What eBook readers want from libraries

I recently conducted two polls on Mobileread Forums.

  • Poll 1 asked What do you like to read? The poll asked respondents to check the "two most common" types of documents loaded onto their devices. So the blue bars indicate the two most important categories people have on their devices, not all categories on their devices. Though 114 people voted, only 90 actually followed the directions. (Respondents = 90)

  • Poll 2 asked How have eBooks changed your borrowing from library? This poll asked respondents to check three types of documents they would check out from libraries. So red bars indicate the three most important documents they want from libraries, not everything they might check out from libraries. Though 124 people voted, only 75 actually followed these directions. (Respondents = 75)

Here are the results.

  • Blue bars, i.e., poll 1, are the types of eBooks people are loading into their devices now.

  • Red bars, i.e., poll 2, are the types of eBooks people want libraries to loan.

Explanation of horizontal axis labels

  • New bestsellers are described in the polls as "eBook versions of just published, bestselling print books"

  • New, not bestsellers are described in the polls as "eBook versions of new, but not bestselling, print books".

  • Older books are described as "eBook versions of older, but still in copyright, print books". In poll 2 I added the phrase "up to 40 years old."

  • Indie eBooks only are described as "eBooks with no print versions by independent publishers".

  • Reference are described as "eBook versions of reference resources" This answer was only available in poll 2.

  • Good non-fiction are described as "eBook versions of good non-fiction". This answer was only available in poll 2.

  • Free public domain are described as "eBooks of free, public domain classics".

  • Web documents are described as "Documents from the Web, e.g., articles, master's thesis, etc." In poll 2 I added fanfiction to the list.

  • Other languages are described as "eBooks in languages I can't get around here".
Interpretation of chart, 
i.e., what people want from libraries

  • Blue bars, i.e., what people are current loading into their devices: People are loading into their devices free, public domain eBooks and the cheaper eBooks still in copyright. They load fewer of the brand new bestsellers, probably, because they will cost more.

    Brand new bestsellers cost more because they are hot titles AND because they are being sold under the "agency" model. Before the "agency" model, Amazon was buying eBooks for around $13 and selling them for $9.99. Selling at a loss gained Amazon market share. At one time, Amazon sold 90% of all eBooks. This, unfortunately, set in consumers' minds $9.99 as the fair price for eBooks. Publishers, however, complained that selling at a loss is not a sustainable model in the long run. To make a long story short, the "agency" model was introduced, allowing publishers to set the retail price of their eBooks. That price is around $14.99, plus or minus a dollar. As publishers feared, many consumers now claim they will not pay more than $9.99 for new eBooks. This may account for the statistical pattern in the chart above.

  • Red bars, i.e., what people want libraries to provide: People want libraries to provide the expensive eBooks versions of print books. And the demand is not just for fiction, over 40% want good non-fiction. People care less about libraries providing cheaper indie eBooks and care almost nothing about eBook versions of free public domain books.


  1. Publishers are telling readers that the physical book isn't worth anything and that the entire value is in the story.Except when a writer's cut of a book's cover price is determined. Then the value of the story is minimal.As you said, that's another matter.While the view that the story is the entire value of a book is flattering to the writer,that's not the way that readers see it.To readers, e-book cost nothing to produce. Publishers know that isn't true.Writers know it too. But try to convince the general public of that. As far as readers are concerned,the incremental cost to produce more copies of an e-book is zero.So the readers expect an eBook to be priced less than a physical book. The real costs have nothing to do with it. Design and Graphics

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