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Amazon Doesn’t Sell Nearly As Many Books To Academic Libraries As Some Would Assume

Here’s a bit of news that will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with academic libraries.

Forbes reports that Amazon is still a distinctly second-tier retailer in the academic library market. The dominant player is Ebsco:

Is Amazon taking over the academic library industry? That’s what a new study from a higher-education-focused non-profit takes a look at, and their findings might surprise you as long as you haven’t read the title of this article too closely.

For the study, Ithaka S+R gathered acquisitions data from 124 U.S. higher education institutions in fiscal year 2017 along with data from 51 institutions covering between 2014 and 2017. The report has more than one interesting takeaway about the under-examined world of academic literature, but here’s the big one: Amazon isn’t anywhere close to controlling the academic library market.

The study found that the academic book vendor GOBI Library Solutions provides 68.7 percent of print book sales and 86.4 percent of ebook sales to academic libraries. Granted, Amazon took second place in the print book category, but it was by a massive margin, with just an 11-percent piece of the pie compared to GOBI’s 68 percent. And Amazon didn’t even sell enough academic ebooks to qualify as having any sort of meaningful presence.

The report also indicated that ebook purchases were negligible in that market, and that the market may be shrinking as libraries cut back on expenditures.  "The results show that while Amazon has become the second largest print book vendor to academic libraries, they actually are buying fewer books individually and below a certain price point, as measured by lower overall book expenditures within our sample," the study concludes. "The slight increase in spending to acquire ebooks is not high enough to offset the decline in spending to acquire print books. Nor does the increase in ebook expenditures necessarily mean that libraries are acquiring more books in digital format. Rather, ebooks appear to be becoming more expensive (including ebooks costing more than $350), making it costlier for libraries to acquire the same number of digital materials."

I had never heard of Gobi before, so I was initially surprised by this story. Then I Googled the name, and discovered that Gobi is just another name for Ebsco.

Yeah, that’s no surprise; ask any five academic librarians to guess which company sold the most books to libraries, and at least four will tell you Ebsco (the fifth will explain how you can find the info yourself).

Study via Forbes

image  by pnoeric via Flickr

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