October 18, 2021

Report: Why Public Libraries Can’t Buy Some of Canada’s Top Audiobooks

From The Toronto Star:

“Audiobooks have been popular for years and years at the library; now with digital they’re our highest area of growth — they grew 40 per cent last year, so over 650,000 downloads … and we’re projecting a million this year,” said Susan Caron, director of collections and membership services with the Toronto Public Library, referring to a U.S. distributor of audiobooks.

Even as demand grows, the library says it can’t buy some popular titles. And it’s worried that people who rely on the library to access books — those with a limited income or disabilities — are being shut out of reading some of the best Canadian titles out there.

When the library buys a book, it doesn’t pay the $25 cover price that consumers might pay if they bought a trade paperback edition. Audiobooks, for example, can cost from $75 up to $200, depending on the book. Most of the time, the library lends that book to one user at a time while keeping the hold list to six people. To do that they buy more books.

Here’s an example using books from last week’s bestseller list. The library, according to Maria Cipriano, senior collections specialist, figured Stephen King’s The Outsider would be popular, so they ordered 20 copies at $129.57 each. That’s $2,591.10.

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About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.