At Loutit District Library, the number of e-books checked out rose 128 percent from the previous year, according to Director John Martin.
Spring Lake District Library has also had a huge increase in the number of e-books checked out during 2011, according to Director Claire Sheridan.
“It’s been crazy,” said Martin of the surge. “All the libraries in Michigan are seeing similar numbers.”
As sales of e-reader devices continue to soar, more people are now turning to public libraries to download e-books.
Loutit and Spring Lake district libraries are members of the Lakeland Library Cooperative, which in turn is a member of the Michigan Library Cooperative. The MCL receives funds from Lakeland Cooperative members to purchase e-books that can be shared by cooperative members.
Book publishers are now selling their books in both print and digital formats, making it easier for libraries to obtain electronic copies of best-selling books, Martin said. But there are still some drawbacks, he said.
“The No. 1 complaint we get is that everyone wants the same titles in the first few months the books are out,” Martin said. “There are only so many titles.”
Both Martin and Sheridan said the spike in requests for e-books is particularly noticeable shortly after Christmas, when people receive e-reader devices as presents.
Both Loutit and Spring Lake district libraries offer programs to help patrons learn how to use their e-readers and download books. Earlier this week, 35 patrons turned out for an e-reader workshop at Loutit District Library.
Spring Lake District Library has purchased some e-readers to demonstrate how they work to patrons.
“We have a team of people ready to help patrons,” Sheridan said.
Martin said Loutit is also planning one-on-one sessions with patrons who feel they need help with using their e-reader.
“People can call to make an appointment,” he said.
Checking out e-books can be done online through the two libraries’ websites.
“You can be on vacation, and all you need is a library card and a place you can connect on the Internet to download books,” Sheridan said.
The books can be downloaded on devices in a matter of seconds. And there are no overdue fines with e-books — they automatically erase after two weeks.
“When you go on vacation, you can really load up on books,” Martin said.
Martin said one of the cool things about e-books is the really sharp color. He said cookbooks and children’s books with lots of photos are particularly good books for color.
While the circulation of e-books is skyrocketing, both Martin and Sheridan said there is room for both printed and electronic books at libraries. They both said their printed collections will continue to grow.
But they are also ready to embrace the future — e-books.