Monday, July 25, 2011

Vendors and publishing

The more you know about the economics of those you
buy from, the more effectively you can deal with them.

Daniel Melcher,
Melcher on Acquisition 

On the face of it, the librarian has only three choices when it comes to choosing vendors to supply books: Books can be purchased directly from their producer, the publisher; from the wholesalers whose function it is to buy books from publishers and resell them to libraries and retail booksellers; or from retail booksellers themselves, either from stores or from a number of retailers who sell their wares via the Internet. The decision as to which vendor or vendors to use is not a simple one, however.

There are literally thousands of publishers in the United States, dozens of wholesalers, and countless retail booksellers in nearly every city and town; most of these purveyors of books are anxious to sell them to libraries. Each entity has its own policies for dealing with the library market, and each has certain strengths and weaknesses. Knowledge of these elements is the best way to guarantee what every library book-buyer seeks: the best possible service at the best possible price.

But how does one gain this necessary knowledge? Trial and error is hardly the answer; it simply doesn’t work because of the large number of variables involved. As a result, the librarian who is not aware of these variables and how to use them to greatest advantage will find the process of choosing a vendor an exercise in frustration – not only for the librarian, but ultimately for the library’s patrons, who get peeved when the books they s eek either do not appear on the shelves at all, or eventually appear only months after interest in them has peaked. Lack of knowledge can also be very costly; some vendors may take advantage of the unprepared librarian’s naivet√© and resort to less than ethical tactics once they have the library’s business, perhaps inflating prices arbitrarily, playing with discounts, or the like. Simply accepting vendors’ claims concerning discount and order fulfillment as the final and ultimate truth isn’t very smart either. Any vendor representative with minimal corporate intelligence will promise every one of his or her prospective customers the sun, the moon, and the stars – all at the highest discounts in the business. The problem is that this just isn’t going to happen, no matter how good the vendor is.

The only way to make wise decisions regarding book suppliers is to find out all you can about each type of vendor and then ask two basic questions of others who have had experience with a number of vendors: first, which ones they use and why; and second, which ones should be avoided and why. The first step mentioned above is the easy one; you can begin by asking specific questions of the publishers’ or wholesalers’ representatives, or by writing or calling someone at the company. Keep in mind, however, that when you do this, you’ll be highly unlikely to hear much about the negative side of the vendors’ services. An even better tactic is to make a few phone calls to large library systems, which will usually get you somewhat more objective information. Meetings and conferences are also fertile sources of information. Talk to your colleagues and find out who is really fair, honest, and efficient, and who isn’t. A small investment of time and effort can give the astute acquisitions librarian a re al edge in what is too often a cutthroat business.

Publishers as vendors 
With a few exceptions, it is possible to purchase just about any book in print from its publisher, and there are often good reasons for going directly to the source. In the first place, if the book is still in print, the publisher is more likely than anyone else to have copies available for sale. At the same time, if the book is unavailable for whatever reason, the publisher will report this, often more accurately than wholesalers do.
Some of the order-status information that is routinely given by reputable publishers in their status reports includes:
  • OP. This title is out of print. There is no point in trying to order it from this publisher or from a wholesaler.
  • OS. The title is out of stock at this time but will sooner or later be reprinted. If a reprint date is set, the publisher will report that date also.
  • OSI. The title is out of stock indefinitely. This simply means that the publisher isn’t willing to let the title go out of print yet, but hasn’t decided to reprint it either.
  • NYP. The title is not yet published but is scheduled for publication. If there is a firm publication date, this will be reported here.
  • NOP. Not our publication. For some reason the order was sent to the wrong publisher. Do a little verification and send it to the correct publisher.
With most publishers, you will get most of what you order; however, items not shipped will be those reported using one of the above codes. (There are a few other codes, but they are rarely used and need no consideration here.)

Items that are not shipped (except OP titles) are usually back ordered; that is, the order is held open by the publisher until the books become available or until the end of the period of time that the library has stipulated as its limited cancellation period. The stipulated back-order period can be any length the librarian wishes, but ninety days seems to be the most common and the most workable. It does not tie up the library’s funds invunninably, yet it gives the publisher a reasonable chance to reprint out to reach publication date within the specified period. If back-ordered titles are not available for shipment within the time frame, they are reported as cancelled to the ordering library, which then has the choice of reordering the same book or spending its money on another title.

