Originally Posted by VillageReader
I don't even think libraries own most of their popular fiction. Think about a Stephen King, DaSilva, Nora Roberts.... A small library may only want to own 2-3 copies of any popular fiction for the long term, but need 30 copies during the peak demand period when a book after the book is released. The solution is to rent 27 copies, not own them, and send them back when the peak demand begins to subside. If I'm not mistaken, I think there are some publishers that may even show a book as a library edition on the copyright page.
This is a very minor thing for me to bring up (and months late), but I spent a long time in collection development at a few different libraries, so I'm a bit obsessive:
Libraries (at least in the U.S.) actually buy all of those 30 copies of the new John Grisham paperback. Half of them end up destroyed or lost, and then the library deaccessions a few of the rest (often selling them for 25 cents or even just chucking them in a recycling bin) when they aren't circulating very much any more. Deciding how many copies of new bestsellers to buy is a perennial library controversy. Some libraries blow most of their budget on them and have huge turnover in their collections, some deliberately underbuy because they feel they can't afford things that no one will want to look at in 5 years.
Also, a library edition is usually an edition of a book made more sturdy one way or another, so it doesn't wind up like those unfortunate destroyed copies of a John Grisham paperback. Often this is a book that's out only in paperback for consumers, but that has a hardback edition that goes to libraries (and usually costs a ton more than the paperback, more even than a regular hardback). Occasionally there are other differences -- weird abridgments, books without the CD that comes with the bookstore version, things like that.