader Usage, and Library Use in Different Communities

A new report, Reading Habits in Different Communities was released by the Pew Internet and American Life Project today.

Worth noting that most of the research used in this report comes from a survey taken over a year ago (November 16 – December 21, 2011). This is the same survey that was used for Pew reports released in April 2012 and June 2012.

Meredith Schwartz at Library Journal has posted a look at what the report says and includes a few of the many charts found in the full text.

Primary Documents

Direct to Summary/Full Text Report (HTML) ||| Direct to Full Text Report (PDF)

What Does the Report Cover?

A Few Comments and Reactions

From the Report:

“Roughly two thirds (63%) of residents in each type of community say they do not know if their public library loans e-books; two in 10 say their library does.”

As we’ve said thousands of times, people have no chance of using a service if they don’t know about it. If you don’t properly market what you have to offer (and libraries offer a lot of services, many accessible 24x7x365) this is what happens. It’s not easy but we have to due better especially in a world where people are bombarded with new digital services, apps, and more all day, everyday.

 “City residents are most likely to prefer ebooks over print, and they’re more likely than suburban readers to read more because of digital availability, whereas rural readers who have read in both electronic and print formats tend to prefer print.”

In rural areas where people prefer print (at least as of the time this survey was taken) and just about everywhere else why are libraries RUSHING to spend gobs of money on ebooks that we don’t even own? User needs and ownership issues might change moving forward but now and in the next few years, it’s important that non-ebook services including print collections are not being short changed. There is only so much money to go around. Will we be paying in the future because of the “we need to have lots of ebooks frenzy” the library community is experiencing today? Sure, ebooks are popular with some library users but does this mean all library users? Let’s not lose site of them.

“Even urban readers who don’t read ebooks already are most interested in classes to learn about ebooks from the library.

The positive thing here and something that we’ve mentioned in the past we believe that library users need and want help learning about and using technology, not only ereaders. We believe this area is a natural fit for public libraries and offers a service unavailable elsewhere.

 “71 percent say the library is important to them, and 59 percent have library cards. While slightly fewer suburbanites, 69 percent, say the library is important, slightly more have cards, at 61 percent.”

We would like to understand more this finding. What does “important” precisely mean? Does importance include believing in what the public library represents (freedom to read, access to info, etc.). Importance, knowledge of available services, and use of the library are not mutually inclusive.

“Residents of all three kinds of communities are equally likely to say librarians and library websites are sources of book recommendations.”

This is an area where libraries/librarians can do better. The findings show that only about 20% consider using a library or library web site for recommendations. Curating reviews from a variety of sources and then promoting the service might be a place to do some work.  The same can be said with the library/library web site site as a place to discover books, even books that the library does not own. Finally, the library/library web site can and should be a place to all receive recommendations and discover audio books, apps, along with other digital content and electronics.

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.