To set the record straight, I am not a believer that
ebooks will destroy publishing and print reading,
writes Tom Mercer. But I do see digital reading
and digital audio becoming an ever-growing
part of how readers will consume books. Print
books will always have a special place for
readers and provide a way to stop looking at a
screen. Since I believe books and reading will
continue to be widely popular for the
foreseeable future, I also believe that the local
public library will not only continue to be a place
people can go to borrow physical items, but will
continually evolve as a vital hub at the heart of a community.
So what has digital lending done to transform public libraries?
It started to make the library more mobile and this trend needs to
continue in order to engage the library user of the future. Today
a library’s online presence is usually designed with the desktop
in mind, with online catalogues being a key feature of that
web presence. The online catalogue represents a tool perfectly
designed for research and discovery of every item a library
offers, but it’s a tool uniquely situated for usage on a desktop.
However, as we look around we can easily see people are
spending more and more time with their smartphones and
tablets, which means less time with their desktop
computers. Furthermore, if we take a look at the
Nielsen Total Audience Report for the fourth
quarter of 2015, we find some interesting facts.
Americans aged 18 and above spent 8 hours and
24 minutes each week on their smartphone using
apps, while they spent on average only 5 hours
and 9 minutes using a desktop for the internet.
While those numbers already show a preference
for smartphones over desktops, let’s look at
the 18-24 age group. That group spent an
astonishing 11 hours and 15 minutes on their
smartphones each week, compared to only 4 hours and 18
minutes on a desktop. That’s over twice as much time on their
smartphones using the internet than on a desktop.
As we all know, interactions and usage on smartphones and
tablets are very different from desktops. Media is presented in
smaller, more bitesize pieces, typing and searching is less popular,
but browsing and quick messages are ideal. So what this really
represents is a fundamental shift in how people discover the
world around them. Quality mobile engagements will become
the key, not only to libraries, but all institutions in the future.
In libraries, these future mobile experiences need to offer
convenient print selection and print recommendations, along
with the opportunity to collect books at a local pick-up location.
It means libraries will have ebooks, digital audiobooks and print
all discoverable in novel new interfaces designed for mobile.
Right now, more often than not, library smartphone apps
represent scaled-down versions of the desktop experience,
whereas what’s actually needed is a full re-imagination of what it
means to interact with your library on a mobile device. It’s about
much more than just helping users discover content, it’s about
offering an engaging and enjoyable experience, one that’s
compelling enough to get users to open the library app as well as
clicking on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or You Tube. When a
customer’s favourite app is from their local public library, then
libraries will have cemented their place in the digital future.
Working at Bibliotheca, I have the unique opportunity to talk
with librarians on a regular basis, not only about the digital
experiences they offer their customers, but also about what
they are doing in their physical space as well. One of our goals
is to bring the library closer to customers and make it far more
accessible for users. One of the most effective ways libraries can
safeguard their futures is by exploring digital lending platforms
and mobile technologies, interacting with library users in the
physical and digital worlds they occupy.
The modern day public library cannot afford to neglect its
print catalogue nor ignore the way content consumption is
changing, swinging evermore towards mobile devices. I’m
pleased to say we’ve witnessed some extremely positive results
from public libraries who are experimenting with hybrid
models, which embrace mobile, and I’m convinced that if
more libraries adopt this approach, more will stay open. ■
Go to http://europecomics.com/london