First, one publisher set a cap on how many times their ebooks could be loaned out. Then another one pulled their stuff from library purchase altogether. So, what has that meant for the average library patron? What are the library buyers getting in lieu of books which once might be available to them but now are not? I have access to three public library systems right now and consider myself a regular user, so I have been keeping track of some trends over the last few weeks. And what have I found?
1) I am seeing much more series stuff than I ever used to. It’s almost like the library buyer is saying to themselves ‘well, I found one that’s working for me! So I am going to get as much of it as I can!’ And I don’t just mean new series stuff; the Toronto Public Library has been thankfully filling in the gaps on some series I have been following for some time and for which they only had some of the titles. I was able to enjoy some backlist Jonathan Kellerman, and then another library I use got his new one.
2) The selection of romance novels has increased exponentially. I think this is a genre that has always been well-represented, but it is even more so now because it has many more alternative presses. If you want good non-fiction, for instance, it’s pretty much only run through the big publishers. But e-friendly Harlequin (whose Carina Press line is exclusively ebook) churns out dozens of titles per month, and they are affordable, accessible, and sure to be popular in the library system.
3) The selection of niche titles has increased too. I am seeing a ton more cookbooks at the Toronto library these days—Singapore library used to buy them regularly, but I seldom was them here in my local library system. And of the 50-odd titles they squeezed in during the week before the library workers strike put everything on hold, seven of them were about how to build a deck, of all things!
4) There has been opportunity for publishers of stuff that is important, but not necessarily popular. For instance, the Toronto library uploaded about 400 new titles in the past seven days, and about half of them were French books. This is the first instance of French books I have seen since I started using their e-service. Perhaps having fewer popular titles to choose from is freeing the buyers up to buy potentially less popular but more edifying material? Perhaps this under-served but admittedly niche market might now enjoy some growth at Big Pub’s expense?
As for my personal reading habits, I do think the library changes might have the same effect on me as they’ve had on that anonymous library buyer. Perhaps having fewer interchangeable genre titles to choose from might finally push me to explore the French books, the Penguin classics, the books I might have skimmed right past before. Perhaps Big Pub will find themselves sacrificing more market share to the indie crowd than they anticipated!