Overdrive is the most prominent digital distributor for public libraries, and they power audiobook and ebooks collections of the vast majority of them. If libraries wanted many books by a bestselling author, they had to pay for each title individually. Each publisher has different rates; some books expire after a certain number of loans.
The most popular method for libraries to buy audiobooks and ebooks for their patrons is under the one copy, one user model. If a library buys a bestselling title, only one copy can be loaned out at a time. Larger library systems can ensure enough copies to meet the demand, while smaller branches can only buy a few copies. This is why wait lists can be weeks or months; there isn’t enough quality stuff to go around, sure the libraries can spend more, but only the largest libraries have the budget for this sort of thing. I am talking about libraries that at least loan out one million titles annually; in 2022, the Toronto Public Library loaned over seven million digital titles, and the costs add up.
Metered access is another popular method publishers have developed in conjunction with digital distributors. When you purchase a title in the Concurrent Use: Metered Access (by circulation) model, it is available to your library for a fixed number of checkouts (e.g., 100). However, unlike other MA titles, multiple users can borrow the title concurrently until all checkouts are used. For example, if you purchase an audiobook under this lending model with 100 checkouts, 100 users could check it out simultaneously, or the title will be available until the unit has circulated 100 times.
One of the newest systems appealing to smaller libraries is Overdrive launched Max, which launched in April 2022. OverDrive Max is a digital book access model developed to meet growing reader demand. Under the OverDrive Max model (metered concurrent use), libraries can stock bundles of up to 100 loans for popular digital books with no expiration date. With each Max title, the cost to serve each reader is typically the lowest available for libraries and schools to lend the ebook or audiobooks.
Do you ever wonder what terms publishers offer to libraries in the United States? Every year Overdrive sends comprehensive data to Good e-Reader, where we provide free access to anyone that wants a greater understanding of their local branch and how they can buy audiobooks and ebooks for their patrons. You can view the full PDF file Big 5 Publishers.
Michael Kozlowski has written about audiobooks and e-readers for the past twelve years. Newspapers and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times have picked up his articles. He Lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.