Going digital: The challenge of eBooks

Published 10:18 am Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Demopolis Public Library has provided our community with access to eBooks and downloadable audiobooks since July 2010. The Friends of the Library sponsored this subscription until we were able to add the cost into our technology line item of our city budget. The subscription fee has remained the same over the past 5 years-$2,000 a year with $1,500 from this fee allocated for our library to use to purchase new titles.

Morgan Allen is librarian at the Demopolis Public Library. She may be reached by email at morgan.grimes@demopolisal.gov.

eBooks and downloadable audiobooks enable our community to access titles 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with their library card number. Titles can be read or listened to on almost any device including Kindles, iPads, iPhones, Android devices, computers, tablets, and smartphones. We currently have 2,082 eBook titles and 39 downloadable audiobooks in the collection. Demopolis patrons downloaded titles 3,050 times last during the past 12 months. On average, 254 titles are downloaded each month.
Library patrons often ask why we didn’t have more titles from the New York Times Best Seller’s List available in digital format. Trying to meet patron demands for titles is a monthly struggle due to publishers and funding. Currently, only five out of top ten books on the New York Times Best Seller’s list are available for our library to purchase in eBook format. The other five are only available in audiobook format. If the eBook is available, we may only be able to buy a license for 12 months, 24 months, or 26 checkouts. After this time is up, the titles are deleted from Black Belt Digital Library and we have to purchase the license again. Some titles are available to purchase as one copy/one user. That means once our library buys the title, it is ours to keep. For example, John Grisham’s newest book The Whistler is available as a one copy/one user title for $65.00. The cost for an individual to purchase the Kindle title from Amazon is $14.99. The cost to purchase this title in downloadable audiobook format is $95! For the library to purchase a best seller title in hardback, large print, eBook, audiobook on CD, and downloadable audiobook, the cost is approximately $278. If we purchased every best-selling title in all five formats, it would cost us approximately $10,842 a year. That’s almost half of our budget!
We also get asked the question why we don’t have all the titles in a series in eBook format. One reason is that all the titles in the series aren’t available in eBook format. Book 1, 2, and 3 may be available, but books 3 and 4 may only be available in downloadable audiobook format. Another reason is that only a 12 month license for the title may have been available. When the license ends after 12 months and we want to buy the license again, it may not be available depending on the publisher. We have had requests to complete the James Patterson Women’s Murder Club Series, but books 10, 11, 13, and 14 are only available in downloadable audio format. This is the case with many series. Either certain books in the series are only available in downloadable audio format or they are not available at all for libraries to purchase.
We have a limited number of eBooks for children in our Black Belt Digitial Library collection. However, The Friends of the Demopolis Public Library have purchased a subscription to TumbleBooks. This is a site that offers free eBooks for children. TumbleBooks are animated, talking picture books which teach kids the joy of reading in a format they’ll love.
You must have a library card number to access our digital titles. On our website, www.demopolislibrary.info, there is a “Resources” tab that has more information about our eBooks and instructions for downloading titles. Our library staff can also assist you in downloading titles. For more information call 334.289.1595 or visit our website www.demopolislibrary.info.

(Morgan Allen’s column originally appeared in the Wednesday, Feb. 22, print edition of the Demopolis Times.)

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