Caveat Emptor--RBDigital

In October, RBDigital turned on a feature that allows patrons to choose to download new magazine issues automatically.  Sounds good, right?  They can decide they simply want to see their favorite.  There are, however, two concerns with the practice.

One: RBDigital apparently didn’t tell all their customers the feature was being turned on. If you’ve seen a sudden and unexplained uptick in check-outs, here’s a likely reason

Two: as one of our Canadian colleagues found out, it can cause libraries to run rapidly through some available downloads on some popular titles: “We are running out of circs for our most popular titles and customers are unable to download, e.g. we’re out of circs for the Economist for December, our most popular and expensive title. Very annoyed customers! They didn’t tell us that they had added this choice (we would have said no) and of course people check it. To meet demand, we have 38 subscriptions to the Economist, which cost us $22K a year!”

It is possible to turn off the feature. In the Admin settings, there is a feature called Auto-checkout control.  Admins find it under “Services Subscriptions, Magazines,”  towards the bottom of the screen. Change “Auto-checkout Magazines” to “Disabled.”

 Of course, taking away a feature once it is offered can be unpopular, but not so unpopular as customers expecting to get content and not being able to within a library’s budget.

If RBdigital did not tell you about this change, they should have.

RBDigital, I hope you made every effort to communicate this change beforehand. Several libraries, however, have said it is news to them. Implementing changes that might affect our materials budgets without telling us is seriously uncool!

Advocacy Alert: Take action today to oppose a transfer of authority from the Librarian of Congress to the President

From our friends at the ALA Washington Office:

With fewer than two weeks left in this congressional session, we face serious threats on the U.S. Copyright Office and Library of Congress.

On Wednesday, December 12, the Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act (S. 1010), a Senate companion to the already-passed House bill (H.R. 1695) will be voted on by the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, in spite of strong opposition by ALA and others in the library community. There is intense industry pressure to pass this legislation in the lame duck session, even though this would take authority away Dr. Hayden and give it to the President.

ALA strongly opposes this bill. We urge you to contact your U.S. Senators now to express your personal opposition and ask them to vote against it.

We must keep Congress from undermining Dr. Hayden and her leadership. Make your voice heard for the Library of Congress and libraries everywhere--for Dr. Hayden, a past-president of ALA.

Send an Email Now

First Research Report from the Panorama Project

The Panorama Project is trying to determine, in part, the impact of library e-book use on sales. The project has completed its first report, on an OverDrive Big Library Read. The results suggest that, at least for a targeted e-book event, libraries do call attention to and foster sales of books, benefiting authors and publishers.

RF looks forward to other reports on more typical library e-book scenarios. Let’s see if the link between library use and discovery/purchase of titles, which libraries have long argued anecdotally, can be further verified.

“I'm delighted to announce that the Panorama Project has released its first research report. The project’s Community Reading Event Impact Report presents findings on the impact of a recent OverDrive Big Library Read (BLR) community reading campaign. First-time author Jennifer McGaha’s Flat Broke With Two Goats (Sourcebooks, 2018) was selected for the April 2018 public library ebook club event. The data analyzed by the project shows that the selection and promotion of the title for the April 2–16, 2018 event aligns with significant increases in associated social media activity and retail print/ebook sales.

Discovery Impact from the Campaign

  • 5.6 million page views globally of the ebook title details page in public library digital catalogs.

  • An increase in title’s Amazon Kindle sales rank—from below 200,000 prior to the library ebook club campaign to 7,833 at the close of the event.

Brand Development Impact from the Campaign

  • Over 13,000 Goodreads additions for the title during the campaign.

  • 400+ comments from readers, librarians, the author, and OverDrive forum moderator on the OverDrive moderated title discussion board.

  • 500+ mentions from libraries and readers on social media sites using #BigLibraryRead.

Retail Sales Impact from the Campaign

  • 818% growth in ebook sales from March to April, 2018.

  • 201% growth in print sales from March to April, 2018.

  • Sustained retail sales above pre-campaign (January–March 2018) volumes:

    • April–June 2018 ebook sales continued at 720% above pre-campaign volumes.

    • April–June 2018 print sales continued at 38% percent above pre-campaign volumes.

