Readers have to wait over a year to borrow electronic books from public libraries as demand surged during their prolonged closure during the fifth Covid-19 wave, according to the Ombudsman yesterday.
That finding came after a Office of the Ombudsman investigation into e-book lending services at public libraries.
Overall use of seven e-book collections in public libraries rose significantly by more than 250 percent, from about 960,000 times in 2019 to about 3.4 million times in 2020.
As expected, the waiting lists for some of the more popular e-books were extremely long, with readers having to expect a months- or even years-long wait before they can borrow the item.
Public libraries launched their first e-book collection in 2001.
At present, the number of e-book collections they offer has increased to 12, with a wide range of 338,000 e-books in both Chinese and English and available for readers of all ages.
In the two years since the pandemic started, the Leisure and Cultural Services Department has had to close its library facilities whenever Covid
infection numbers spike as well as adjust its services, such as shortening opening hours and limiting the number of visitors.
Ombudsman Winnie Chiu Wai-yin said public interest in e-books has grown with the more extensive use of the internet and electronic devices, which has also resulted in a decline in the number of printed books being checked out from public libraries in recent years.
"The LCSD should keep pace with changes in the public's reading habits by reviewing and enhancing the e-book lending service of public libraries, which will also be conducive to promoting a reading culture in Hong Kong," Chiu said.