Has Our Local E-Book Craze Ended?
During January and February of this year, I visited our statistical reports at OverDrive at least once an hour to see how many new users we had added, the number of digital items downloaded, and the size of our current wait list. There were days that I was sure it would exceed 1,000 items on hold by our local patrons, but it never made it above 975. While these figures were a bit scary, I was thrilled that our digital collection was so popular. In posting my statistics for March, I was startled to find that our total number of items downloaded had decreased slightly from February, but our holds list was still holding in the 800’s. This month, our holds are down in the low 600’s, but the average waiting period is the same as it was back in February. This makes me question whether our local e-book “craze” has started to decline or if factors in the publishing world have caused this decrease.
Starting in February, we lost access to some of the most popular authors when Penguin stopped the licensing of any titles to OverDrive libraries. For Kindle readers who wanted to read older titles by Penguin authors, they had to jump through a number of hoops just to download them to their devices. Another huge blow came when Random House raised their prices at the beginning of March. While our consortium may have felt comfortable buying an additional license for a popular e-book when it cost $30 or $35, it will hold off now that it is over $75. We no longer have an automatic purchase trigger when the holds list exceeds a target number. Each title is decided on an individual basis.
In preparing for a presentation at our local library association recently, I checked the number of titles available for us to “purchase” from OverDrive compared to those on the NY Times Bestseller List and the USA Today List. In both cases, only four out of the top 13 were even offered for our consideration. Patrons just don’t understand how limited our options are in getting licenses for popular books!
Given the fact that three of the major publishing houses settled with the Dept. of Justice over the current price-fixing lawsuit involving Apple, I now envision Amazon dropping the prices on their bestsellers in Kindle format to new, low rates. When this happens, our patrons won’t want to be on long hold lists, especially when they can purchase titles we can’t provide for immediate downloading. This will put libraries at an even greater disadvantage!
So getting back to my original question – is our e-book craze just naturally leveling out now that we’re four months out of the holiday season, or have factors beyond our control hastened this decrease. Have our avid readers simply run out of books on our site that they want to read or are they tired of waiting on hold lists that are longer due to fewer numbers of copies? It will take a while for me to figure this one out. I’m hoping that circulation will increase again when summer vacation season rolls around. But if we can’t supply the popular titles that are featured on best seller lists, or purchase enough licenses of expensive Random House offerings, then we may have a real problem on our hands. I wish I had the answers, but I don’t.