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In 2010, ebooks went from 1% to 10% of the book industry’s sales, and ereaders were the hottest gift of the holiday season. Few people knew how to select an ereader or were aware that public libraries loan free popular ebooks. Not all ereaders work with library ebooks, and downloading library ebooks involves more steps than online bookstore downloads.
Nine branches hosted Ereader Parties from December 2010 through February 2011. We promoted them as a chance to try out brand name products, ask questions of people who are not trying to sell them, and learn which ones accept free library downloads. We prepared content and trained presenters on the seven most popular ereaders to be demonstrated at the parties. We developed a public webpage with handouts, instructions, videos, and links for all interested in learning more. We increased the ebook budget from $5,000 to $75,000. We added more than 1,500 new titles to ensure patrons would find popular titles available. We promoted the parties through signs, fliers, and our e-newsletter which reaches 76,000 people. At the parties, staff served refreshments and presented a PowerPoint on ereader and ebook basics. Then attendees were free to try them out. Handouts included cost comparisons of hardcopies to ebooks; lists of the new titles; comparisons of common features of ereaders, and downloading instructions. Staff throughout the library system was trained using the same materials and hands-on experience. All agencies received a Nook to demo with patrons. Our weekly staff newsletter kept staff informed of the latest ereader developments.
Total attendance of all parties was 573, with a high of 150 at the first party. The hands-on experience was popular and prompted people to ask more specific questions. The week after Christmas, ebook usage jumped 80% compared to the previous week. From December through February, ebook usage increased 364% over the previous year. When party goers asked for a longer loan period, we added it. We replicated these parties for other libraries including Miami Valley Libraries, a regional public library cooperative, where 35 librarians attended our presentation. The tools for hosting a party are on the DML website and we have had reports of other libraries doing so.