Paper or Electronics: The Library's New Question

Growing number of ebooks compete for space at public library

By Consumer Bob
|  Friday, Aug 12, 2011  |  Updated 10:13 PM PDT
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Check Out the E-Books

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Check Out the E-Books

The San Diego Public Library is evolving with the times, meeting reader demands for electronic books.
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Millions of books are checked out every year from the San Diego Public Library. But the tangible books are starting to see competition from electronic books, books that are now downloaded to electronic readers, tablets and smart phones.

Is this a threat to the traditional library? 

Library Director Deborah Barrow doesn't think so.

"I think that we are anticipating what the use will be and what the needs of our public are," Barrow said. "We are there for the public."

And the public is showing a lot more interest these days in eBooks.

Since last year, the library has seen electronic book use increase about 350 percent, Barrow said.

"Best sellers are best sellers, whether they're in the e-format or the hard copy format," she said.

Access to the electronic books is through the library website. The library offers electronic books but also audio books for iPods and other music players.

But once you've downloaded the book you are still under a deadline to read it.

"When it has expired, it is no longer available to you," Barrow said. "It is available to someone else."

The electronic books are only available for up to 21 days at a time.  If there is a waiting list, you are not allowed to renew the book.

Library officials could not say how many of the titles that are purchased are hard copy versus electronic, but they could say that it is not  50-50.  More real books are kept by the library than eBooks at this point.

But the price is the same, whether electronic or paper:

The price to check out a book is free.

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