E-book and audiobook loans more than triple at NI libraries

By Eimear McGovern

image captionSome members of Carrickfergus library reading group like e-books, while others prefer more traditional page-filled ones

E-book and audiobook loans have more than tripled in the past three years, according to figures from Libraries NI.

Almost 310,000 e-books and audiobooks were borrowed in 2017, compared to some 140,000 in 2015.

Some 218,000 e-books and audiobooks were loaned to members of Libraries NI in 2016.

Traditional book loans dropped to under five million for the first time in 2017.

Psychological thrillers

Jillian McFrederick, the manager of Carrickfergus Library in County Antrim, runs three reading groups, including one that meets in Belfast.

One of the groups chooses books that are available on the Libraries NI website's e-catalogue, as well as traditional books.

The book club orders in 15 copies of the selected title for each of its members.

Book Week NI 2018

Book Week NI, a week-long celebration of books and reading, returns from 19-26 November with a week of events, culminating in a special concert inspired by some of our favourite books.

Now in its third year, Book Week NI is a joint initiative between BBC Northern Ireland and Libraries NI.

  • BBC Radio Ulster/Foyle will be buzzing with interviews, conversations and features.
  • There will also be a series of three lunchtime events in Broadcasting House, Belfast. These events will feature authors discussing poetry, libraries and how the stories that we read in childhood can provide a lifetime of memories and benefits.
  • The week's finale will be a special family concert of music and readings: A Box Of Delights will be held on Sunday 25 November in the Ulster Hall at 15:00 GMT.
  • For more information and to apply for tickets visit the Shows and Tours section of the BBC website.

Although some older members of reading groups prefer hard copies of books, younger members enjoy reading on e-readers or listening to audiobooks, said Ms Frededrick.

"This reading group really enjoys reading eBooks because they're much more flexible than ordinary books," she said.

"They can read them on their phones, on their e-readers, they synchronise and they can have them wherever they are.

"A lot of them still read conventional books as well."

Libraries NI is constantly adding new books to its website, especially the psychological thrillers that are currently in vogue..

The app

Reading group member Marge is a fan of the Libby app, which is used by library members to download eBooks, audiobooks and magazines:

"The book that we've just read, I cheated and I had the e-book and the audiobook and swapped between the two," she said. "I love listening to audiobooks when I'm driving."

"I definitely read more because of e-books and audiobooks. I've probably read more than 100 books on my Kindle in this group.

"If I'm sitting waiting for the dentist, I can catch up on some reading. Your book is with you all the time."

She said the app was a real asset when you didn't enjoy the book you've just read.

"If you didn't like the book, you just send it back and you haven't even paid for it," added Marge.

image captionBook group opinions were divided over My Brilliant Friend

The group met recently to discuss the novel My Brilliant Friend by the Italian author Elena Ferrante.

Member Sharon said the book was a wonderful evocation of two girls growing up in Naples in the 1950s.

"Growing up in post-war Italy, girls weren't able to have aspirations," she said. "That reminded me of what it might have been like in Belfast at the same time."

She said she would definitely pick up the next book - as well as the third and the fourth in the series.

"I really want to find out what happens next to these two women. We've had a story about their childhood, the intimacy, the friendship, the love," she said.

Sometimes she reads e-books, but Sharon prefers reading hardbacks or paperbacks.

"I grew up with books in paperback and I like the physical appeal: I like to touch and smell books," she said.

Keeping books in your bag

"I didn't like the character of Lila (in My Brilliant Friend)," said Anne, another reading group member. "I found her a bit odd and mean. She gave me the creeps."

Anne said she always reads e-books, and takes her e-reader on holidays so she can download titles immediately.

She keeps her Kindle in her bag everywhere she goes. Anne said she would love to talk about the books she reads all the time - but that this might be boring for her friends and family.

"What I love about the book club is that it's something that's just mine," she added.

"It really takes me out of my comfort zone as regards reading."