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Friday, April 27, 2012

ARRT Program on eBook RA and Collection Development

On Tuesday afternoon I headed out to the 95th Street Branch of the Naperville Public Library to attend the ARRT Spring Program entitled, "eBook Readers' Advisory and Collection Development."

The presenters were Jessica Moyer Assistant Professor, School of Information Studies, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Bleue Benton Collection Development Manager, Oak Park Public Library.  The talk was broken into 2 parts.

 1. Who is the eReader?

Jessica went first and set the stage by focusing her talk on the break down of the rich data collected by the Pew Internet and America Life survey that focused on the rise of eReading.  You can click here for the report's summary which also has links to the full report.

The highlights very briefly (in bullets) with my added comments (indented below the bullets) are:
  • People are reading more in general because of eBooks.  72% of American adults read a printed book last year.  21% read an eBook, but of the 72% if adults who read, 29% read an eBook too.  To flip it further, 88% of those eBook readers also read a printed book
    • Yeah! eBooks are increasing people's reading numbers overall.  Five years ago we were seeing numbers in the 20 percents of adults who had read a book in a given year.  And eBook readers don't only read eBooks.  This is also good news. 
  • The increase in people reading an eBook on a typical day since 2010 is 4 fold.
    • These big increases are because we were at 0 a few years ago, so this growth is not surprising.  At some point, however, it will level off like all new formats do.
  • The vast majority of eReaders are between 18-49 with almost another 1/4 in the 50-64 range. But all of them prefer to buy their eBooks rather than borrow them.
    • We are seeing that 50-64 range coming into the library for help, but the 18-49 are either doing it from home or just by-passing the library altogether. Not good for us.
    • It is too difficult to download from the library (lots of steps) and the demand is so high, there really is nothing available immediately.  Since eBook readers also seem to be more affluent, they don't mind buying their books.  But they are reading on average 2 a month, so eventually it will get too expensive.
  • eBook readers read for all sorts of reasons: pleasure, information, current events (especially magazines) and work or school.
    • This made me think for the first time how key it is going to be to move our magazine subscriptions to a electronic model.  I love my New Yorker and InStyle on the iPad; I don't know why I never thought of it for the library.  Maybe because I am not a big magazine borrower.
  • The mass market paperback is the format being made obsolete by eBooks
    • Jessica pointed out that the mass market paperback is not very old as a format anyway.  The hard cover is not going anywhere though and that really is the library's main print book format.
  • People who read eBooks get their suggestions for what to read next from everywhere but the library.
    • We need to be more relevant here.
Again, this is a very brief overview of her overview.  The full report is here and I highly suggest you take a look at it.

In terms of Jessica's RA suggestions when it comes to eBook readers, she reminded us that eBooks are simply another format.  We need to be format neutral and remind patrons that we can help them find their next good read no matter the format.  We need to start advertising that we offer eBooks more and can provide the same services for eReaders as we do for print readers.

She pointed out that many people bring their eReaders into the library to use our wireless to download books they are purchasing.  Even if they are going to buy the books and not borrow them from us, we can still help them to pick a book based on their reading tastes.  We need to remind them of how much they need us.

2. eBook Collection Development

This data set the stage very well for Bleue who focused on the collection development issues of eBooks.  This is the area where I think we all need the most guidance.

She began by explaining the ever changing issues about which publishers are allowing their books to even be checked out at libraries.  Of the Big 6, 2 don't allow it right now, and the others have serious restrictions, but this is an ever changing issue.  Bleue explained why it is so difficult for the publishers and the libraries to work out a fair model.  I appreciated how she explained the issue from all sides.  It is very complicated, but the short answer is, everyone needs to keep working through the issues together and soon it will all be resolved.  We are talking about huge changes in pricing and delivery models.  The publishers still need to make money or they will no longer produce any books.

In terms of specific collection development, Bleue had many good points and suggestions.  Again, the highlights are below:
  • We are so busy trying to keep up with demand on new titles, that we are forgetting to build depth in our e-collections. The mid list is especially underrepresented, and this is an area where libraries excel in print.
  • Currently, there is NO weeding going on with eBooks.  This is because there is currently no way libraries can weed in OverDrive, but also, since most of the buying is through consortia, weeding needs to be done collectively.
  • Because weeding is impossible right now, Bleue reminded us that we should be careful about buying eBooks like law and medical titles which do need to be weeded frequently.
  • An issue I never even thought of--- some day we will be able to weed eBooks, but think about when we weed print books now.  We can resell them in our Friends used book sales.  We get a good deal of revenue from these sales (at Berwyn we get about $300 a month).  With eBooks, you simply delete them from a virtual place and they are gone forever.
  • Since consortia are the most popular sharing model right now, there needs to be better pricing models which place a larger burden on the bigger users.  In Oak Park's consortia (which Berwyn is a part of) they are the biggest user (in the thousands) while the smallest user had less than 10 downloads.
  • She ended with a few purchasing suggestions for building better collections.
    • When buying, keep your orders small.  Don't go crazy buying too many titles at once.  Take the time to see how the titles you are buying are going over with patrons before adding more.
    • When you have time, consider adding the back list titles of popular authors.  This will build your back list.
    • Use a hold management system to automatically add titles when demand necessitates it.
    • Buy lots of inexpensive titles to get your quantity up.  Everything they put on sale that your patrons would read should be bought.  Specifically, she mentioned that romance titles are very popular and a good value for the money.
    • Don't forget that short genres do very well in the "e" format: poems, essays, and short stories.  They actually do better in "e" than print.
    • Try to think of your "e" collections as a part of your entire collection and don't buy just by format.  In other words, consider the authors and titles you are adding to your collections on their own merit and then buy in all the formats you want for your patrons.
This last point was the most useful thing I learned at the workshop.  I am guilty of this problem.  We get so wrapped up in the new formats that we forget to consider the whole picture of our collection.  Our collections need to be consider as their own beast, regardless of format.  The same people selecting fiction should be selecting it for print, audio, and eBooks.  Too often this does not happen (it doesn't happen at Berwyn).  I think with the increase in popularity of eBooks, now is the time to remind our selves of this important point.

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So that's my report with comments.  It is not everything, but the points I thought were most pertinent to a large audience.

Please remember to go back to the full Pew report.

Also, No Shelf Required is still the best place to stay on top of "e" news.

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