Play it again.....audiobooks and libraries

I've talked a little bit about some of my favorite audiobook vendors, but what makes a vendor good? Everyone has their own ideas, of course, here are a few of mine.

Price: You knew we were going to start here, right? I remember a time (not too long ago) when price didn't dictate what was in the collection. I mean, you couldn't not buy the new Tom Clancy, right? These days, there is no way we would pay $240 for one book on CD.

Books on Tape have lowered their prices on new items to compete with the vendors who are selling retail editions to libraries. (If you're not using Midwest Tapes, you're wasting money. Learn about them here) But, their backlist is still at the old pricing structure. That is at least a compromise between their desire to make money and the reality that libraries don't have the money they used to have. Will we be replacing copies of Clancy's Debt of Honor? Not at the BoT price. Right now, there is no unabridged retail version available. So, until BoT lowers their backlist prices, we won't be replacing that title.

Recorded Books, on the other hand, still seem to think that their pricing structure is viable in 2011. I would love to buy Lover Unleashed on audio. I'm not personally crazy about the reader, but others like him. The library edition of the audio is 16 discs (20 less than the new George R.R. Martin due in July) and costs $50 more. How does that even make sense? The retail edition of Lover Unleashed is *STILL* more than A Dance with Dragons, but cheaper than the library edition. So, to recap, the library edition and retail editions have the same number of discs, the same reader, the same story, but libraries can afford to pay $50 more so that's your price. Our price is 0 because we're not ordering. If a publisher chooses to not issue a retail edition that we can buy, then so be it. Just as a comparison, though, there was a retail version of Lover Avenged available. 19 discs. $49.99 from Midwest Tapes (sorry I can't link to the page) From Recorded Books.....see for yourself.

Of course, there can also be benefits to paying more if you're getting more, right? Brilliance Audio (purchased by Amazon) will gladly sell you their items in retail editions through nearly every vendor on the planet. They will also sell you their "library edition" with an immediate 45% off the (artificially) inflated library edition price. Now, why they don't just set the price at that level if anyone's guess. In addition to that, you get lifetime replacements. Now, if that is of interest to you, it might be worth the extra money. Brilliance will replace the case, the discs, the art, everything. For free. The set, with the discount, amount to about $15 more than buying it from Midwest or Baker & Taylor or your vendor of choice. With an ever decreasing processing staff, we have found it more of a hassle to replace discs, especially at high library edition prices (and most companies charge you for replacements IN ADDITION TO sky high library edition prices.) After 35, 40 circs, we found that once you start replacing damaged discs, you'll likely have to replace more than just one. We do still replace lost discs, and damaged under a certain number of circs. But if replacements are your thing, it might be worth the extra $15 (which isn't bad at all) to have that as a lifetime guarantee.

Content: More people are looking for audiobooks. Whether they are digital audiobooks, regular CDs or MP3 discs (or even Playaways, which we have chosen not to carry) more people are getting into the idea of listening to books. That means, of course, that more books should be available. I remember a vendor asking me once other books they should think about making available on audio. Science Fiction and Romance were my answer. There was precious little SF/F available on audio at the time. That particular vendor didn't take my advice, but they made Urban Fiction available, which was also unheard of at the time. If you're looking for Paranormal Romance/Urban Fantasy titles or Science Fiction/Fantasy titles, I would start with Tantor Audio. Yes, they also do "library pricing" but their titles are available in retail editions from Midwest. Their selection is outstanding. They're taking books that most people barely take note of, and turning them into very good audio productions. We talked a little about Graphic Audio, but they are worth mentioning again. It isn't just a straight reading of the book, but an audio re-telling.

SO the audio game comes down to: Do you have what patrons really want and How much is it going to cost us?

Talk to me about what you like/dislike about audiobooks, audiobook vendors or both. Do you still carry cassettes? (some do don't laugh!) What's on your audio wish list?

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