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Digital Materials @ the Library

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Behind the Scenes: How do library copies of ebooks and digital audiobooks work?

Did you know that SBPL provides access to tens of thousands of ebooks, audiobooks, and other items through our Digital Library? Find out more about our largest digital collections, how they’re purchased, and how they work, below!

In general, Library digital material providers come in two flavors: a cost-per-use model or a prepaid licensing model.


Cost-Per-Use Model: such as hoopla & Kanopy

hoopla works like a subscription service that allows access to a digital library of ebooks, audiobooks, music, television shows, and films. Each SBPL patron can create a hoopla account using their Library Card number and can check out 10 items per calendar month.

Kanopy works like a subscription service that allows access to a digital library of television shows, and films. Each SBPL patron can create a Kanopy account using their Library Card number and has 15 tickets to use per month.

How it Works

  • Hoopla and Kanopy curate their own libraries and each select the materials that they have available for checkout. This means that SBPL doesn't have the ability to add items to these collections or generally have control over when items are added or removed.
  • These platforms often purchase titles in blocks from publishers, which means they have a huge number of titles available, but they aren’t selected and vetted individually like other materials in SBPL’s collection.
  • Library users set up an account with Hoopla and Kanopy with an email address and create their own password.
  • Checkouts on these platforms can be accessed online on their website or through their apps on your mobile device or tablet. Hoopla materials cannot be read using most traditional e-readers, including Kindle readers.
  • All items available on Hoopla and Kanopy are available on demand with no hold list or wait times.

How Does the Library Pay for It? 

Hoopla and Kanopy use a cost-per-use model, where the Library only pays for the titles that are checked out each month.

Pros:
  • This model means that the Library is only paying for what patrons are actually using.
  • We know exactly how much each circulation costs, which can’t be guaranteed with Libby’s licensing model.
  • Library users have access to a huge breadth of materials that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to offer using purchased library collections.
Cons:
  • Budgeting for this model can be tricky, as the number and cost of checkouts varies month-to-month.
  • The average cost of Hoopla materials was about $14,000 per month during 2023 for materials that we don’t own or have guaranteed access to in the future. Essentially, these materials fill library users immediate needs (pro), but aren’t an investment in future library collections and the future needs of the community (con).

Takeaways

  • Hoopla and Kanopy are great choices to check out materials right away!
  • If you find yourself in a long queue in Libby, it’s worth checking for the title on Hoopla, too, as they add titles regularly and sometimes bestsellers become available a few months after they’re published. Hoopla ebooks are not searchable in our catalog due to the sheer number of available titles that overwhelm patrons searching for items other than ebooks, so we recommend that you check in the app if you’re searching for a specific title.
  • The Library pays for each title you check out on these services. You can help us out by checking out materials that you want to use when you want to use them. If you happen to reach the maximum number of checkouts doing so, that’s great! But please don’t max out your checkouts each month just because you can. Since these materials are available on-demand, you can check them out whenever you’re ready to use them and the Library will only pay for checkouts that you’re using. It’s a win-win!


Prepaid Licensing Model: such as Libby / OverDrive

How it Works

  • OverDrive is the parent company that owns Libby, and both platforms access the same catalog of items – they’re essentially different names for the same service. You may remember using OverDrive in the past, but almost all OverDrive services have been transferred to Libby platforms and the OverDrive app is no longer available to download. We’ll use Libby as a shorthand for both sites in this article, since it’s the most common way these materials are accessed.
  • All you need to access Libby is your Library card number and PIN. No need to create a separate account or password. 
    Books checked out from Libby can be accessed online and on the Libby app on mobile devices. Many ebook titles are also available to be transferred to Kindle and other e-readers.
  • SBPL’s collection on Libby is selected by SBPL librarians, much like the Library’s physical collections.
  • Books and audiobooks checked out from Libby generally work just like physical books in the Library – we license a certain number of copies, and each copy can only be checked out to one user at a time. We’ll get into the nitty-gritty of how the licenses work below!

How Does the Library Pay for It?

The Library pays for individual licenses for patrons to access ebooks and audiobooks through Libby. Publishers negotiate license agreements with Libby, and libraries can select which license they prefer when purchasing items. Many items are only available through one type of license, which limits how many copies libraries can buy based on their budget. Some of the most common types of licenses are:

Metered Access by Time 

This type of license is becoming the most common option on Libby, particularly for new materials. Essentially, it adds a book to the Library’s catalog for a specific amount of time – generally either 1 year or 2 years. During this time period, one person at a time can check out the licensed copy.  These titles can cost anywhere from around $1 - $100 for ebooks and $1 - $150 for audiobooks, though some cost more. New, popular ebooks generally cost between $45 - $65 for a 2 year license. New, popular audiobooks are generally available as 1-year or 2-year licenses through this model, and usually range between $50 - $110.

Sometimes, an additional limiter is placed on these licenses, that limits the item to 2 years in the catalog or 52 total checkouts, whichever occurs first.

Metered Access by Checkout (MA: 26)

This type of license is the most like owning a physical book, which wears out over time as more people check it out. This adds a book or audiobook to the Library’s catalog until it’s been checked out its designated number of times. 26 checkouts is the most common option for this type of license, and each copy can only be checked out to one person at a time. The cost for these items are often between $25 - $60, though a limited number of titles are available under this licensing model.

Perpetual Access - One Copy, One User (OC/OU)

Items purchased under an OC/OU license remain in the Library’s catalog permanently, and can be checked out by one person at a time. This license option is mostly available for audiobooks, which generally cost between $40 - $130 a copy. This is the only type of license that guarantees the Library access to purchased titles over time. Unfortunately, this option is becoming more rare, especially for ebooks.

Metered Access, Concurrent Use (MA: 100)

This licensing option is starting to become more available for a limited number of titles. Titles purchased under this model are available in the Library’s catalog until they’ve been checked out their designated number of times (generally 100). These come with the benefit of having checkouts available concurrently – 100 users could all have the book checked out at once. These licenses are more expensive (generally $80 - $175 for popular titles), but generally end up being a good investment, ensuring access widely, for a known number of checkouts, and a low cost-per-use. These licenses are available for a very limited, though growing, number of titles.

Cost per Circulation 

A limited number of titles are available to add to the Library’s catalog as CPC (cost per circulation) titles. This means that, much like hoopla, the titles are available on demand. Unfortunately, the price per circulation on these copies is often quite high ($5 – $10 per checkout compared to hoopla’s usual $1 - $3). These are sometimes used to help mitigate long waitlists for titles, but are very expensive compared to titles available through an MA:100 license.

Takeaways 

  • The collection on Libby and OverDrive is curated by SBPL librarians for SBPL users.
  • You can request the Library purchase titles on Libby as ebooks and audiobooks. We highly encourage you to use the “Notify Me” tag on Libby to let us know what titles you’re interested in reading. Don’t be shy! If you don’t see the option for “Notify Me”, look for the Deep Search option to find titles that aren’t in our catalog.
  • Most books available for purchase on Libby are available under Metered Access by Time licenses. This means that books have to be continually repurchased to remain in the catalog over the course of several years. This can be expensive, particularly for long series, and sometimes titles are no longer available when our license expires, causing gaps in the collection we can no longer fill.
  • Our librarians work to maintain a balanced collection that has a broad and diverse selection of titles. Each purchase in Libby is a carefully considered investment of the Library’s funds, and we strive to get the best cost-per-circulation price while filling the demand for new titles, repurchasing older titles that remain popular (if they’re available), and maintaining a collection of titles that support the educational and entertainment needs of the Santa Barbara community.