The San Francisco Library system first started to get involved in loaning out digital content 2009. They started very modestly with one vendor and now deal with over nine different companies to ensure their patrons will have the latest audiobooks, digital magazines, e-Books and streaming video.
In 2014 the San Francisco Public Library maintained an operating budget of $11.5 million dollars, which 25% of it was invested into digital products. They have an extensive collection provided by Overdrive, Baker & Taylor, Hoopla, Alexander Street Press, Safari, Ebsco, Gale, PressReader, Recorded Books. In addition to fiction and non-fiction content, they also have a ton of reference content from Gale, EBSCO, Proquest and other smaller vendors.
Patrons are loving their heavily curated collections and the library reported 10,036,860 loans of print and audiovisual materials and 808,093 audiobooks, e-Books and digital magazines in 2014.
In August 2014 the San Francisco Public Library system unveiled their new e-news center at their main branch and has since expanded it to Chinatown and North Beach. The premise is to draw attention to the virtues of reading digital magazines and newspapers on a bunch of Apple iPads. The actual content is provided for free to patron by Vancouver based PressReader, who is quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with.
One of the big developments in the library industry in the last few years is major publishers finally coming around to the idea that just because an e-Book is loaned out for free, it does not devalue the product. Due to extensive lobbying of the American Library Association, all publishers are now involved. This provides challenges, because they all have a different program. Some allow a certain number of loans before a title has to be repurchased and others charge an arm and a leg, but don’t expire. Laura Lent explained how the SFPL copes “There are good and bad points with each pricing model, and it does present management challenges to keep track of it all and make wise purchasing and licensing decisions. More publishers seem to be interested in annual or two-year license expiration dates, which makes the HarperCollins 26 circulation model look good in comparison.”
She went on the elaborate “The main focus for us is to ensure we don’t end up with a huge renewal bill in a year. We have placed regular weekly orders for titles that will expire in a year or two, so that the renewal lists will be manageable. Now that we are finally seeing those renewal lists come in, we are working on a process to review titles and decided if we need to repurchase. You have to look closely at the reports, since while one copy may be expiring, it isn’t always clear if there are more copies available which are not yet expiring. If we opt to not repurchase, then we need to make sure we delete the bib record.”
The library is starting to see massive traction on their digital collection, but continues to look towards the future. Soon, Zinio magazines will be available in the e-news center, which gives patrons a number of titles, including National Geographic. They also are predicting that in 2015 more companies will embrace the Hoopla model, which provides the library with their entire content catalog and adhere to the pay-per-use model.
Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past ten years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times.