November 30, 2022

Library Users Like Ereading, But Ebook Readers Want To Buy Books, Pew Study Finds


According to studies released today by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, only 14 percent of readers got their most recent book from a library. Among ereading device owners the numbers were even lower, at 10 percent. However these figures vary dramatically by demographic: 37 percent of 16- 17-year-olds got their most recent book from the library, and 20 percent of those age 65. Those whose most recent book came from the library tended to be those in the least well-off households – those earning $30,000 or less. Those whose most recent book came from the library also tended not to own an ereading device. LJ’s Patron Profiles confirms that those with ereading devices are more likely to buy books online and less likely to borrow books, perhaps because of the limited availability of ebooks in libraries so far.

However, that’s not to say library users aren’t interested in ereading and vice versa – to the contrary, the Pew report found that library patrons are more interested in purchasing both dedicated ereaders and tablets in the next few months. Among ebook readers, only 12 percent look first for a book at the library (11 percent of device owners). Those who do look first at the library for ebooks tend to be those with incomes of $50,000 or less. However, 21 percent of ebook readers received recommendations from libraries or librarians, including library websites. One quarter of device owners were likely to get recommendations from libraries or librarians, compared to all of those 16 and older at 19 percent.

Not surprisingly, those with library cards are more willing to borrow books, whether print, ebook, or audiobook, the Pew study found. However, the majority of print and ebook readers still prefer to buy them – only in audiobooks is borrowing the more popular option, particularly among women, and audiobook users are twice as likely to borrow a book from the library as those who don’t listen to audiobooks.

For more on the report’s findings, see School Library Journal‘s “Ebooks Trump Print—Except When It Comes to Reading to Kids.

In addition to the direct library use data, the report presents a great deal of information about how and why Americans engage with all forms of books. Later reports “will cover how librarians and patrons perceive the situation with e-books and other digital content” and “the changing landscape of library services.”

Meredith Schwartz About Meredith Schwartz

Meredith Schwartz ( is Senior Editor, News and Features of Library Journal.


  1. Hmm, Interesting research results.

    I personally feel good that more and more people are changing to e-readers. Let’s give trees a break and stop cutting them for our greedy needs. We can perfectly read books on our e-readers and yes, we’ll have to give up the feel of turning paper pages and the smell of freshly printed books, but that’s the way it has to be sometimes.

    I personally download my books directly to my e-reader from all you can books and can lug around tons of books at once, without having to pack an extra backpack full of physical books :) That’s pretty neat and awesome, if you ask me!