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Old 11-07-2010, 05:25 AM   #1
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How popular is Overdrive?

Looking through my library's inventory I see many ebooks have a waiting list. Even books I wouldnt consider mainstream have no availability.

So, I thought I'd do a back-of-envelope calculation.

70% of all fiction ebooks have waiting list

67% of all ebook subjects have waiting list (fiction and nonfiction)

Audiobooks seem popular too. 49% of all audio have wait times

It appears people are taking advantage of my library's digital content. The library selection committee may know my local community's interests and are choosing their purchases wisely. They know the area's vibe? Or are they not able to purchase enough copies causing long waits?

Are these results repeated in other locations? I calculated the percentage of fiction ebooks with wait times for other libraries.

Philadelphia 52%
New York 26%
British Columbia 41%
Indianapolis 14%

Hard to say whether these libraries do a better job or not. Poor selections or too many copies that waste budget dollars? Local residents not utilizing the service? Too many variables.

It is possible, though, that Overdrive isn't as popular as it may seem.
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Old 11-07-2010, 05:56 AM   #2
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At the library my mother worked at, apparently they would do most of the book acquisition based on requests. That also determined how many copies to buy. Movies, too. (The buyer did have some discretion for other books though)

As she passed away a few years ago, I can't ask her about how they handle e-books, but I suspect the requests tell them what to buy, but they don't buy them in nearly big as numbers (probably because the budget is much smaller, I would imagine).

Part of the thing with the library is like regular people, once the big demand is over, they get rid of the excess books. Some they'd sell to people, I think some they sell to smaller libraries, and some they just throw out. (Which benefited me greatly)

But with e-books, they never really need to be thrown out to make room. So that's probably another reason there are less copies available.
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Old 11-07-2010, 10:41 AM   #3
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My library often buys only one copy of an e-book (if very popular they might get as many as four); we are a half million educated, tech-oriented people, so, yes, there are wait times.

My Overdrive E-book Wish List (TBR pile) is running: 22 not available, with 1 - 2 patrons waiting per copy, and 60 books that are available right now. Granted, my list is heavily skewed towards non-fiction. I don't have many audios on my list, but the proportions seem roughly the same.

You are aware that Philadelphia has all those out-of-towner's with their $15 cards to skew things significantly, right?
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Old 11-07-2010, 12:03 PM   #4
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The Toronto Public Library has greatly increased its holdings in the past six months and now has multiple copies of some books. Some have wait times, some don't. That's the way it is with libraries. I am guessing the enhanced commitment of funds toward its ebook collection is driven by user demand. In fact, it has brought me back to being a regular library patron for the first time in ... nearly forty years. How's that for meeting your public service mandate?

I have no idea how to calculate the number you have, FBone. I wasn't clear on your point either: are lack of wait times evidence of wasted budgets and lack of Overdrive appeal? Are you suggesting Indianapolis's collection is mis-managed vs New Jersey's because wait times for patrons is lower in Indiana?
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Old 11-07-2010, 12:51 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SeaBookGuy View Post
You are aware that Philadelphia has all those out-of-towner's with their $15 cards to skew things significantly, right?
Yes, that's why I chose Philly. I expected a much higher percentage with all the non-resident members joining just for it's Overdrive selection.

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Originally Posted by SensualPoet View Post
I have no idea how to calculate the number you have, FBone. I wasn't clear on your point either: are lack of wait times evidence of wasted budgets and lack of Overdrive appeal? Are you suggesting Indianapolis's collection is mis-managed vs New Jersey's because wait times for patrons is lower in Indiana?
Under "advanced search" you can select the box for "Only show titles with copies available."
My point was to try to calculate utilization rates and what it means but there can be many conclusions reached. Residents are unaware of the service, uninterested in selection, all own Kindles? Too large inventory for population? In any case the library employee responsible for finance may not like to see only 14% utilized.
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Old 11-07-2010, 12:57 PM   #6
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SeaBookGuy - I used to be that the the waiting list for a popular book was SHORTER for the eBook than the paper in the Seattle Public Library. It no longer seems that way to me.

Is that your experience too?

Even though I live only 2 blocks from the Ballard branch in summer, I still prefer eBook. And in winter the eBook is 2,000 miles closer.
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Old 11-07-2010, 01:11 PM   #7
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The Indianapolis library added over 2000 e-books in the past month, so that may have something to do with 14% rate.

