Borrowed time

One of the most commonly asked questions we receive is, “Can you show me how to download a book?” The library’s ebook collection has proven to be incredibly popular, as evidenced by the steadily increasing number of items borrowed each month. To many people, electronic copies of books feel magical. It can be hard to wrap one’s head around the idea that, in most cases, each digital copy of an item comes with a cost and a limited duration of use.

Twenty-first-century collection building can pose some challenges for all libraries as we grow and maintain robust e-collections. Pricing models for electronic copies vary by publisher and by provider. Like our book collection, we purchase e-books and downloadable audio titles from several sources (OverDrive/LibbyHooplaRBDigitalTumblebooks), but unlike physical copies of a book, e-collections are dependent on licensing terms set by publishers. When and where a title may be available in electronic format can factor into when and if that title gets into our collections.

E-collections are governed by varying licensing terms, unlike a copy of a physical book, which the library purchases and owns in perpetuity. Books and media which you find on the shelves in our collections remain available for as long as they physically last and/or community demand warrants.

A colleague uses the analogy of buying or leasing a car to compare how e-books and downloadable audiobooks are made available to libraries. E-collection titles are rarely owned and purchased outright. Sliding “metered” rights to lend these electronic copies may be based on a varying number of checkouts, sometimes over a fixed time period on the calendar, or set for a fixed time period. Lending models vary from publisher to publisher and title to title.

We’re always working to improve how we deliver our collections. Expanding the depth and breadth of our offerings to library cardholders is a high priority and we conscientiously review all purchase recommendations. While there are many factors that determine whether or not a title is able to be added to our e-collection, we welcome the community’s input regarding what you would like us to acquire.  As future technology continues to shape the methods in which we read and obtain information, Princeton Public Library will always be here to provide the access you deserve.

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