Struggling to satisfy demand: the reality of the public library ebook marketplace reflected in usage data from a selection of public libraries

Struggling to satisfy demand: the reality of the public library ebook marketplace reflected in usage data from a selection of public libraries – Matt Weaver, Board Member of Library Renewal. Posted March 18, 2013.

This paper examines ebook lending data from 5 US public library systems using Overdrive from January 2011 to June 2012. It finds that:

  • clients’ acquisition of ereader devices drives their use of ebooks in libraries, particularly during the holiday period
  • slightly more than half of all checkouts were of titles from those Big Six publishers who made their content available through Overdrive
  • ebooks currently contribute a small percentage of libraries’ overall circulation figures
  • the majority of library patrons do not currently borrow ebooks, and up to 17% of patrons who registered to use Overdrive never borrowed an ebook

The paper goes on to conclude that:

The present ecosystem for ebooks in libraries does not represent a value for our members. While competitors to Overdrive have emerged, this competitive environment does not drive prices down, as prices are controlled not by vendors, but by publishers. Without the ability to own ebook content and migrate collections between vendors, then libraries cannot benefit from the arrival of new competitors in the marketplace. In the end, library ebook collections will remain fleeting, bound to vendors; and not only expensive to acquire, but also to sustain. An environment in which access to as broad a range of content as possible is secured for patrons, and affordable to libraries, will not emerge out of the current environment

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