The news this morning that Smashwords had sold $40,000 worth of ebooks to Douglas County Libraries reminded me about another story I wanted to pursue.
Some months back Douglas County Libraries took up the task of tracking which ebooks can’t be bought by libraries. They started by taking a recent best seller (USA Today, Amazon, etc) and then checking the prices and availability via library book distributors Ingram and B&T, ebook distributors 3M and Overdrive, and Amazon, B&N, and Bilbary.
The last time I looked at this list US libraries could only buy 6 of the 25 titles on the USA Today list. Today’s situation is somewhat improved. This month’s list is drawn from Amazon, and it shows libraries can buy nine or ten of the 20 titles listed. Overdrive has the 9, and 3M Cloud Library can sell one extra title.
But while the situation looks much improved, TBH I’m not sure how much this comparison list is really worth. It’s based on Amazon’s best seller list and if you take a look at the PDF you’ll see that something is hinky.
Amazon’s list includes a manual from the APA as well as an official guide to first aid. I’m really not sure that either title sold enough copies to qualify as a best seller. The first aid manual might have seen a boost in sales thanks to the Mayan apocalypse, so it might possibly have made the list but the APA title in particular does not strike me as having more appeal than, for example, the 50 Shades trilogy.
But the best seller list could also be looked as a sample group and not titles which need to be bought, and in that case we can overlook Amazon’s shenanigans with the rankings. Only 18 of the 20 titles can be bought as ebooks (not by consumers), so in effect this sample group shows half or more of the titles are available to libraries.
I still feel that this sample group is flawed by the selection process, though. As I understand it this price comparison is intended to look at books library patrons would actually want to read. This sample group does not meet that requirement, so I’m not going to put any weight in it.
image by Cast a Line