GEORGE TOWN: The digital era has now firmly displaced the conventional one of books, magazines and hardcovers, according to statistics released by two of Penang's libraries. The statistics, made available to theSun, state that the newly launched digital library, next to the Penang Free School here, has recorded 3.5 times more visitors as compared to the conventional state public library. The public library had a membership of 2.05 million last year, but it is a figure that has accumulated over the past four decades, going back to its debut in the state. For the digital library, which went online last year, the visitors were 32,075 then, compared to when it was first set up in 2016 with 7,190 visitors, representing a staggering 350% rise in that time period. Librarians from both centres confirmed this, saying the trend has shifted towards a dependence on the internet as a source of data and resources. theSun interviewed the patrons to get their views. Tunku Abdul Rahman College (TARC) student Chester Low said the public library is now bland and not as interesting, when compared to the Penang Digital Library. "The digital library is convenient as there is free Wi-Fi service and visitors can also bring in their bags into the premises," he said. A visitor to the digital library said she prefers to read digital books because a large number of different books can be downloaded onto her tablet and she can read them whenever she wants and wherever she goes. The Penang Digital Library (PDL) was officially launched by caretaker Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng in 2016. It was so popular that the state decided to expand the present one and build another one in Butterworth. The fact that the digital library operates 24/7, said another visitor, is why he comes here all the time from evening until late night to complete his college assignments. PDL librarian S. Shanker said the facilities at the digital library are amazing, with spacious collaboration rooms and well-sized amphitheatres. "The environment here is really suitable for students who are working together on their projects since discussion is allowed. The library also listens to readers' requests and stocks up on e-books previously unavailable," he said. Academician Wong Soo Har said there is no turning back now, as logically the younger generation would warm up to the digital versions, so the older generation needs to change their mindset and embrace the tech advances being made in the world of libraries and the media.