So far, so good. The library orders; then the publisher ships materials available and reports accurately on unavailable materials. Those publishers (or their order fulfillment agencies) who are good at it fill orders fast and accurately report promptly, supply accurate invoices, ship in containers strong enough to protect their contents from damage, use reputable and most-efficient shipping companies, give the library a reasonable credit for them (usually few or none) as simple and efficient as possible. It then becomes obvious to the library book purchaser which publishers are not responsible, and obtaining those publishers’ products from a wholesaler instead is the best way of circumventing some publishers’ sloppy and inefficient distribution practices.

Ordering from the publisher can be especially valuable to librarians who want some or all of the books in a hurry, but again, this all depends on how good the publisher’s distribution system is. Most publishers can’t hold a carpel to certain of the big wholesalers, whose online ordering capacity almost guarantees delivery of materials in stock, in their warehouses within a day or two. The catch, of course, is the in stock part; if the book is not in the wholesaler’s warehouse at the time a library orders it, the wholesaler first has to order it and then fill the library’s order, thereby adding some delay to the fulfillment process. For this reason, many public librarians who like to have “hot” titles such as probable best-sellers or books on timely topics on the shelves as quickly as they are available in bookstores see ordering directly from the publisher as a real benefit, since it is a recognized fact that the bigger the book, in the case of best-sellers, the quicker the reading public wants it. Once interest peaks, however – usually within a month or two of its hardcover publication, but always once the paperback becomes available – demand diminishes. There is nothing quite so dead as a Danielle Steel or Tom Clancy novel in hardcover a year after its publication date.

Some librarians do not buy best-sellers but still require timely receipt of certain materials, such as reference books that are published on a regular, usually annual, basis. Suppose one orders a set of print encyclopedias at a cost of say, $1,200. Prorating that over a year, the library is paying $100 each month for the set. If the sets are shipped four months into the year, however, those same books cost the library $150 per month. Similarly, each month the library doesn’t have the 2000 edition that it has ordered of Metals Handbook finds the value of the book reduced as well as its cost increased. The only ways to ensure timely receipt are to send orders directly to the publisher or to place such orders on a standing-order basis. In fact, it is necessary to do so for some materials; most encyclopedia publishers, for example, do not sell their wares to wholesalers for resale, and many reference-book publishers follow the same practice.

Whether it’s a sure best-seller, a reference book, or a book that is likely to be in high demand for other reasons, it is wise to order the title six to eight weeks in advance of publication date. Many library systems, for example, order large quantities of a best-selling author’s forthcoming title within this time frame because few publishing houses pay any attention to their announced publication dates; instead they ship books as soon as they are available from the printer – possibly weeks before the announced dates. As a result, these libraries have the books in-house as fast as the bookstores do; by giving this kind of book priority in cataloguing and processing, it can be on the shelves and ready for patrons within a day or so of their receipt. This keeps both patrons and branch librarians happy, and it also gladdens the hearts of technical services staff when they no longer hear the eternal cry, “Where are our books?”

There is also a special reason for ordering reference books in advance of publication date. Most reference publishers print only a certain number of copies, based on the previous year’s sales. There is little point in their printing enough copies “in case” there is greater demand – since experience has shown that demand remains fairly constant – or for purpose of backlist, since no one wants a warehouse full of backlist titles once the next years’ editions have rendered them obsolete. In short, late ordering of this type of materials is likely to leave the library with no copies at all; the supply is used up and that’s that. Just a little forethought can avoid this unpleasant scenario and maintain valuable materials in the library’s collection.

There are some disadvantages to ordering directly from the publisher, however. Any librarian who orders a variety of books in substantial numbers recognizing that dealing direct means a multitude of shipments, an increase of shipping costs (almost nearly always paid by the library), and many invoices to be processed and checks for payment issued. This adds up to an increase in both the possibility of error and a large investment of staff time and effort – that is, money. Plus, there are just too many publishers for the library to deal with them all on a direct basis. Even thinking of sending orders directly to the publisher for all the books that even a small or medium-sized library may want boggles the mind; for larger libraries it amounts to sheer madness. In addition, each publisher has its own policy for distributing books to libraries and charging for them, so too many directs orders can make it nearly impossible to anticipate elements such as the actual price the library will pay for the book, how it will be shipped, how well or how poorly the shipper will pack the books, what the invoice will look like, or how easy or how difficult it will be to return a damaged or wrong book for credit. In other words, monitoring vendor performance is a difficult job to begin with; keeping track of hundreds of dealers and thousands of transactions is nearly impossible.

