How Important Are Library Sales to the University Press? One Case Study | The Scholarly Kitchen
gavinbaker's bookmarks 2014-06-23
"In the comments section of a recent Scholarly Kitchen posting by Rick Anderson, a now-familiar point of controversy was raised: to what degree do university presses rely on libraries as customers for their books? It’s a commonplace assertion that, contrary to longstanding popular belief, libraries are not in fact the primary customers of university presses, and this assertion was made again in the comments. Rick expressed his belief that while this is true of university press publications generally, it’s probably not true of scholarly monographs specifically, and that the decrease in libraries’ share of university press purchases probably has mainly to do with the larger number of non-scholarly books being published by university presses. Into the fray waded Dean Blobaum, Electronic Marketing Manager at the University of Chicago Press (UCP), who offered a test of Rick’s hypothesis. 'Pick 10 (scholarly) monographs published by Chicago,' he said, 'and I’ll tell you what percentage of the sales of those books is represented by their WorldCat holdings.' (For those unfamiliar with it, WorldCat is a collective library catalog reflecting the holdings of roughly 72,000 libraries around the world.) It was a great idea, and Rick took Dean up on the challenge, selecting ten scholarly titles from the previous year’s UCP offerings and submitting the list to Dean for analysis. The result: 49% of the sales represented by those ten titles could be accounted for by library holdings registered in WorldCat. Rick and Dean kept talking. We wondered how this number might change with a larger sample—recognizing both that the line between 'scholarly' and 'nonscholarly' can be blurry and that, due to the very large number of individuals in the world and the much smaller number of libraries, over time libraries would inevitably constitute a smaller and smaller percentage of sales for any particular title ..."