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The Seattle Public Library Is Reducing Our Maximum Digital Holds. Here’s Why.

🌈 Abstract

The article discusses the Seattle Public Library's decision to reduce the maximum number of holds allowed on e-books and e-audiobooks from 25 to 10, in order to manage the rising costs of digital book licensing and meet increasing patron demand.

🙋 Q&A

[01] Why did the Library need to make this change?

  • The popularity of digital books has increased significantly, with annual checkouts of digital books at the Seattle Public Library almost tripling from 2015 to 2022, as well as the associated costs.
  • The Library has increased investment in digital collections to meet patron interest, but the way digital books are priced for libraries has become unsustainable.

[02] Why are digital books so expensive?

  • For libraries, the e-book or e-audiobook version of a title can cost up to three times or more than the print version.
  • This is because publishers use a licensing model for selling e-books to libraries, where each copy of a digital book title requires a purchase of a license, often needing to be re-purchased every year.

[03] What do holds have to do with the cost of digital books?

  • Patron holds are the single biggest factor in rising costs, as the Library needs to purchase additional licenses of a digital title when more patrons place holds on it to maintain reasonable wait times.
  • In 2023, 62% of the Library's spending on digital books was used to purchase additional copies to fulfill holds placed on popular titles.

[04] Is this change being made due to the City's budget challenges?

  • No, this change is part of routine service assessments and adjustments the Library makes to ensure they are aligning their services with current budgetary and staffing resources.
  • The Library has been monitoring rising costs of digital books for several years and is making this change to continue maintaining reasonable wait times as costs and popularity of these materials continue to rise.

[05] What can patrons do if they use their Libby holds list as a "to be read" wish list?

  • The Library encourages using the "Shelves" feature in the online catalog to tag books you want to read in the future.
  • In the Libby app, you can use the "Tags" feature to easily create a wish list.

[06] What other suggestions do you have for finding great digital books that are available without a wait?

  • Check out the "Always Available" collection in OverDrive, which includes a wide range of popular e-books and e-audiobooks that are always available for checkout.
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