Hi everyone! Yesterday, my co-worker Marshall Hyde did a lovely posting on the process for the selection of purchasing physical library materials, which included a great photo of yours truly – thank you Marshall!

The posting appeared on Facebook and the comments from patrons include a cool question (we love questions in Library Land!)

The question was how do we select materials for Libby?

And to answer that question, first a little background so those reading this posting who aren’t familiar with Libby, OverDrive or the Digital Catalog will know what I am talking about!

And here is the background information in three parts:

1. What is the Digital Catalog?

2. What devices can you use to check out digital content (i.e. eBooks and digital audiobooks)

3. What app(s) can you use to check out eBooks and digital audiobooks?

So question 1 is: What is the Digital Catalog?

And the answer it that the Digital Catalog is an online accessed catalog of digital content in the form of eBooks, digital audiobooks and a handful of streaming videos.

The Digital Catalog is available to all patrons of all public libraries, and a handful of reading center, in the Southern Tier Library System.* All you need is a library card, a corresponding PIN and an Internet connection and you can check out materials from the Digital Catalog.

And the subject of checking out materials brings us to:

Question 2: What devices can you use to check out and read/listen to digital content?

The basic answer is that you can check out eBooks & digital audiobooks, and that handful of streaming videos, and enjoy them on the following types of devices:

Windows PCs

Macs

eReaders (eBooks only)

Tablets

&

Smartphones

Now just how you check out materials to those different devices varies a little bit depending upon the device you are using. So that will be the subject of a future posting! If you have questions about the process before that post is up, please feel free to call the library, or drop in and talk to one of our tech coaches and we will be happy to answer your questions and help you download digital content to your device.

Question 3: What app(s) can I use to check out eBooks and digital audiobooks?

You’ll notice I’ve added an “s” to the word app so we’re talking about multiple “apps”!

And that is correct. There are indeed two apps you can use as your portal to check out content from the Digital Catalog. One, titled OverDrive, is older and the other Libby is newer. As the OverDrive app is older, library staff have shown patrons how to access digital content through that app for about 10 years.

And recently OverDrive has come up with a new, more streamlined and modern app that is easier to use than the old OverDrive app and it is called Libby.

And longer story short, if you’re use to using the OverDrive app to check out digital library materials you can continue to use it.

However, for any new Digital Catalog users, OverDrive, the platform company, recommends using the Libby app.

Bottom line, if you haven’t used the Digital Catalog yet and would like to check out eBooks and digital audios to your app device – use the Libby app which can be found in the Android, Apple and Windows App Stores.

So with that background information in mind, the answer to how items are selected for the Digital Catalog requires us to look at two main points:

1. That the Digital Catalog is created and maintained by the vendor OverDrive

And

2. That content for the Digital Catalog is purchased by selectors at several STLS member libraries

So point 1: The Digital Catalog is created and maintained by the vendor OverDrive:

What that means is that STLS digital material selectors can only purchase eBooks, digital audiobooks and streaming videos available through OverDrive, only at the prices OverDrive charges and only for the length of time OverDrive gives us to allow our patrons access to the content in our Digital Catalog.

Now to be fair, OverDrive doesn’t set the prices of the eBooks and audiobooks nor do they decide whether or not public libraries can purchase the eBooks or audiobooks as compared to leasing them for a certain period of time. The titles available for sale, the prices of those eBooks and audiobooks and whether they can be purchased or leased by public libraries are items determined by the publishers.*

A great analogy is to imagine you are going shopping for a new set of drapes for your living room – but you can only go to one store, we’ll call it The Big Store just so the hypothetical store has a name, and you must pay the price the store is charging.

So if you want to buy that new set of drapes for your living room, instead of being able to shop the way most of us do today, by going to several stores in person and/or searching online for the best price and the smartest set of drapes we can find, you have to go to that one store and you can buy drapes at the price that store charges or not at all.

So if you want blue drapes for your living, you go to The Big Store and they have one style of blue drapes that cost $400 per panel.

And you can…insert drum roll here for dramatic effect…

You can either buy the drapes or not. You cannot go elsewhere to get a better price even if the local Target or JCPenney store has the exact same style of drapes for $50 a panel.

Now further imagine that you cannot actually buy those blue drapes. Instead, you can pay money to use them for a certain period of time and then you must return them to The Big Store or pay The Big Store more money to continue to use the drapes for a longer period of time.

If that sound like a fantasy it isn’t as far as public libraries purchasing eBooks and digital audiobooks for their patrons goes. Most public libraries in the United States use the OverDrive platform to provide digital content for their patrons.

So we have to pay the prices that OverDrive charges and we have to agree to lease some titles as compared to being able to purchase them outright, and then – we will have to purchase any leased titles again once those titles have been checked out so many times or after a certain period of time (i.e. 24 check outs or 24 months).

