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

eBooks for Libraries

eBooks for Libraries is an initiative of the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library and Library Renewal.

eBooks for Libraries was initially largely focused on collecting signatures for a petition. At 10,000 signatures, the petition was mailed (in hard copy) to the Big 6 American publishers. Following that, the site was relaunched, with the following goal:

There are a lot of really great blogs and news sites devoted to ebooks and the publishing industry, and we don’t want to try to mimic those. But as we’ve been following those sites, and all the many stories surrounding ebooks and libraries, we realized something: no one’s telling libraries what any of these changes actually MEAN for libraries. No one’s saying “great – big-name publisher #1 says you own your ebook files. What changes tomorrow for our public library because of that announcement? What’s that mean next week, or even next year”

So our goal is to try and answer those practical questions surrounding ebooks for libraries.

(Via David Lee King)

eBooks for libraries is still collecting signatures for their petition, too.

Library Renewal

Library Renewal is a grass-roots, non-profit organisation aimed at furthering the mission of libraries, primarily as it relates to electronic content.

Library Renewal develops relationships with people in order to talk about electronic access, forms partnerships (mostly with libraries/library systems), undertakes research, and creates solutions.

At the moment, their research results aren’t published, because:

we truly believe we have a solution for libraries that could cut their costs almost in half, while providing more money to rights holders and publishers than they receive using the broken systems now in place. Consequently, if we release our figures we are concerned a commercial vendor would build the system we are seeking funding to build, saving libraries *some* money but getting rich in the process.

As we work to secure funding to build a system “by libraries, for libraries and with libraries,” one that takes revenue generated by the system and applies it to opening access and bridging the digital divide, we simply can’t share all of the jaw-dropping research and figures we have compiled to date.