Strengthening Schlow Library's eBook Collection

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The Cost

The cost of an eBook or eAudiobook for a library to purchase from publishers is much higher than for an individual to purchase. The price can be from $40 up to $95 for a single copy - only one person can read an eBook “copy” at a time, just like a print book. And some have restrictions on the number of “uses” or times a person can read the book.

Limited Uses

After a limited number of uses, usually 26, the eBook copy has to be purchased again. Sometimes this is based on time, often either 12 or 24 months before the library is required to repurchase.

What does this mean?

This means that with an expensive purchase price limiting the number of copies of an individual eBook we purchase, only a few people can read it at one time, and when the limited uses expire, the library has to purchase it again.


  • Book A costs $50
  • Schlow Library buys 10 copies ($550)
  • 10 people can read the e-copy, and they can “keep it” checked out for 3 weeks. At the end of that 3 week period (unless they return it early through their eReader), another 10 people can read it. For best selling books that have a hundred people on the waitlist - this process can take months or a year! After 26 people have read a copy, it expires and has to be re-purchased, so the original 10 eBooks may be repurchased many times to meet demands.

The Math

The initial high cost, the limited uses, the need to repurchase, the demand for bestselling books in the electronic format, and the 3 week check out period (many people forget to return it and allow it to revert on its own) all come together to cost libraries a lot of money.

  • Book A = 10 copies for $550
  • 26 people read each copy, equals 260 total readers who enjoyed the eBook.
  • 26 readers keeping the book for 3 weeks each means this cycle took over 1 year.
  • If there are 500 people waiting for the book, some will be waiting for a long time.
  • Schlow could buy more copies, thus spending $1000 or $1500 for this one title.
  • Or Schlow could move on and begin putting that money toward a new title instead. These are difficult decisions!

What is the solution?

Because there are so many new books being released and people enjoy reading them in many formats (print, electronic, large print, etc), Schlow has to make careful choices about what to purchase with the funds we have.

For example, Book A referenced above may cost only $12 for the print version, allowing the library to purchase many more copies and keep it for years.

Limited budgets available to purchase materials means that the library has to make careful choices about purchases. You can help by making a donation to Schlow Library to support the operations and material purchases and help the library keep stocking the books you really love and strive for limited wait times.

By being aware of the challenging high costs that libraries face, you make informed decisions about your donations. Please consider boosting your donation this year to support the digital materials at Schlow Library.

Making a donation is easy! Click here for online giving or send your donation to the library at 211 South Allen Street, State College PA 16801; please address checks to the Schlow Library Foundation.

What is the eAudiobook boycott?

eAudiobooks are another popular format. Currently, publishers have started restricting the eAudio options for popular new titles so that libraries can not have them until after a 3 or 6 month waiting period. This means that you, as the reader, must decide whether to wait for it from your library or purchase it yourself.

Libraries have decided to challenge this by boycotting certain publishers.

Beginning September 30th and continuing for at least six months, Schlow Library and the other six libraries of our district will boycott digital audiobooks published by Simon & Schuster and Blackstone Audio, to protest recent changes in how they permit libraries to offer these materials to our patrons. Other libraries across the state and the country have also moved to boycott digital materials from these (and other) publishers as well.

In recent months, major publishers have changed how and when library users can access their eAudiobooks. These restrictions, enacted by Simon & Schuster and Blackstone Audio, are creating barriers to what patrons can access through their libraries. The changes include prohibiting library users from accessing certain titles for 90 days and forcing libraries to re-purchase in-demand digital audiobooks at the regular price after just 24 months.  These new terms will result in patrons having fewer titles to choose from and waiting longer for popular titles.

More Information

Posted 10/14/2019