The Disappearing Library Discount
What would it mean for libraries if one of the ideals that we commonly hold to be fundamental to our existence suddenly ceased to be true? The Douglas County (Colo.) Libraries’ ebook report this month shows a continuation of a concerning trend related to book pricing—at least in this small sample. Is the discount on print materials for libraries disappearing?
For good or for ill, many conversations about digital content in libraries are built around the established reference point of our interactions with print resources. We compare lending rights, business models, and pricing between digital and print as a way to help us build a new schema in an unfamiliar area. Indeed, a great deal of distress about digital content pricing is built around the comparison to print materials where libraries have traditionally received a generous discount. Is this still the norm? Does the data support the use of the print discount to support asking for deeper digital discounts?
Looking back at six months of the DCL (Douglas County Libraries) Ebook Report reveals much smaller library discounts for print titles than one might expect. In the chart below, I present the single highest discount (percentage difference between the lowest library price and the highest consumer price) and the single lowest discount (percentage difference between highest library prices and lowest consumer prices) for each month as well as averages for high and low discounts. Data is drawn from DCL reports on New York Times fiction bestsellers from Sept. 2012; USA Today bestsellers from Oct. 2012; and DCL bestsellers from Feb. 2013.
At first glance, the highest discounts seem about in line with the 40% library discount on print books that I have heard about during ebook discussions. But remember, the first column is the highest of the highest possible discounts—the book with largest difference between the lowest library price and the highest consumer price. The average discounts (for this admittedly small sample) is closer to 10%. More troubling is that in each of these lists there were print books where libraries were paying more than 10% higher than consumers. Are the discounts skewed here because the reports are looking at bestsellers that publishers and retailers are willing to sell to consumers at steeper discounts? The full spreadsheet is attached for those who wish to examine the data a bit more closely (without book titles, though, sorry).
What does it mean for e-content conversations if the print discount upon which we have based so many economic assumptions is eroding? Have you noticed a trend in declining print discounts in your library?
|Library Discounts from DCL Reports.xls||28 KB|