Finally, libraries almost always pay substantially more for books ordered from a publisher than they do if books are ordered from a good wholesaler. Publishers, by and large, have a singular double standard in their dealings with libraries vis-à-vis wholesalers and retail booksellers. This is reflected nowhere more vividly than in an annual volume published by the American Booksellers Association, The ABA Bookbuyers Handbook. This fact volume lists the discount policies of nearly every major publisher in the United States. I use the plural intentionally, because just about every publisher listed in the Handbook presents two sets of discount policies: one for wholesalers/retailers and one for libraries/institutions. Almost without exception, the discounts for the latter group are substantially lower and in many cases nonexistent. In fact, book prices charged to libraries average 20 percent more than what booksellers pay for exactly the same items. Why?

In the first place, publishers have traditionally viewed the library market as a rather unimportant one. They tend to think of library dollars as relatively insignificant; of libraries as being notoriously slow payers of their bills; of library business practices as highly and needlessly complex and out of date; of libraries purchasing only single copies of most books; of every sale to a library as an absolute guarantee that a reader somewhere will not buy a copy of the book if he or she can get a copy at the library “for nothing.” Finally, there is the publisher’s argument that libraries really only want to buy from the wholesalers anyway, and, given a choice, will inevitably do so; why then, cater to the library market?

Just how valid are these assertions? Not very. The “insignificance” of library dollars was indicated more than a decade ago when the Association of American Publishers, at its annual meeting in Rye, New York, called one segment of its program “Libraries: The Two Billion Dollar Market” (that year’s total annual book volume was $6 billion!). In the year 2000, the ratio remains close: nearly $8 billion for libraries out of about $26 billion annual volume, according to the Bowker Annual. And a hefty segment of those library billions includes a lot of books purchased that pretty much only libraries buy: first novels, poetry, overpriced reference sets, backlist and midlist titles, genre fiction hardcovers, hardcover juvenile books – the list goes on and on.

What about libraries being slow to pay their bills because of their “complex and archaic” business practices? To the former I answer that libraries are no worse than retailers and wholesalers in paying up, and probably a lot better. Publishers Weekly provides a great deal of page space, especially in its “Letters” section, to tales of booksellers having their credit cut off because of nonpayment of their bills, or of bookstores that have gone out of business for the same reason. Half-a-dozen major wholesalers have also gone belly up over the last three decades because their bills got so high that publishers cut off their credit. And what makes this particularly ironic is that both retailers and wholesalers are allowed to return any book unsold, for full credit, for up to a year after the book has sat on the shelves of the store or warehouse, yet they can’t keep up with their book bills? Anyone with minimal common sense might ask the publishing community how a publisher can ever know the state of his or her business when at any time he or she may be inundated with returns for which the buyer will receive face value. A librarian might venture to say that the publishing industry’s returns policy does not lend itself to good business practice, but after all, that’s how publishers started selling books in the eighteenth century. And libraries are archaic?

Indeed, it is also hard to conceive of a more complex and wasteful business practice than trying to maintain a dual accounting system, as publishers routinely do for booksellers on the one hand and libraries on the other. Consider that libraries do order a lot of single copies of books, but so do retail booksellers. (In fact, many libraries frequently order in multiples much larger than their retail counterparts, but that’s easy to forget.) Publishers denigrate library single-copy orders but bend over backwards to support booksellers’ single-copy orders with a process called STOP (Single Title Order Plan), by which booksellers, if they meet a few simple criteria, can get at least a 40 percent discount on each and every single-copy order. Libraries pay full price, with no discount for the same items and have never even had a STOP system offered to them. And, as any good independent bookseller will tell you, the individualized special ordering they do - almost always for a single copy of a book – is what keeps them in business, especially in the face of increasing competition from the chain bookstores. And then there’s that hoary old linker that holds that moment. Somehow if a library buys a book to calculate “free,” it means lower sales for publishers, since no reader will buy a book that is available for nothing. This bogus reasoning gives the publishing world another rationale for deprecating library sales even though it has about as much validity as leaving your molar under your pillow at night for the Tooth Fairy. The truth is that most library users are book people – people who need or want books enough to pay cash for them from time to time, even though the same book may be available to them in their nearby library. In addition, bookstore looms ons and sales seem to have no relation to the number of libraries in their immediate vicinity. And, interestingly enough, each year bookstore sales rise at a rate of about 10 percent – almost exactly as much as library budgets rise each year. If libraries are buying more books, according to prevailing publishing wisdom, then bookstores and bookstore sales ought to be diminishing, which is patently not the case, nor has it ever been.

