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MEET LIBRARIES POWERFUL NEW COMPETITOR

July 23, 2014

Just read that the newly formed Medford Library District Board decided to go back on a campaign marketing pitch. They set the district’s initial tax rate at the maximum. That is $7.50 a month ($90 a year) for most homeowners. I wonder how this will fly long-term now that the Medford library has a new competitor.

Amazon just announced a $9.99 a month unlimited library plan (Kindle Unlimited) that will give book lovers instant access to 600,000 books and thousands of audio books. Is this the beginning of the end of local libraries? Well, not for a few years.

The backbone of the library system, baby boomers and seniors, still love reading real books. But Millennials (readers under the age of 34) don’t share their enthusiasm.  Millennials are totally digitally comfortable. Here’s the marketing future the new library board should be talking about, instead of going back on a campaign promise.

The U.S. physical book sales market is declining rapidly, while e-book sales are expanding eight-fold according to Forrester Research. Physical book sales will fall to $19.5 billion this year, down $6.5 billion since 2010. E-book revenue is now $8.7 billion.

The number of e-book readers is growing quickly. According to a Pew Research Center study published in January, 28% of American adults read at least one digital book in the past 12 months, 69% of Americans read at least one physical book in this same period.

Perhaps the new library district board is taking a page out of the music industry. A decade ago when CDs and music stores control access to music, they didn’t understand the power of the internet. Amazon is just about to become the biggest competitor local libraries have ever seen. Good luck.

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