Digital Lending Isn’t Just for eBooks Anymore

When digital lending through academic and public libraries first became widespread, most of the attention centered on the ebook market, with controversy over pricing, simultaneous checkouts, and checkout limitations garnering most of the media attention. But what many library patrons are quietly discovering that ebooks and MP3 audiobooks are only a portion of the content that consumers can borrow locally, but read on the go.

A number of public library systems have begun offering digital newspaper and magazine titles to complete their catalogs, meaning patrons can borrow these digital titles and read them at home without time limitations or removal from patrons’ devices.  Libraries are also setting up their web presence as another “branch”, where patrons can access the same selection of books, videos and newspapers as they would at the library. Resources such as PressReader are providing nearly unlimited access to periodical content in the library, allowing patrons to read as they please on their PCs and their personal tablets and smartphones and through the library website.

This type of lending allows libraries to offer more content to their patrons while still meeting the constraints of smaller budgets. By also allowing patrons to borrow from home and read for as long as they like without a waiting list, services of this kind stands to help keep libraries relevant and their services appealing.

The convenience of this model is certainly a popular selling point for libraries, and the digital lending of newspapers in particular offers even more convenience and value for patrons. By offering hundreds of newspapers digitally, libraries can afford their patrons the chance to read global content that would never have reached local shelves otherwise.

Perhaps just as important as the convenience and price of digital newspaper lending, though, is how these digital platforms align with an important initiative of the Library of Congress and National Endowment of the Humanities to create a digital, searchable database of newspapers for research, reference, and archival purposes.

Whatever type of digital content patrons choose to consume, there is no shortage of reading material to fill their needs; it’s only a matter of incorporating the right existing technology in order to meet the wide variety of needs of each library and their patrons.

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