Data was aggregated from a number of sources to obtain the most holistic view possible of all library and retail sales activity (print and ebook) across multiple channels. The data sources include U.S. retail data from The NPD Group’s DecisionKey® retail book sales tracking service (formerly Bookscan™), U.S. public library ebook circulation data provided by OverDrive, and U.S. sales and marketing data from the publisher. In addition to sales data we have aggregated and incorporated promotional activities known to have been undertaken independently by OverDrive and Sourcebooks.

This is the first of several library impact research projects that we are working on. The report demonstrates how we are using library and retail data to develop a better understanding of the impact of the country’s public libraries on book discovery, author/brand development, and retail sales. We believe that the publication of this first report will serve as a catalyst for others in the publishing community to engage with the project. We are grateful for the contributions and support of Sourcebooks and the members of our Advisory Council—all of whom have provided insightful and helpful feedback.

View/Download the Report

View/Download the Media Alert

Thank you for your support!

Best wishes,


Cliff Guren

Panorama Project Lead”

ALA Midwinter ReadersFirst Session

Just before the Consortial EBook Interest Group meeting, from 12:30 to 1:45 p.m. in the same room (Hyatt Regency Seattle in the Junior Ballroom East), on Friday, January 25, ReadersFirst will be holding a digital content interest session. You DON’T have to be a Readers First member to attend.

We will be taking about a study we hope to have completed on eBook availability, licensing models, and cost in Canada and the USA. We’ll discuss some recent digital content developments. We welcome all comments about what is happening at your entity (library, non-profit, distributor, or publishing house). No need for a formal presentation: just tell us what you are seeing, for good or not so good, and what you’d like to see in library digital content. We will have a special guest: Andrew Albanese from Publishers Weekly, who digs deep into all matters library e-book, will talk about where the library e-book market is: the good, the bad, and the foot-dragging.

It will all be informal conversation in which we talk about where library digital content is and where we’d like it to go.

IN the morning, in the same room, there will be a SimplyE interest section. Friday the 25th will be library digital content day in Seattle!

Please consider attending!

PRH Prices Are Being Adjusted, But . . .

Some RF member libraries are reporting that Penguin Random House is indeed adjusting library e-book prices.

For example:

·Titles in the Cold Fury Hockey series went from $14.97 to $55 to the current $10.  Thank goodness as this series is very popular with our customers.

Crazy Rich Asians went from $48 to $55 to the current $45.  It’s interesting, however, that China Rich Girlfriend and Rich People Problems are now $50, not $45. It will be interesting to see if they eventually normalize at the lower price.

In the Loveswept imprint, all but a handful (that aren’t box sets) are now $10, down from $14.97. That’s a drop on around 650 titles.

The price drop is welcome, but the move to a two-year metered model still poses challenges for libraries. For example, one library buyer points out the following: “Today I have to buy 11 more A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult this week (on top of the 32 we’ve already purchased) to reach our holds ratio. Each copy is $55, but in 24 months we won’t have a single one of them in our collection. Picoult is a perennial favorite, and I will no doubt be purchasing this title for years to come if Metered Access is the only lending model available.”

Adds another, “Our consortium budget can no way absorb having to re-buy this volume of titles.”

Having to repurchase every two years will likely decrease the variety and depth of digital titles that libraries can offer, with either high-demand titles displacing everything else or (and?) librarians facing patrons’ frustrated cry of “what I want is never available.”

PRH, we appreciate you engaging in a conversation with libraries. Please keep the door open. What we need, again, is OPTIONS! Work with us. Pilot at least a perpetual one user/one copy and a metered 52 circ model on all titles. We can talk price options. If we can use PRH efficiently, libraries will buy more from you. Our collections, and your bottom line, will benefit.

Take Action For Libraries

From our friends at the ALA Washington Office:

Advocacy Alert: Museum and Library Services Act

We need you to take action today!

On the heels of our amazing funding news last week, the Museum and Library Services Act - legislation to reauthorize the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) - was introduced in both the Senate (S.3530) and House (H.R.6988) this past Friday with strong leadership and bipartisan support.

