Skip to content Buying Books is a Balancing Act – The Seattle Public Library Foundation

Building a library collection used to be a lot easier. You just bought books. But today, creating a library collection that meets the needs and preferences of a tech-savvy community like Seattle is a real balancing act. Many popular titles are purchased across many formats in order to maintain broad access and appeal for our diverse community of readers. For example, when Paul Kalanithi’s When Breath Becomes Air became a runaway bestseller, the Library purchased many copies of regular print and large print books, audiobooks on CD, e-books, and e-audiobooks.

Story of a title across formats

Each of these formats had different price points and rates of use. Due to licensing terms, e-books and e-audiobooks are three or four times more expensive, per item, compared to other formats. This disproportionate cost is represented above, as percentages of total cost and total circulation.

E-books and e-audiobooks are the fastest growing formats in terms of demand at The Seattle Public Library. So as we celebrate the increased use of e-content and the way it expands our reading culture, we also experience budgetary challenges purchasing enough copies across formats.

In addition, readers increasingly use more than one format to fit their lifestyles. For example, someone might check out a print book to read at home and the same e-book to read on the bus. Even though it’s costly, the Library’s ability to meet the community’s interests and preferences with e-content is a true success story. To serve one of the country’s most literate and tech-savvy cities, The Seattle Public Library has among the highest e-content circulation per capita in the country.

Your gifts to The Seattle Public Library Foundation play an important part in the collection balancing act, helping us keep our collection robust in all forms and formats. Last year, Foundation donations added $1.1 million to the Library’s collection budget. That’s thousands of books in every form and format for our community to enjoy!