If nothing else indicates that books will continue to sell no matter how many libraries expand or how many books they have in their collections, the contemporary phenomenon of the chain bookstore does. There is scarcely a community in the country big enough to have even a small shopping mall that does not have its own Borders or Barnes & Noble bookstore; the chains continue to proliferate at an incredible rate. The fact that all these “bookstored” communities have libraries certainly hasn’t stopped the growth of the chains and shows no indication in doing so, any more than libraries have ever had a harmful effect on bookstore sales. What the chains are facing in the new millennium, however, is a much more dangerous competitor than the local library, and it is the phenomenal growth of bookselling over the Internet by such companies as Recognizing this real threat has caused some of the nation’s largest chains, Barnes & Noble for one, to set up their own Websites and aggressively market over the internet; where this will all end up is moot at this point, but it is already beginning to change the face of retail bookselling.

Finally, we have the argument that libraries traditionally buy books from wholesalers, not direct from publishers: there is a great deal of truth to this, but there is also good reasons for it. The first is that publishers, intentional or otherwise, have done just about everything they can – such as the discriminatory discounting – to send library dollars into the coffers of the wholesalers. If anyone doubts that these discriminatory practices occurred, hark back to the U.S. Senate hearings in the 1960s, which ended with a number of publishers settling up with libraries to the tune of $11 million to avoid prosecution for price fixing; it’s all there, in the public record. Given discriminatory pricing and discounting as well as active discouraging by some publishers of direct library business, is it any wonder that libraries have traditionally bought the bulk of their books from wholesalers?

One can only conclude that many American publishers would like to see direct library sales just fade away, to be serviced totally by the wholesalers. This is unlikely, however, given the state of that industry at the dawn of the millennium and the controversies generated by some wholesalers when they do get all of some libraries’ business. (A discussion of these and other problems in dealing with wholesalers follow in Chapter 8.) For good reason, libraries will continue to mix their sources for books and will continue to press for fairness in the pricing and discounting of those books to libraries. Is this likely to happen? It should be noted that many years ago the ALA Council, the ruling body of the American Library Association, passed a resolution that asked trade-book pulishers to examine their individual discount policies in light of their fairness (or lack thereof) to library customers. Although there has been no action on the resolution taken by publishers since then, readers of this book are strongly urged to continue to press for fairer policies. It is in the interest of every library to do so.

Buying from retailers
A final word is in order on the use of retail booksellers as a source for library books. There may be occasions when this makes perfectly good sense for the library purchaser – for instance, sudden insistent patron demand after an author appears on a major television talk show, or needing more copies immediately when requests for a very hot title gets out of hand. In many cases, local bookstores may specialize in books that are hard to locate or not easily available from traditional sources; examples may be a store that specializes in African American books or gay books. It may be easier and not much more costly to get materials from such a local source – plus the local source may be a gold mine of ideas for titles that could be used in the collection but aren’t reviewed in the usual journals.

In terms of good public relations for the library, these strategies may pay off, and so the extra cost of such books may be worth it, but there definitely is a cost factor. A books that the library can get from a wholesaler or even some publishers at a 30 to 40 percent discount will rarely be discounted more than 10 or 20 percent by the retailer (except, of course, for titles that appear on the New York Times bestseller list, which are usually discounted by 30 percent or more), and it is unfair to ask for more than that. The retailer certainly cannot sell books for what he/she pays for them or the store will not be in business for long, so a smaller discount is not unreasonable. At the same time, titles that are in high-demand in the library are often in high demand at retail stores; many retailers resist selling their stock of high-demand titles to libraries at a discount when they can sell to their regular customers at full price, and rightfully so. Add to that the fact that if the store sells too much of this inventory to libraries and doesn’t have books left to sell to retail customers, those customers may be lost forever.