And if you’re thinking I’m about to drop the other proverbial shoe – you are right!
Consider the top five fiction and non-fiction books on the current New York Times Bestseller list, for March 17, 2019, and the prices for those corresponding eBooks and digital audiobooks through OverDrive:

TOP 5 FICTION BOOKS:
1. Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
OverDrive eBook Price: $55.00 – lease for 24 months
OverDrive Digital Audiobook Price: $66.50 – can purchase

2. The Chef by James Patterson
OverDrive eBook Price: $84.00 – buy
OverDrive Digital Audiobook Price: $47.99 – can purchase

3. The Border by Don Winslow
eBook Price: $28.99 – lease for 24 months
OverDrive Digital Audiobook Price: $99.95 – can purchase

4. An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
OverDrive eBook Price: $55.00 – lease for 52 check outs/24 months whichever comes first
OverDrive Digital Audiobook Price: $66.50 – can purchase

5. The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
OverDrive eBook Price: $60.00 – lease for 52 checkouts or 24 months whichever comes first
OverDrive Digital Audiobook Price: $49.99 – can purchase

TOP 5 NON-FICTION BOOKS:
1. Becoming by Michelle Obama
OverDrive eBook Price: $55.00 – lease for 24 months
OverDrive Digital Audiobook Price: $95.00 – can purchase

2. Educated by Tara Westover
OverDrive eBook Price: $55.00 – lease for 24 months
OverDrive Digital Audiobook Price: $95.00 – can purchase

3. The Threat by Andrew G. McCabe
OverDrive eBook Price: $60.00 – lease for 52 checkouts or 24 months whichever comes first
OverDrive Digital Audiobook Price: $49.99 – can purchase

4. Women Rowing North by Mary Pipher
OverDrive eBook Price: $63.00 – can purchase
OverDrive Digital Audiobook Price: Not for sale through OverDrive

5. Grateful American by Gary Sinise
OverDrive eBook Price: $26.99 – lease for 26 checkouts
OverDrive Digital Audiobook Price: $57.00 – can purchase

In looking at the prices for those twenty titles, which collectively cost $1,165.38, and the fact that eight of those titles expire after a certain period of time, and then a purchasing public library would have to pay the sale price to buy that item again – and you begin to see the challenge the OverDrive selectors have!

And that nicely moves us on to our second point, that content for the Digital Catalog is purchased by selectors at several STLS member libraries…

There are actually 50 libraries, reading centers and even a correctional facility that are members of the Southern Tier Library System. And as you may know all the libraries share physical content with each other which is why if the Hornell, Big Flats, Fillmore or Wellsville libraries own a terrific science fiction novel or mystery that you want to read and our library, Corning, does not – you can request that book from one of those other libraries and have it sent to Corning so you can pick it up and read it. There are so many print books, audiobooks on CD and music CDs out there that no one library can own them all – however, collectively the libraries and reading centers of the Southern Tier Library System do a top-notch-team-work job in purchasing new materials for patrons and sharing those materials with other library’s patrons throughout the system.

And just as the libraries within the system have traditionally shared physical materials, we now share digital materials in the form of eBooks and audiobooks too so that all the patrons, system-wide, have access to as large a collection with depth and breadth as we can create.

The challenge in purchasing digital content, all those new and popular eBooks and digital audiobooks through OverDrive, is that the prices are higher for those items than for their print and audiobook on CD counterparts, that we have to keep re-purchasing titles that have been leased, and that the Digital Catalog is a whole other catalog of items to be purchased – on top of the print books, audiobooks on CD, DVDs and other physical format items libraries have traditionally purchased.

So that in a nutshell, or as short a nutshells as I can manage, is the purchase process for the Digital Catalog (including all content accessed via the Libby and OverDrive apps)

I’ll sign off by noting that we do take patron requests for digital titles! So if you don’t see a new, popular or interesting title in the Digital Catalog that you would like to listen to or read – let us know! You can make recommendation through the Digital Catalog itself or let the staff know at your public library.

Have a great day!
Linda, SSL

References:

*The Southern Tier Library System member libraries include all the public libraries, and a few reading centers, in Steuben, Chemung, Yates, Schuyler and Allegheny Counties to see a map, and find out more about the member libraries and reading center in the system, visit the STLS Member Director found on the following page: https://www.stls.org/for-the-public/member-libraries-2/

Southern Tier Library System Member Libraries
https://www.stls.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Directory-2018-1.pdf

*The Big Six Publishers in the U.S.: Random House (& Penguin), HarperCollins, Hachette, Macmillan and Simon & Schuster sell most of the eBooks in the U.S. and they decide how much the eBooks and downloadable audiobooks they sell to public libraries cost. The publishers also decide whether or not to sell their eBooks and digital audiobooks to public libraries and, if they are going to actually sell their content to public libraries.

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