Monday, February 26, 2018

Book Reviews and Selection: Behind the Scenes at BHPL

The very best thing about reading book reviews is the reviewers.  I read one weekly source and constantly wonder at the titles chosen.  I’m not sure if the titles are eclectic or if the reviewer is eccentric.  My favorite is conflicting reviews.  Today I read in one source that a particular book has exquisitely rendered characters.  A different reviewer, reviewing the same book, stated the characters just aren’t that interesting.  I can’t decide if I should order the book or, if ordered, if I should read the book.  My choice may be influenced by how popular the author is.

Reading reviews to select titles for the library has become more complicated and time consuming over the years.  The number of reviews is only a percentage of the number of books published and both numbers just keep growing.  To read reviews of upcoming titles, I start with Library Journal, PW, and Booklist. Then, on weekends, I check reviews in the New York Times and the Star Ledger.  Since BHPL has both People magazine and O, the Oprah Magazine as downloads, I try to glance at them.  Another source, popular with those who drink their coffee with the morning news shows, is the morning news shows.

Ordering is the next step. The library uses Ingram for most of our book and audiobook orders, the exception being audiobook titles available only from the publisher. As I am reading reviews, I am checking the Ingram site which frequently contains abbreviated reviews from several sources for the more popular mainstream titles. Sometimes the quantity of copies stocked by Ingram, or lack thereof, is a good indication of anticipated demand, or lack thereof.

If a title is selected for purchase, the next decision is the variety of formats needed. Will the title attract the audiobook audience, or is the author popular in large print?  If we order the title as a download, do we need both the e-book and e-audio? With downloads from OverDrive, the vendor behind eLibraryNJ, we expect the purchasing consortium (a group of public libraries in central NJ) to order multiple copies of the most popular titles. Some publishers do not allow the consortium to order their titles, but individual libraries may order the title for their patrons' use only.

Many e-book titles disappear after a certain amount of time or a certain number of checkouts.  At the same time, e-book and e-audio titles from the large publishing companies continue to increase in price.  In the not too distant past, popular e-books were in the $40 range.  Then the price jumped to $60 and now a few titles are $81.  They skipped right past the $50 and $70 ranges.

I won’t even address the rapid growth of self-publishing.  Not many of these titles are reviewed so they can be difficult to purchase.

Oh well, back to reading reviews.

 -Stephanie Bakos

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for that -- I always wondered what guided the acquisition process. It sounds like an interesting and even enjoyable task...but I can only imagine how challenging it must be to make those purchasing decisions with a limited budget and a wide range of readers to satisfy.