The Real Cost of Ebooks for Libraries

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Librarians often complain about the lack of availability of ebooks and their cost when they are available. Outside of knowledge of which publishers sell ebooks to libraries and news stories about their cost, it’s not directly known what a librarian faces day-to-day in terms of trying to get ebook access for her patrons.

The Douglas County Libraries have put out a report showing the cost and availability of the most popular print books for patrons and next to it the same for the ebook editions. The differences are stark.

For the top 15 fiction titles, libraries typically pay a few cents less per copy than consumers do for the print edition. The same is true for the top five nonfiction titles.

When it comes to ebooks, the story is very different. Four of the top 15 fiction titles are available to libraries:

— The Racketeer (John Grisham, Random House): $12.99 for consumers, $85.00 for libraries

— Notorious Nineteen (Janet Evanovich, Random House): $13.99 for consumers, $84.00 for libraries

— A Wanted Man (Lee Child, Random House): $13.00 for consumers, $84.00 for libraries

— Flight Behavior (Barbara Kingsolver, HarperCollins): $12.99 for consumers, $25.95 for libraries

For nonfiction, only one of the five most popular titles is available as an ebook: Wild (Cheryl Strayed, Random House), which is $12.99 for consumers and $25.95 for libraries.

See the full document here.

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6 thoughts on “The Real Cost of Ebooks for Libraries

  1. While I find this behaviour entirely wrong-minded on the part of publishers I think it would be useful to discover whether even this punishing pricing is still advantageous to libraries. I haven’t read lately whether eBooks sold to libraries have a borrowed-life span (x readings then defunct) or whether the premium price provides for the book in perpetuity which would be an enormous advantage to the library. But also the physical shipping and management of books is much less for libraries, they never are broken or spoiled, books time out precisely when lent and therefore spin immediately to the next borrower. Maybe the premium, which one can almost understand from the perspective of the poor, embattled publisher, still makes sense.

  2. No, no, no, this is just wrong. Why should a library have to pay so much more for an eBook than a consumer? I don’t even understand this. As for putting a limit on the number of times a library can loan an eBook…and at the rate the publisher is charging for it??? NO. This sounds more like extortion. WTF.

    • The big thing that is being missed is that the consumer edition is not in perpetuity and if the consumer changes readers, format changes and are generally out of luck on useableness of ebook. Second the check out rate decreases rapidly for any book after the first 6 months. Third the cost difference between consumer and library editions is not a few cents but more in the range or 40% to 50% withouth taking into consideration the quality of the binding.

      You cannot just look at the price, what is being given for the selling price.

  3. Pingback: Libraries lobby publishers to change e-book policies | Ebooks

  4. “The big thing that is being missed is that the consumer edition is not in perpetuity and if the consumer changes readers, format changes and are generally out of luck on useableness of ebook.”

    That’s why I like Calibre.

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