In June OverDrive released its first White Paper, designed to share information and new data with our publisher partners and entitled, “How eBook Catalogs at Public Libraries Drive Publishers’ Book Sales and Profits.”

Documenting the growing significance of eBook catalogs at library websites, the White Paper also clarifies how OverDrive’s library platform and distribution model works.  For starters, libraries purchase copies of titles at a publisher-set price. These eBooks expire at the end of a given lending period, whether on a computer or a portable device. Each title is available to a single patron at a time. And library checkout requires authentication via a valid library card.

Most importantly, we set the record straight: Do library catalogs cannibalize eBook sales? The answer is a resounding no. Research presented in the White Paper shows that most library visitors use eBook catalogs for research and discovery.

In 2009 alone, visitors to OverDrive download library websites viewed more than 401 million pages. Among unique visitors to these download library pages, 80 percent did not check out a digital title, yet still visited 13 pages on average. We also found through a library patron survey that 43 percent of patrons would consider purchasing an eBook or audiobook if the title they sought were unavailable at their library branch.

While library catalogs cannot meet demand for popular titles, the catalogs present publishers with a significant opportunity for title discoverability. Did you know that each time a library purchases an eBook, a title record is created in an Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC), accessible to millions of users? An example of the reach of OPAC records: Toronto Public Library licenses 30 digital copies of The Lost Symbol (in addition to more than 900 print copies). The OPAC records for these 30 copies garnered more than 2,500 views from September 2009 to May 2010. Each viewer who was unable to check out and download the eBook was able to glean valuable marketing details supplied by the publisher.

To provide an on-demand purchase option for these library visitors, OverDrive has created LibraryBIN (Buy It Now), an online digital bookstore offering a comprehensive selection of eBooks for instant purchase and download. Participating OverDrive partner public libraries link to LibraryBIN from their OverDrive-hosted websites. LibraryBIN reaches a well-established user base: the millions of visitors to download library websites.

Most importantly, retail outlets such as LibraryBIN reinforce that library sales do not come at the expense of retail sales – rather, library availability enhances retail sales.

Want to read the White Paper for yourself?  Download it – or send us your questions.

Margaret Harrison is a publisher relations specialist at OverDrive.

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