Libraries Can’t Buy Many of Amazon’s Ebook Hits: January 2013 Ebook Report from DCL
Ed. note: After examining the data from Douglas County (Colo.) Libraries’ January 2013 ebook price comparison report, two members of ALA’s Digital Content and Libraries Working Group offered their insights.
JAMIE LARUE writes: Happy New Year! But it’s not so happy for libraries and ebooks. As the first pricing comparison of 2013 shows, fully half of Amazon's top 20 bestsellers are not available from either OverDrive or 3M. Of those that are, none of them is available to us at the consumer price. Some of them cost over 5 times as much.
What’s the result? An erosion of both our purchasing power, and ultimately, the public perception of our utility and efficacy. We spend more and get less. And of course, libraries and the public each has sacrificed the very idea of book ownership, with Amazon leading the way.
By way of contrast, at the end of 2012, Douglas County Libraries spent $40,000 to purchase almost 10,000 titles from Smashwords. These self-published titles —mostly genre fiction, and many already solid sellers—are actually owned by the library, allowing us to fully integrate them into our catalog, and begin helping our readers discover writers new to them. The prices for these books are set, incidentally, by the authors themselves. Apparently, they want their books in libraries.
It’s enough to suggest a resolution: Let’s spend our money where we actually get something to show for it.
CHRISTOPHER HARRIS writes: The monthly ebook price comparison from Douglas County Libraries takes a look at the top 20 books on Amazon. The eclectic mix of fiction, nonfiction, and technical books features, as one would expect, the Fifty Shades series as well as quite a few cookbooks. So how do these titles fare in ebook pricing and library availability?
It’s immediately apparent that most of the books listed here are from Random House. They are quite noticeable among the $75, $85, and even $89.97 library price points. In some cases, that is an almost six-fold increase over the consumer price; for example, at $75, Gone Girl is 5.8 times the $12.99 consumer price. It must also be noted that the current $75 price for Gone Girl is three times more than the $25 libraries paid for that title back in September according to that month’s DCL report.
I guess Random House must be running low on ebook versions of Gone Girl and so is raising the price on remaining stock? Supply and demand—or something.
Here’s another interesting trend to note this month: For the first time in the DCL reports, we are seeing ebooks priced higher than their print equivalents for consumers. Proof of Heaven is $8.84 from Amazon in print, but $10.37 for the Kindle version; all three Fifty Shades books (and the collected trilogy) also cost more as ebooks. In total, six of the top 20 books from Amazon as of January 2 are priced higher on the Kindle than in print. A higher price point might be expected for image-heavy cookbooks that could need additional rights purchases, but all of the books in question are text-based.
Has someone been buying futures on bits and driving up the cost of digital content? Are we nearing peak utilization of 1’s and 0’s?
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