ALA President Loida Garcia-Febo praised the new legislation: "ALA appreciates the many ways these two bills build on the successes of previous reauthorizations of the IMLS. We applaud all of the hard work to ensure S. 3530 and H.R. 6988 equitably distribute Library Services and Technology Act funds to large and small states, expands eligibility for tribal libraries, supports disaster readiness, and reinforces ALA's message that strong communities need strong libraries."

With few working days available to Congress to consider legislation, only bills with bipartisan support are likely to pass. ALA's goal now is to have Congress take up S.3530 and H.R.6988 as soon as possible.

If both bills are passed, it will deliver a strong message from Congress that funding for federal library programs is a priority for them. Please email your Senators and email your Representative today and urge them to cosponsor the Museum and Library Services Act.

Edited: Et tu, PRH? Maybe not. Let’s find out more

Is this the other shoe dropping? Update: maybe not. It looks as if Penguin Random House is going to drop prices on some “top tier” authors from $65 to $55, but raise prices on many others.

OverDrive sent out this notice to its clients.

RF will post more as we learn about this possible unwelcome change. For now, we don’t know if many prices will in fact be raised. Expect a follow-up post if we find out.

Update: This matter is more complicated than it might seem at first sight. A closer look at some upcoming PRH pricing suggests that while adjustments are going on, a majority of titles are not going up in price. Some titles are being increased but they are not necessarily titles (omnibus titles, some classics like those in Everyman’s Library) that libraries buy much of. Other adjustments are being made based on BISAC subject headings, with some titles moving from a children’s or young adult or adult classification to a different one. Overall, some percentage of titles will increase, but a far larger percentage is going to decrease. Many titles of primary interest to libraries are being adjusted down since the initial list was released. PRH is also planning to offer a pricing sale with discounts on library e-books soon, though apparently not every library vendor always offers discounts when they appear. ReadersFirst suggests a “wait and see” before reacting strongly to get a better idea of exactly what all the price changes are going to be and what PRH will do in response to any library concerns. An immediate purchase of titles that “are expected” to increase may not be in a library’s best interest, in spite of some recommendations.

 Dear Partner,

We received additional information about the price changes that will take effect October 1, 2018 for the Penguin Random House ebook catalog. In general, the pricing for ebooks will be as follows:

  • Adult titles: $55.00/$57.00 USD

  • Young Adult titles: $45.00/$47.00 USD

  • Children's titles: $35.00/$37.00 USD

There are exceptions to these price points that may vary by audience level. Please note, the new pricing results in both price decreases as well as increases from the current pricing across the catalog, which vary on a title by title basis.

We reviewed the upcoming price changes and created a list for you in OverDrive Marketplace that include ebooks we expect will have a price increase after October 1, 2018. We recommend you take advantage of the cost savings by purchasing now, as prices will be increasing on these titles on October 1. The pricing is subject to change.

If you have any questions, please contact your Account Manager.

Thank you,


An ALA Response to PRH and A Criticism from RF

The ReadersFirst Working group is made up of many passionate librarians, and, like many diverse groups, we gain strength from our debates. One such occurrence has happened over the ALA’s Alan Inouye’s response to recent e-book business model changes and ALA’s plans for the future.

Inouye rightly points out that Penguin Random House’s price reduction and change away from a “pretend-it’s-print” perpetual license offers some advantages. More copies might be obtained for the same price, while multiple copies bought for high initial demand can be “used up” and need not be weeded later.

His thought that “those relatively few school, public, and special libraries for which preservation is central to their mission” and which “may decide to shift to print books for some titles” is more problematic.

Let’s hear from some front line librarians who are more inclined to agree with Nate Hoffelder that “Penguin Random House is changing its license terms for library ebooks from ‘insanely expensive’ to ‘ridiculously expensive and short-lived’.”

Susan Caron of Toronto Public Library (which circulates more than 3 million e-books a year) says “ ‘We’ll be blowing our budget and brains out reordering John Grisham forever.’ We have such a big collection (over 100,000 titles) that the work of renewing or not is already overwhelming – this means it has to be done for 4 out of 5 publishers and the biggest. Also, pricing does not make up for it (and we haven’t seen the Canadian prices yet) but [they are likely] nowhere near [as low as Harper-Collins]. We’re very disappointed. Solid, deep collections, which we’ve been trying to build, will become more ephemeral. E-books will become the temporary bestseller collection rather than a comprehensive digital collection that complements and provides an alternative to print.”

