How Libraries can Compete with the Rising of Free eBooks


In this day and age, it takes just a few clicks to get a free digital copy of classics such as Moby Dick by Herman Melville. Why should a person need to go to the library anymore when so many of these titles are available this way? It’s safe to assume that the common user would just sit on their sofa and download a few hundred books and not give a second thought to the library with their amazing and larger selection available. Libraries are shifting from offering transactional to relational services for their patrons. This means less focus on the lending and returning of books, and more focus on the physical nature of the library. Thus, providing valuable services for their users that cannot be achieved online which is great news for libraries hoping to shift into the digital age. Any initiative to compete with free digital eBooks will impact the overall value of the library going forward. How do you generate interest in your library and offer them a value that cannot be obtained online? This list of ideas is to help you generate a clear roadmap to plan for the future of eBook digitization.

1. Make users aware of the common pitfalls and dangers of downloading eBooks online

Many sites that advertise free eBooks are sharing those copies illegally. They can be of poor quality, incompatible with some devices and many may contain viruses. Just because it’s free, doesn’t mean it doesn’t come with a cost. That cost has to fall somewhere and that can be damaged files, false information about the titles, or no files at all. Some of these sites ask for credit card information to confirm the person’s identity and then steal their information. In many cases, these sites seem legitimate and users unknowingly download illegally obtained copies and thus, committing a crime by downloading. Letting your library patrons know this before they go searching for free materials can help them understand why they should stay within the library while looking for cost-free media. A great way to get the word out to patrons about this information is through flyers at the library, information on the library website, and through email newsletters.

2. Curate the selection

The number of available titles is a massive and an ever-expanding unsorted list. Without any sort of direction, readers will certainly be drawn to the current bestseller. When the next bestseller comes along they will be drawn to that one. This method of choosing novels leaves them no room for any sort of collection beyond what is new and being advertised at the time and therefore, no need for the library. The library’s staff is a trustworthy source in the user’s mind and they are great at making recommendations. A display with staff favorites can draw the attention of the patrons to other books that may not be popular at the time.

3. Offer a browsing experience with selected literary goods in the library or online

4. Promote your ebooks and digital subscriptions

It may seem counter-intuitive, but your users will thank you and you can maintain a wide range of users who only use digitally. Ebooks cost less and you can provide more copies to more people. Some people prefer digital copies for many reasons; easy access, no travel time, and they can read anywhere at any time. View image on Twitter.



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