1 Jan 2015

Web transforms how NZers read

5:34 pm on 1 January 2015

New Zealanders are great readers but the way we are reading books is changing.

ebook reader

Twice as many ebooks were issued from public libraries over the last year compared to the previous year. Photo: AFP

Twice as many ebooks were issued from public libraries over the last year compared to the year prior.

But libraries say they can't access the ebooks people want, and are joining forces with the Department of Internal Affairs to try and expand their electronic range.

More and more books were being read in electronic format - and last year ebook issues from libraries jumped 128 percent.

Public Libraries New Zealand executive director Tim Antric said libraries did not have the ebook stock to meet that need - and a library with 100,000 print books would likely only have 4000 ebooks.

He said that was an issue given the popularity of ebooks.

"If you think about it each public library in New Zealand - and we've got about 65 public library services. They don't have the clout internationally to deal with these ebook aggregators who publish the ebooks," he said.

"If we come together as a country of 4.5 million people, we become the size of some of the cities overseas that have been able to negotiate the better deals."

'The printed book will seem quite old-fashioned'

Corin Haines manages services to public libraries at the Department of Internal Affairs.

He said ebooks' popularity did not make them a threat to their printed counterparts, because electronic books only made up 1 percent or 2 percent of most collections.

"While the growth is exponential - 100 percent year on year growth - the numbers are still quite small. But that will change," he said.

"The generations coming through now who are much more used to reading in that format, very soon will only know reading in that format. The printed book will seem quite old-fashioned."

At Campbell Street Kindergarten, some of those in the younger generation were being introduced to literacy for the very first time.

The head teacher, Amanda Higgins, said technology did have a role to play in early childhood education, and education generally.

But she said when it came to children and ebooks there were two trains of thought.

"There's the one that it's a new technology so it's a new way of exploring literacy," she said.

"There's the other train of thought that it can be quite distracting because some of the ebooks can have a lot of pop ups and distractions in the story," she said.

Ebooks may have been flying off library shelves at record rates - but those in the business of selling books thought their popularity could taper off soon.

Heading for a plateau - Booksellers Association

Booksellers' Association's chief executive Lincoln Gould said ebooks still made up a very small proportion of overall book sales.

He said there were not clear figures in New Zealand but thought their sales would plateau at about 20 percent as it has done overseas.

And he said there were already signals that a plateau was on the way.

"We're seeing a flattening out of the earlier spectacular rise of ebooks and ereaders," he said.

"Christmas in the last two or three years, there was a big rush on ereaders. But even through our own books and mortar stores selling ebooks, the sales of those have gone down.

"We're hearing tales of people putting their ereaders in the top shelf along with their fondue sets."

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