Des Moines library increasing eBook purchases due to demand

DES MOINES, Iowa — Literature lovers filled Des Moines’ Capital Square over the weekend for the Des Moines Book Festival. The Festival featured nationally acclaimed authors, hands-on workshops, children’s activities and more.

People of all ages were able to come together and bond over their love for books. But, are readers finding a new way to enjoy books?

During the pandemic, people discovered a lot of new hobbies. Many, turned to reading. However, people were not able to leave their homes to get a hardcopy book. This is when the rising sales of eBooks took over.

Although eBooks have been around since 1998, print books have an obvious head start. But, those numbers are starting to flip flop. During the pandemic, physical book sales dropped slightly. Sales in eBooks and audio books increased. So much so, that the Des Moines Public Library had to shift its focus when planning out its upcoming budget.

The Des Moines Public Library increased its spending about 25-30% to accommodate the rising numbers in eBook sales.

Sue Woody, Director of the Public Library says, “We diverted some of our funding to go right into our electronic vehicles because we wanted people to be able to check out without coming into the library during the height of the pandemic, when it was not safe for them to do so.”

One downside to the rise of eBooks is the effect it has on kids in school. Some schools still have print books in their curriculum. Others, have switched to downloadable books.

The Des Moines Public Library is trying to keep print books in the schools, Sue Woody tells WHO 13 this is an incredibly crucial time for our kids in schools. “I would say that the print materials do dominate as a matter of fact, we are going into schools we are working with second grade classes. We are working with preschool classes.”

Woody continues on to say that kids took a pretty big hit during the pandemic in terms of their reading scores. “We are doing all we can to provide books,” says Woody.

For one local bookstore, it wants to stress the importance of keeping hard copy books on the shelves.

Hunter Gillum, co-owner of Beaverdale Books says, “People like books as objects and being able to share them with others.”

“People want to be able to get their book signed by their favorite authors. If everything switches to digital, you would lose that element of community that surrounds books,” says Gillum.

Both Beaverdale Books and the Des Moines Public Library believe print books are not dying out. They’re evolving. With technology, there are more accessible ways for people to enjoy books and expand our reading choices. This allows us to connect to books in different ways.

Woody says, “Reading our physical materials will always be popular. Hardcover books will never die. They have been around for hundreds of years and they change from a scroll to a hardback to a soft back to a mass market. So, they change up a little bit, but they will never go away.”

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