The retail bookseller is a good source only for very special purchases or when time is of the essence. Occasional and careful use of this source can be valuable for the library book buyer, and the benefits may sometimes far outweigh the additional dollars spent, but the caveats above should be considered before using this source routinely.
Eaglen, Audrey. Buying Books. 2nd ed. New York: Neal Schuman Publishers, 2000. Z689 .E33 2000. Chapter 7: Vendors: Retailers and publishers.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Why books cost what they do

There is probably not a librarian alive today who doesn’t believe the cost of books is much too high and has escalated much faster than that of many other manufactured objects. This belief is not the result of what some so-called authorities call their “lack of understanding of the book world”; rather, this belief has its basis in fact. One has only to compare the average prices of books listed in the Bowker Annual of the 1970s or 1980s with those quoted in a recent edition for proof that not only have books become extremely costly (and astronomically priced if you are in Canada) but also that the rate of increase in book prices has far surpassed the general rate of inflation. For example, the average price of a hardcover fiction book in 1972 was $6.47; by 1998 it had risen to $28.25. A juvenile hardcover that cist $4.37 in 1972 was priced at $16.12 by 1998. The average price for books on technology rose from $16.11 in 1972 to more than $85.00 in 1998, and the cost of a mass-market paperback increased from $1.12 to $9.31 over that same period. More simply put, the average cost of a book more than quadrupled in a quarter century, and still shows no sign of leveling off for the first decade of the new millennium.

Kinds of costs
Chapter 3 offered some indication of the financial risk involved in the decision to publish a book. Publishing is a highly risky business requiring a large outlay of capital long before the book is ready to be sold, sometimes even before the author has set the first word to paper. And this outlay of front money continues all through the editing, design, production, and marketing processes. The entire cost of producing books must be carefully predicted and constantly monitored so that the eventual price is enough to give publishers some return on their investment and thus enable them to stay in business – but not so high that customers will refuse to purchase the books. In short, publishing is a high-level balancing act worthy of the Flying Wallendas.

Although different authorities may use slightly different terminology in discussing the costs incurred in publishing a book, most agree that there are four broad factors that eventually determine what the cover price will be. These are overhead, royalties, sales costs, and production costs.
  • Overhead is a fixed cost in any business; it can be defined as all the general costs of running the business other than costs for materials and production. Examples of a publisher’s overhead are salaries and employee benefits, rent, office supplies and equipment, telephones and other communication equipment, postage, and interest on outstanding debts. As a fixed cost, overhead is integral to the cost of publishing a book and is a major factor in establishing a given book’s final price.
  • Royalties are a second major cost for the publisher. When a publisher signs a contract with an author, a stipulated percentage for the book’s income is agreed upon as payment for the author. In many cases, particularly in trade publishing, a cash payment called an advance against royalties or advance for short – is paid to the author upon signing a contract and before any writing has actually been done. For instance, suppose author X contracts with publisher Y to write a book. Under the terms of the contract, X will be paid a $4,000 advance and royalties at 10 percent of the retail price of the book for the first 2,000 copies sold, 12.5 percent for the next 2,000 copies sold, and 15 percent for any additional copies sold. If the price of the book is $20, the author will earn $2.00 on each of the first 2,000 copies, $2.50 on the next 2,000, and $3 on copies sold thereafter. The author will not receive any royalty payments until sales exceed the 2,000 mark; $2 per book x 2,000 copies - $4,000, the amount of the advance against royalty. An author who fails to produce an acceptable manuscript - or a manuscript period is usually obligated to return the advance to the publisher. Royalties, then, are a variable cost in publishing because the amount paid is determined by the number of copies sold.
  • Sales/Marketing costs usually consist of commission, catalog advertising and marketing, exhibit fees, travel, and other such expenses.
  • Production costs make up the final cost area for the publisher. They include all the costs of producing a finished book from the author’s manuscript. Part of this production cost is fixed or predictable, part is dependent on the number of units produced. The fixed cost of production is usually referred to as plant cost, which include such things as composition (typesetting or its more modern equivalents), design and artwork, copyediting, proofreading, illustration, and other color separations. Plant costs are one-time costs; once the book is designed, it is designed; once type is set, it’s set; and so on, no matter how many times the book may go back for reprinting. Other production costs are not fixed costs, but are variable costs.
Variable costs
The variable costs involved in production are usually referred to as manufacturing or running costs and encompass expenses such as paper, printing, and binding. They are variable because they depend on the number of copies of the book that are ultimately printed. It is self-evident that it takes more paper, more ink, and more binding material, as well as more labor and time running costly machinery, to produce 10,000 books than it does to produce 1,000 copies.

