Our Overdrive page went live on June 26, 2006. All we had was WMA audio books, no MP3 (was that even available on Overdrive then?) no video and no music. We didn't have very many titles either, comparatively.
And the end of 2006, after almost 6 months of use, we had:
1,591 WMA titles.
Not bad for 6 months of a new format. By our rule, patrons could only check out 3 at a time, and Overdrive still imposed a mandatory 3 week checkout. With those limitations in place, there was still more interest than we had thought there would be. We were still circulating CASSETTES at that point. (and we still are, but I can't talk about that...)
Even though the usual suspects (Roberts, Patterson, etc. ) were popular with patrons, non-fiction was a huge part of the first year circ. Specifically, foreign language learning went out like crazy. I was skeptical, when I bought those, because there was no workbook to go with them. It sounds like it would be great, learning a language on the go with downloadable media, but would people really want it without the workbooks that come in physical language learning sets? Well.....yes, yes they would. And it wasn't just Spanish or French or German, but Arabic and Turkish and Japanese. Chinese and Hawaiian (which, coincidentally, is checked out right now!) We don't need no stinkin' workbook to learn a new language! Bring it on!
We were WMA only through the end of 2007. Our stats from 6/26/2006 through 12/31/2007:
2,441 WMA titles.
all checked out by 3,887 patrons.
The percentage of card carrying patrons using the service was low, but they certainly used it a lot!
In 2008, we added MP3 audio to our collection. I thought it would make a huge difference, but it really didn't. Possibly because there weren't that many titles available in MP3 format. A lot of those that WERE available, we had already bought in WMA format. Yes, there were some that we bought in MP3 format anyway, but we certainly didn't repurchase everything.
Our stats for January - December 2008
MP3 titles -- 486
WMA titles -- 3,582
MP3 -- 757
WMA -- 25,761
All done by 3,627 patrons.
Fewer patrons checked things out even though we added a format? Yeah, that's what it looks like. Circ went up, so fewer patrons were checking out more things. At some point in either 2007 or 2008, we doubled the amount a person could check out. Having a limit on how much a person can checkout gives me hives.
In 2009, things started to get interesting. We added epub. There were many email discussions about which format we would add for ebooks, but it was decided from the beginning that we would only add ONE format. While it would have been great to add more than one, it was a choice between do we buy more titles in one format, or fewer titles in different formats. This is the same choice libraries have had to make for years with regular print, large print, cassette, cd, mp3 cd, playaway, vhs, dvd editions of different titles. This was just another format. But, with an already limited budget, we chose titles instead of formats. Whether we made the right choice, or chose the right format, is anyone's guess, I suppose. There were MORE things available in .pdf format (including a lot of backlist in series) but more things are being made available in .epub all the time.
From January through July 2009 (pre-epub) our stats:
MP3 titles -- 923
WMA titles -- 4,063
MP3 -- 3,920
WMA -- 18,852
All by 3,177 patrons. While patrons can still only have 6 items checked out at a time, Overdrive loosened the restrictions on how long those items must be checked out. Patrons can now choose whether they would like to have a 7, 14, or 21 day checkout. Now, they can't return audio items early (if you choose 21 days, you must have that item checked out to you for 21 days) but they can at least have a choice initially.
22,792 items circulated from January through July. Almost as many as all of 2008.
We decided on .epub and it went live in August 2009. At the end of December 2009:
Epub titles -- 1,958
MP3 titles -- 957
WMA titles -- 4,573
Circ from August 2009-December 2009 only:
Epub -- 2,219
MP3 -- 2,833
WMA -- 17,917
For all of 2009, we circulated 45,741 downloadable items. Our "unique" patron count went from 3,627 in 2008 to 4,798 in 2009. Epub brought the people. I don't know if these people have devices (Sony readers, Nooks and whatever else Overdrive is compatible with) or if they are reading on their laptops or (gasp!) desktops, but they are checking out.
From January 1 - through today (Sept 9, 2010) our stats:
Epub titles -- 4,407
MP3 titles -- 1,088
WMA titles -- 5,549
The gap between the number of epub titles we have and wma titles is closing so fast because epub titles are cheaper. Books on Tape (Random House) is selling their WMA titles at "library edition" prices (Cronin's The Passage is 95.00) because (they say) so few of their library customers buy digital editions of their titles. I don't know, maybe that is because they are selling at library edition titles. Since BOT went to retail prices for their physical audiobooks, I have no quarrel with them. I'm just saying, it could be a reason why they aren't seeing the increase in digital circ that they may have expected.
And, on the selection end, I have stopped buying epubs that are only available at hardcover prices. When we first started our epub collection, I bought all the bright new shiny things. Then, last year, I got a Sony reader. I love my Sony reader. I hadn't paid too much attention to Kindle ebook prices because I didn't have a Kindle. But, once I was in the ebook market for myself, I did start to wonder why books I could get for $9.99 or $12.99 were $26.99 when I tried to buy them for the library. It seems a little bit unfair that the library, as a consumer, has to pay more than other consumers. There is a myth (which I've seen repeated in numerous articles) that libraries "circulate copies to users simultaneously" and that is why they cost more. The only way multiple users can simultaneously read an ebook is if I buy multiple copies. The 24 people on hold for the ebook version of The Help right now can attest to that. They would all love to be reading it right now, but there is only one copy. There is only one reader. The Kindle edition of The Help is $12.99. The Sony Reader store edition of the The Help is also $12.99. The Overdrive version of The Help is 24.95. If it were $12.99, I'd buy more. The other thing to note, though, is that those people on hold aren't going out and buying their own copy. They're waiting. So, publishers, not only are you not selling to those people, you're not selling to me either. Seems like not selling to either of us isn't the best way to make a buck. But, I digress......
Circ from January through Sept 9, 2010
Epub -- 11,048
MP3 -- 5,361
WMA -- 36,590
5,100 "unique" patrons have checked out 52,999 items so far in 2010. Is that a lot? Not compared to circulation of physical items which topped 17 million in 2009. But, the rate of growth from when we got Overdrive in June 2006 to now is tremendous. The more we get, the more they want. All of it has steady growth. Our downloadable budget is increasing in 2011, even though our overall budget is slashed by 1 million. Just think how much more we could buy if prices were better.....
Tell me about YOUR library digital collection! If you're a librarian, I want to hear all the insider baseball. If you're a patron, do you use your library's digital collection? If not, why? If so, do you love it?