If you take advantage of your local library’s e-book lending services, or make use of your cable company’s “TV Everywhere” option that allows you to access shows on the web at no extra charge, you’re in the minority. In fact, most consumers don’t even seem to know that these services exist. The government says that millions of Americans also don’t utilize another handy service they’re eligible for: food stamps.
Here are three services that, curiously, not enough consumers seem to be taking advantage of:
The vast majority of public libraries in the U.S. now loan out e-books—for free, of course, just like regular old-fashioned print books. For borrowers, e-books have nifty advantages over print loaners: E-books can be borrowed digitally at any time of day or night (all you need is your library member number and password), and, because e-books automatically disappear from e-readers once the borrowing period ends, there’s no chance of incurring late fees.
Yet, as the results of a recent Pew Research Center survey indicate, few consumers take advantage of library e-book programs, or are even aware they exist. Some 62% of those surveyed ages 16 and up said that they weren’t sure if their library offered e-books or not. Of those who regularly read e-books, just 12% have borrowed an e-book from a library in the past year.
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Part of what’s holding readers back from borrowing more e-books is that the technology and selection at libraries can be problematic. More than half of those who have borrowed e-books say that at some point, they’d tried to take out an e-book and found out that either the library didn’t carry it, or that there was a waiting list for it. Nearly one in five e-book borrowers have also encountered the situation in which they came across an e-book they wanted to borrow, only it wasn’t compatible with their tablet or other e-reading device.
The Associated Press notes that several publishers may be to blame for limited e-book selections at libraries. Publishers have been restricting or banning e-book titles from becoming available for borrowing because of “concerns that the ease of free downloads would hurt sales,” according to the AP. Yet data from the Pew survey shows that granting libraries access to e-books may, in fact, improve sales:
Among those who read e-books, 41% of those who borrow e-books from libraries purchased their most recent e-book.
Though the Pew survey didn’t cover the topic, it’s probably a safe bet that very few consumers know that many libraries loan out iPads, e-readers, laptops, digital cameras, and other gadgets, in addition to e-books.
The concept of “TV Everywhere,” in which subscribers can access programming on any device of their choosing so long as their monthly bill gets paid, is often discussed as the possible salvation for the pay TV model practiced by Time Warner Cable and others—a model that’s increasingly at risk due to the “cord trimming” trend..
To some extent, all the major pay TV providers offer some form of TV Everywhere services already. As Home Media Magazine noted, though, very few subscribers are aware that these services exist. According a new study by Parks Associates, only about 20% of pay TV subscribers know that their provider offers TV Everywhere:
“Is anybody watching these [TV Everywhere] services? Do they even know that these services are available?” asked Parks senior analyst Brett Sappington. “What we found is that by and large the answer is no.”
Despite TV ads, fliers and billing inserts heralding the virtues of TV Everywhere, the majority of pay-TV subscribers do not know that their TV provider offers repurposed content.
In addition to plain ignorance, Sappington explained that subscribers aren’t using TV Everywhere services partly because they don’t trust pay TV providers. Ads promoting TV Everywhere try to upsell subscribers into opting for pricey channel bundles, and there’s an assumption that, in some way or another, there will be a “gotcha.” By and large, consumers don’t trust cable companies, and Sappington said some subscribers fear that a minor mistake while using TV Everywhere will result in a mysterious bill: “What happens if I click a button wrong or don’t realize something and I end up getting a bill that includes charges for this extra video?”
The federal government is in the process of spending $2.5 to $3 million just so that it can provide free services to people who aren’t aware they’re eligible. One in seven Americans already take advantage of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, which replaced food stamps), but, as CNN Money reports, many more could be utilizing the program to help trim their food bills. The USDA estimates that more than one in four Americans who are eligible don’t receive SNAP benefits.
To boost participation, the government has been sponsoring radio ads for months aimed specifically at groups who are eligible but unlikely to be enrolled—specifically older poor people. Of those who are elderly and eligible for food stamps, two-thirds aren’t participating in SNAP.