The publisher can be fairly sure of fixed costs such as overhead and plant costs. But since variable costs are not so easily predicted, certain other decisions must be made before arriving at a book’s price. These decisions include such things as the kind of paper that will be used; cover materials; the type of binding the book will have; whether or not to use color besides black; and ultimately, the number of copies in the first print run.

All of these decisions affect not only the cost of producing a book but also how it will look. However, appearance is not a major factor to all publishers. For example, publishers like Viking, Knopf, and Farrar, Strauss and Giroux generally produce handsome books printed on high-quality paper, whereas other major trade publishers have books with sleazy covers that appear to be printed on paper that has been (badly) recycled out of old newspapers. (The latter publishers also tend to use poor-quality glue in their bindings, which gives rise to librarians’ well-founded lament that “the book fell apart after two circulations!”)

A good production supervisor not only will choose the most appropriate paper but also will buy as much of that paper as possible at one time to use for other books on the publisher’s list in order to realize substantial cost savings. A number of other factors come into play here, however. If the book needs color photographs or other illustrations, the paper chosen must have a glossy finish, and glossy paper costs more than the paper used for nonillustrated fiction books, which are usually printed on rough or antique-finish paper.

The color of the paper itself is a factor; “white” paper ranges from pure, brilliant white to a yellowish or muddy gray tone; the higher the whiteness rating, the more costly the paper. Weight is another consideration: a 700-page fiction saga will of necessity be printed on less bulky paper than a slim volume of poetry, for example. Finally, an important question to librarians especially is whether the paper is acid-free. Acid-free paper will last for many years without yellowing or crumbling, but it is also relatively expensive.

There are two general types of binding that hold the book’s pages together: sewn, or edition binding and perfect binding, or binding that uses glue rather than sewing to hold the pages together. Sewn binding is very sturdy; it is also very expensive compared to perfect binding. One form of sewn binding, called Smyth sewn, allows a book to open flat; another form, side sewn, does not. Both are superior to perfect binding, however, which was once used only for paperbacks and other inexpensive books, but is now used by many publishers for general hardcovers. (These are the books mentioned above in which pages or sometimes whole signatures fall out after a circulation or two.)

Once the pages are bound, covers are attached to protect the pages to allow the book to stand upright on a shelf and to add to the aesthetic quality of the book. The cover’s base is usually heavy cardboard (called binder’s board) covered with cloth, paper, a combination of the two, or a plastic coating. Cloth is certainly the most attractive, and most durable, but it costs more than paper or coated plastic. (A few publishers over the years have experimented with replacing binder’s board with a heavy gauge, printed plastic cover, but for some reason this never caught on.)

A number of factors affect the critical decision of how many copies should be printed:
  1. Is the author well known enough to sell a lot of copies on the strength of his or her name alone?
  2. Is the book’s topic of general or timely interest, or of limited interest?
  3. Is the book likely to sell enough copies upon publication to earn an immediate profit, or is it more likely to become a backlist title and thus take a longer time to establish an acceptable profit?
  4. How will the book be promoted and marketed?
  5. Have any subsidiary rights been sold, especially to movies and television, book clubs, and paperback houses?
Sample scenario
To see how it all works, let’s imagine what happens in a typical (but imaginary) publishing house.

Simon Simple, the owner of Simple Publishing Company, has a manuscript for a novel that he believes will make a salable book. Its author has had several other titles published by Simple Publishing, all of which sold respectably, if not spectacularly – from 6,000 to 8,000 copies each. Mr. Simple believes that with a little extra push from the promotion and marketing people, this new novel, The French Wench, should be able to sell at least 10,000 copies. Not only does the author have a loyal following – her novels offer just enough titillation to keep readers coming back for more – but also two of her earlier novels sold for modest amounts to paperback reprint houses. The editorial staff agrees, so the production supervisor is asked to come up with an estimate of plant and manufacturing costs.

Simple’s profit (loss) on The French wench
With this information at hand, it is possible to project how well or how poorly Simple Publishing will do on The French Wench. If the publisher sells all 10,000 copies, or sells only half that number, the profit/loss will look something like that in the table below.

Table 5.1

Profit (Loss table)
Per copyTotal 10,000 copiesTotal 5,000 copies
Revenue at 48% discount$9.85$98,500$49,250
Less overhead of 40%($3.94)($39,400)($39,400)
Less production cost($3.10)($31,000)($22,500)
Less royalty ($1.89)($18,900)(9,450)

If 10,000 copies sell, Simple Publishing will realize a profit of $9,200, plus half of whatever accrues from the paperback reprint contractual agreement (the other half going to the author) made with another publisher. If a fickle public decrees that the book isn’t so great after all and buys only 5,000 copies, Simple will go in the hole for about $22,000, less whatever reprint rights bring in. The risky nature of the book-publishing business becomes clear from this example when one considers how many profitable titles will have to be published by Simple Publishing to make up for just this one loser.

