May 19, 2022

Conference Paper: “‘Zip Books’: Using the Online Marketplace to Build Stronger Collections and Higher Customer Satisfaction By Delivering Books Quicker at Lower Cost”

The following paper will be presented at the IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations ) WLIC 2018 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia at the end of  this month. 


‘Zip Books’: Using the Online Marketplace to Build Stronger Collections and Higher Customer Satisfaction By Delivering Books Quicker at Lower Cost


Janet Coles
California State Library

Greg Lucas
State Librarian’s Office, California State Library



Nearly one-third of California’s 1119 libraries are using the convenience of the online marketplace to provide their communities with books faster and more cheaply than traditional interlibrary loans. “Zip Books” was piloted as a way to decrease the delivery challenges often faced by small, geographically isolated rural libraries.

This customer-centric program buys books rather than borrowing them, responding to customers’ requests by having books sent directly to their residences. Customers then return the books to their local libraries, where they are added to the library collection or offered to other libraries. A Zip Books purchase arrives on average within three days compared to two to four weeks for an interlibrary loan.

Staff processing time for a Zip Books request averages 10 minutes versus 30 minutes for an interlibrary loan. Analysis shows that overall costs in time and labor for a Zip Books transaction is about one-third that of a traditional interlibrary loan. When added to a library’s collection, a Zip Books purchase circulates more frequently. Since its inception with three smaller, rural library systems, the program has grown to 55 jurisdictions and is being tested in metropolitan and larger suburban library systems.

To date, Zip Books has proven itself to be a cheaper, faster method of book delivery to customers that builds stronger collections and higher customer satisfaction. Zip Books won’t entirely replace interlibrary loans because there are materials that can’t be obtained through that process, such as genealogy resources, out-of-print books, historical research, technical materials, academic materials, microfilm, and journal articles. But Zip Books is a cost-effective model for resource sharing and collection development, that any library can use and build upon.

Direct to Full Text 
6 pages; PDF.

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( 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, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.