Ask me anything: a few staff questions about ebooks

Here are a few staff questions sent to me via email about all things ebooks. I thought it might be interesting enough to share, although it also might be a little too insider baseball for outside our system interest. I'll know by your clicks which is correct.

Are there lots of publishers that don't publish ebook or eaudio format?

I'm not sure if there are publishers who don't publish in electronic format, but there are publishers who don't sell that format to libraries. Of the "big six" publishers (link to names and descriptions here) Macmillan and Simon & Schuster (and their imprints) are not available to libraries through Overdrive. We stopped buying Harpercollins titles when they went to the 26 circ self destruction model. Just today, I came across a book that is $26.00 in print and $78.00 (!!!) in ebook. So, just because a publisher is "willing" to sell to libraries doesn't always mean that is a good thing.

Does the cost differ between publishers?

Yes, cost does differ between publishers. Some are reasonably priced, and some are not. There is also a difference between retail cost and library cost.....within the same publisher. For instance: A Dance with Dragons Print: $35.00; Sony Reader Store/Amazon Kindle ebook: $14.99; Overdrive: $43.99 (MORE than the hardcover which is 1000+ pages) Downloadable audio: $95.00; book on CD: $70.00

Do you have a generous budget for this?

I guess that is a matter of opinion. When I talk to other libraries, our budget seems tremendous. But, there are always libraries spending more. Our current budget is 250k.

Do you order all of the ebooks, or just the fic?

I order fic. The 2 non fic selectors & the juvenile selector order for their areas Up until 2008, I ordered the fic and non fic downloadable audio. But, as we added more formats, the other selectors took over their own areas.

Does some purchasing occur automatically?

No. This is a very hands on process.

Will there be duplication between EBSCO and Overdrive?

It depends on the terms. If EBSCO offers a simultaneous use version of a book we have on Overdrive, it would make sense to buy it again from EBSCO. More people would have access to it that way. There are also plenty of books we had/have through Netlibrary (and now EBSCO) that I bought on Overdrive because Netlibrary did not offer downloadable options. So, there is already some overlap.

Do you have a rule of thumb for how many copies of each title?

Not really. It depends on the author, it depends on the title, it depends on the genre. It depends on the press. Really popular authors might start out with 5, 7, 8....10 copies and then we'll see where the holds go. While we have had tremendous use, it has been in a variety of things. Authors that see moderate use in print have hold lists on Overdrive. Authors that had huge hold lists in print have moderate to small lists on Overdrive. People are finding more things to check out. I think the title we have the most copies of is The Help -- 40 copies.

Do you have a preference for eaudio or ebook?

Personally? I'm a print loving person, so no. Although, I do own two e-reading devices (A Sony Touch and an Iconia tablet) so I do a fair amount of e-reading. My eyes don't thank me for it. For the collection: my preference has no bearing on the matter. I buy what people want, in the formats they will use.

Is there separate money to purchase any kind of backfile of popular authors, or are we just concentrating on new?

Nope, everything we buy comes from the same pot of money. The backlist is a huge part of what we buy with that money, and it takes up a crazy amount of time. Imagine a library with no books in it. That is what we had when we started downloadable audio in 2006 and downloadable ebooks in 2009. It was a blank slate. Some authors require constant checking. You may think you have purchased all the Nora Roberts or Stephen King books that are available, but more become available a few weeks/months later. More authors become available and more backlist becomes available almost every day. More modern classics, Raymond Chandler for example, might slip your mind until someone specifically asks for it in that format. Things that we take for granted of having in print.


I still want to scream about Dance With Dragons. It is amazing what some libraries do with their funds, and what they don't. I would love a roundtable with all of us digital book selectors/purchasers to pick each others' brains some more! Thanks for sharing.

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