Cathy Mason of Columbus Metropolitan Library and the Ohio Digital Downloads Consortium (over 2 million e-books per year circulated) concurs: “I’d much rather spend the extra $10 for access to a title we get to keep forever.  Metered access is best suited to titles that are more of a risk.  I’ve always hated that Stephen King is a 12 month author. I [have been investigating] books and series that go out of print that we still have in e.  Bluford High is super popular here but hasn’t been available for purchase in print for years.  Luckily we have over 20 of the titles available forever to customers through our digital collection.  I’m also thinking about the typical short print runs of large print volumes and how ebooks are so easily adjusted to suit the readers’ preferences or needs.  A 24 month meter will leave large print customers wanting. Ultimately I’d like to lobby for a hybrid model of forever copies for the depth of collection plus the ability to buy metered access (in either form) to fulfill initial and/or occasional resurgent interest.”

So, we may save on some titles, but at the cost of variety, collection depth, preservation (including titles not in print anymore, for which we can’t rely on print), access for those who need large print, and constant re-working of our collections. Cathy Mason speaks for RF when she advocates for multiple license models for every title.

Peguin Random House, we second Mr. Inouye’s thanks for listening and remaining committed to libraries (unlike Macmillan/Tor’s rude stiff-arming of us). But let’s make this step one of many. Give us multiple models per title and let us use e-books in a way that will make you money while building a collection worthy of the name.

Cathy, Susan, and Michael

100,000 Books in 5 Countries: What's Really Happening in eLending

A team from Australia has released the results of a large-scale study, reports Rebecca Giblin of Monash University,  examining "the relative availability, licence terms and pricing of almost 100,000 books across the US, Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand. An interactive dashboard that allows you to visually query this rich dataset (or download it in its entirety) is available at, together with tutorials and more details about our methodology."

Rebecca also gave part of the keynote address at IFLA's World Library and Information Congress. Hers is the first 43 minutes of the presentation, which is is also available online, and "contains an overview of some of the most fascinating discoveries we've made from the data." It is well worth a watch!

Some highlights:

1. "For our sampled titles, the US had one of the best availabilities (second only to Canada). Still, it was missing over 11,000 books that were available to its neighbors in other countries."

2. "To our surprise, there were many books that were available to the US on more limited licences than in other countries. For example, the chart I've pasted below shows the distribution of licences in the 15,000 odd cases where they're different across the five countries. It shows the the US (together with Canada and the UK) more often has metered access than One Copy/One User, and that the form of metering is most often loans only (with relatively few time-limited licences). If you download that data from the dashboard, you will also see that US libraries are often asked to pay a higher price for a metered licence than some other countries are, for the same books, on OC/OU terms."

Rebecca concludes "This data is a game changer in terms of shining light on what has really been happening in elending licensing, and raise important questions (which we're now beginning to study) about what it means for reform of law, policy and practice."

RF thanks Rebecca and team for a fascinating study and hopes to further explore some of the results with the team. 

Penguin Random changes e-book models--somewhat for the better

Penguin Random is changing e-book business model from perpetual ("pretend its print") to metered access.

As so often Andrew Albanese from Publishers Weekly is on the case, and shares more information:

ReadersFirst has a mixed but generally quite favorable response. 

Lower prices are always good.

A model based only on number of circs rather than a two year time limit would have been even better news.

Better news still would be if public libraries could have BOTH options: metered and perpetual.

Even better news still would be if a whole range of options were available at time of purchase: pay-per-use, subscription, metered, perpetual.

Still this news comes as rare and refreshing fruit, and is a welcome contrast to recent changes made by Tor/Macmillan, whose failure to engage with libraries makes it abundantly clear that they are utterly uninterested in libraries or their readers. It will help libraries meet the needs of readers more effectively while being responsible to Penguin Random's need to benefit authors.

A big thanks, and also a tip of the hat, to Mr. Skip Dye of Penguin Random, who attended the National E-Book Summit at ALA and has shown a true commitment to working with libraries.  Thanks, Skip, for listening!