Vancouver Public Library ebook borrowing up 85 per cent

Who needs paper when you've got a clean, shiny screen to poke at? It's out with the old, and in with the new at the Vancouver Public Library (VPL), as readers come out in droves to check out VPL's thousands of electronic titles after Christmas.

One of the largest public library systems in Canada has seen ebook borrowing go up 85 per cent since Christmas, a "post-Christmas spike", thanks to tablets or e-readers received as gifts, according to a recent report. VPL saw a "significant jump" in first-time ebook users—around 65 new users a day during that period versus an average of 15.

"It’s becoming a yearly post-Christmas spike," read a press release, outlining similar increase in interest from last year. It added more than 2,200 new ebook titles last month, and 2,000 or so more are expected to be added over the next few weeks.

VPL users now have access to nearly 45,000 ebooks through the VPL to Go service and regionally shared collections, according to the public announcement.

VPL’s No. 1 tip to help patrons get the most from their new e-readers is straightforward: Take a few minutes and read the set-up instructions on the VPL website. That will save a lot of frustration, notes electronic resources librarian Sara Amon.

“Once people are set up, it moves smoothly,” said Amon, who along with her fellow VPL staff members regularly helps users get started with ebooks through dedicated learning sessions and informal Tech Café gatherings.

Librarians are regularly updating VPL’s ebook offerings – adding as wide a selection as possible – but not all publishers produce their titles as ebooks for libraries.

There are plenty of titles to choose from, though. More than half of the Globe and Mail’s year-end fiction bestsellers are available as ebooks through VPL, for instance, and among the top ebook checkouts in 2012 were the likes of The Litigators, Death Comes to Pemberley, A Game of Thrones and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

And the ebook title with the most requests last year? The hugely popular Fifty Shades of Grey.

But no matter how much you like it, there’s no keeping that ebook —or indeed any ebook—beyond the borrowing period: ebooks automatically expire once the borrowing period ends. A major bonus: no late returns – and no fines.

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