Other pricing considerations
There are several other factors that may affect the cover price of a book: the use of color for photography, art, charts, maps, or graphs. A thirty-two page children’s picture book with four-color illustrations, for example, may cost out as high as The French Wench. Another is the nature of the book itself. A thick, authoritative, general reference book may require a number of authors, all of whom have to be paid, plus the work of a number of editors who specialize in this kind of book. One good example of this is a general encyclopedia, and another is reference books such as Gale’s Contemporary Authors series, which uses the services of dozens of editors. Overhead, and thus unit cost, are greater at Gale than at a trade house where half a dozen editors can handle dozens of books, so the higher prices for such reference materials are not really excessive.
Finally, there is the audience for whom the book is intended. A specialized scientific monograph may sell to only a few hundred readers worldwide, so its initial print run will reflect this. But this small print run will increase the cover price greatly, because the fixed costs involved in producing a book that will sell 300 copies are not that much less than those for producing a book whose profits will come from sales of 100,000 copies; the variable costs, however, are much, much lower.

The publisher’s dilemma
After all is said and done, publishers only have a few choices if they are to increase their profits and minimize their losses. They can cut fixed costs such as overhead by laying off staff, but too much cost-cutting may lead to them acquiring, editing, and designing fewer titles and potentially losing part of their share of the market. A publisher can cut manufacturing costs by using less expensive paper and bindings and hiring productions out to a less expensive printing company, but such cost-cutting too often leads to books of inferior quality. Finally, a publisher can raise revenue by increasing the book’s cover price, but there are limits to how much even the most gullible book buyer will pay for a book, and increasing revenue in this way may decrease sales enough to negate projected profits.

In most cases, publishers probably do try to keep costs down and increase revenue by raising prices only when it is necessary. But once one publisher breaks a commonly accepted price barrier, too many others will follow, whether it’s necessary or not. No acquisitions librarian ever thought a piece of pop fiction would exceed $30.00 in price, but that is now common. No one ever thought a mass-market paperback priced at more than $2.95 would sell, but prices of $6.95 to $9.95 are the norm today. And children’s librarians probably never envisioned shelling out $21.00 for a picture book, but they are doing just that.

All of this creates a big problem for librarians, whose budgets, by and large, have not and likely never will keep pace with the spectacular increase in book prices. Whether it will all end no one knows, but in the meantime we pay and pay, and pay some more – because we have no choice. This is all the more reason for us to keep book costs down in the only way we can, by choosing the best possible vendors … But first let’s look at some of the trends in publishing that also affect book costs.

Some trends in book publishing
In the mid-1970s, a group of California librarians began publishing an alternative journal called Booklegger for their colleagues who were not satisfied with the then-current crop of library publications. At that time, library journals best promoted conservative views of the library world and the issues facing those working in libraries, but they were also downright timid – some may say cowardly – when it came to discussing the more controversial trends and radical movements within the profession of librarianship, and those changes in the book publishing industry that directly or indirectly affected librarians. Celeste West, one of Booklegger’s founders, was particularly concerned with the ever-increasing number of mergers and acquisitions within the publishing industry and their effects on the kinds and quality of books being published. In 1975, West predicted that as the number of trade publishers decreased through merger or acquisition, many fine publishing houses would disappear and that consequently library collections would suffer.

The accuracy of West’s predictions was confirmed by the industry over the next two dozen years. By the year 2000, hardly a single major trade publisher (and few minor ones) had escaped merger or acquisition, the latter sometimes hostile. One by one, the great old publishing houses were acquired by other publishers or by conglomerates with little or no connection to the book-publishing business. One of the first of these was Simon & Schuster’s acquisition in 1975 by Gulf & Western Industries, Inc. (now Paramount Communications) a company that owned Columbia Pictures and was only at the beginning of a veritable tidal wave of takeovers and mergers. Following the dissolution of other long-established houses, by the late 1970s several antitrust suits were brought by the U.S. Department of Justice, many of which remained in litigation for a decade or longer.