It would also be interesting to compare the number of eligible patrons to the number of ebooks available; excluding suburbs (which can't the library for free), the population of Indianapolis is 900,000, which is spread over 6078 ebooks, giving you approximately one ebook per 150 residents.
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Old 11-07-2010, 01:11 PM   #8
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Definitely shorter for the ebook -- as I mentioned 1 or 2 holds (per copy) for even a reasonably popular ebook vs. waits of months for print copies! Bear in mind that Kindle-only folks are Out-of-Luck here, which lessens the hold queue. When I see folks with nooks or Sonys around town I often ask "Do you download library books?" and most reply "Yes!" Actually, the other day I got out a somewhat bulky new book, and thought, "I wonder if the library has this as a download instead?" - I had the PDF edition checked out later that day, and the print book ready to return unread on my next SPL visit.
I think I'm not the only one who jumps on the Overdrive list by "date added to system" to see what's new.
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Old 11-07-2010, 01:23 PM   #9
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I have no hard numbers to support this, but it seems to me that overall I'm seeing more copies of a given title available, but the waitlists aren't getting any shorter, which would indicate more interest in the digital collections in general. I have several libraries that I watch, I have accounts at Seattle and Philadelphia, and access to a couple of others through friends, and I'm seeing this trend at all of them, except maybe Philadelphia - I haven't noticed much of an increase in numbers of a single title there, but I've only had my card there for a few months. Most of the titles I want I have to wait for, but the wait is generally anywhere from a few days to a few weeks - nothing out of line as far as I'm concerned. Just about all I check out is popular fiction, and I've never found a novel that I couldn't wait a few weeks to read!
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Old 11-07-2010, 01:34 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fbone View Post
Under "advanced search" you can select the box for "Only show titles with copies available."
My point was to try to calculate utilization rates and what it means but there can be many conclusions reached. Residents are unaware of the service, uninterested in selection, all own Kindles? Too large inventory for population? In any case the library employee responsible for finance may not like to see only 14% utilized.
Thanks for the tip on how you did the calculation. Using this, Toronto Public Library, using "Fiction" and "Adobe ePub" as filters, says 25% of books have more holds than copies of a given title. (TPL now actually has some ebooks with multiple copies.)

I disagree with how you value the service provided to residents, however. Over a given period the number of users, the number of loans, the cost per transaction, the cost of running the service (including labour costs), the long term maintenance ... all of those would go into a "cost effective analysis" I should think.
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Old 11-07-2010, 04:15 PM   #11
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I realize your stats might not be absolutely perfect, Fbone, but I really appreciate your efforts at quantifying this.

I think the problem is libraries' acquistion policies and budgets, and Overdrive's "business model" (whatever that is). Libraries rent copies of popular "real" books to cover periods of a volume's popularity; I wonder how this works with ebooks.

I also wonder if libraries don't give higher priority to physical books, which involve patrons actually coming into library facilities and generally being more visible, more demanding, and more in support of libraries' traditional mission.
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Old 11-07-2010, 04:37 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fbone View Post
My point was to try to calculate utilization rates and what it means but there can be many conclusions reached. Residents are unaware of the service, uninterested in selection, all own Kindles? Too large inventory for population? In any case the library employee responsible for finance may not like to see only 14% utilized.
That's 14% utilization at one particular point in time? I am not an expert, but the percentage seems awful high for a (pbook) library collection.

What are your expectations wrt to the utilization of Overdrive?
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Old 11-07-2010, 05:21 PM   #13
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That's 14% utilization at one particular point in time? I am not an expert, but the percentage seems awful high for a (pbook) library collection.

What are your expectations wrt to the utilization of Overdrive?
I hadn't thought about it from that direction, but that's a very good point - I would be surprised to learn that very many public library systems have over 1/4 of their total physical collection checked out at any given time, but that is the case with Seattle's digital collection (about 28%, including ebooks, audiobooks, videos and music).
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Old 11-07-2010, 09:06 PM   #14
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I would think that if you want your library to continue and expand it's Overdrive service then the more it's used the better. Libraries have limited budgets and ebooks are a new format they are starting to stock. Do they need to justify the expense?

When you think of it libraries purchase hardcovers, paperbacks, children books, large print, audio books, music CDs, DVDs, Blu-Ray DVDs, magazines and newspapers. Then add ebooks which may be the 4th different format of the same title. A lot of duplication there.

As I said earlier they were "back-of-envelope" numbers and not intended to be comprehensive. But still 52% utilization rate sounds better than 14% at a quick glance.
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Old 11-07-2010, 09:25 PM   #15
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Fbone - as an avid library user, I really appreciate all the work you put in to this!
One more wrinkle to add to the picture - books with multiple copies may artificially skew the results. For example, the Seattle library has 30 ePUB copies of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Earlier today 23 of them were checked out, so even though over 75% of the copies were checked out, it still goes on the list as not checked out. I understand completely that your numbers are just rough estimates, but I still thought this was worth mentioning.

Thanks again for all your efforts!
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