Over the next fifteen years some of the major acquisitions and takeovers were those of G. P. Putnam’s Sons, taken over without a struggle by the gigantic entertainment conglomerate MCA, Inc.; then there was Atheneum’s merger with Scribner in 1979, and Scribner’s subsequent takeover by Macmillan in 1984. Dodd, Mead became a subsidiary of a religious publishing house, Thomas Nelson, which was subsequently itself brought by a trio of entrepreneurs and soon found itself in financial difficulty, but Nelson soon recovered and by 1995 was the ninth largest trade publisher in the United States, even with its output limited to religious books. Lippincoutt was taken over by Harper & Row, which itself acquired by newspaper czar Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation in 1987 and reborn as HarperCollins. Doubleday acquired mass-market paperback publishers Dell Books, Delacorte Press, and Dial Press; then was itself acquired, along with Bantam Books, by Bertelsmann AG, a giant German publishing firm.

Prentice-Hall was purchased by Gulf & Western in 1984 and became a subsidiary of that company’s Simon & Schuster, making S & S the largest trade publisher in the nation at that time. But S & S did not remain at that pinnacle for long, however; by 1998, Random House, owned by the newspaper family, Newhouse, had purchased Times Books and Crown Publishers, making Random the country’s largest trade publisher. Viking Press was brought by the British house, Penguin, which later, as the Penguin Group, acquired Dutton, Putnam Berkley, G. P. Putnam’s, and a host of other hardcover and paperback publishers. The Time Warner conglomerate bought Warner Books, Little, Brown, Time-Life Books, and others, while another German publishing company, Holtzbrinck, was acquiring Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Henry Holt, and St. Martin’s Press, among others. There were many other moves of this type throughout the 1980s and 1990s, culminating in Bertelsmann’s acquisition of Random House and all its holdings from the Newhouse family in 1998, which then made the Bertelsmann group the largest publishing conglomerate in America.

At the time of this writing, the number of major American trade publishers who had not been acquired or taken over was in the single digits. But the phenomenon was not limited to adult trade houses. Children’s book publishers, educational publishers, paperback (both mass market and quality) houses, technical/professional publishers – everyone was fair game, and few were the houses that escaped unscathed. The brief roster of changes above gives only some indication of the turmoil that has beset the book-publishing industry during recent years, and it shows no sign of subsiding even now.

How have these rapid and revolutionary changes in the book-publishing business affected the acquisition of books for library collections? There are a number of answers, not many of which are encouraging, and they arise from the impetus behind the mania to merge that has characterized book publishing over the last few decades. The chief reason, as one might guess, is economics, the same reason for the major upheavals among many other American industries in the 1980s and 1990s. As has been noted earlier, publishing has always been a risky business and, for most publishers, one where profits are modest compared to those of other industries. Book publishing is also a very small industry in comparison with, say, automobile manufacturing or the oil industry; many individual American companies have gross annual sales that exceed those of the entire book-publishing industry. Why then are such giant conglomerates as Paramount Communications (formerly Gulf & Western), Viacom, and Time Warner interests in acquiring such relatively modest operations as publishing companies?

There are a number of good financial reasons. For one, publishing is a high risk business that requires a substantial investment long before the finished book is ready to be sold, the rewards – if the book is a big seller – can be substantial; the profit to be gained from having one or more authors who can write the “big number” books can be enormous and help write off all the publisher’s other mistakes in judgment. For example, Publishers Weekly, in the December 14, 1998 issue, did a lengthy profile of one of the kind of authors every publisher hopes to find. Dean Koontz is perhaps not a megawriter like Tom Clancy or Danielle Steel or John Grisham, but his sales figures are astonishing. According to PW, Koontz has been writing for about thirty years, and has had published “nearly 80 books with aggregate sales of more than 200 million units worldwide in 33 countries. Each year [his] frontlist and backlist combined sell about 17 million copies worldwide.” Just to get an idea of how much one new Koontz book can be worth to his publisher, Bantam Books, let’s look at what happened to Fear Nothing, published in January 1998. The book’s cover price was $26.95 per copy. The first printing was 400,000 copies, with a total cover price value of $10,780,000. The discount the publisher had to offer to wholesalers and retailers was probably about 50 percent, which left Bantam Books with about $5,390,000 to play with. Out of the 400,000 copy first printing, all were sold. The author’s royalties (15 per cent of the original cover price) approximated $1,616,000, while production costs came to about $2,516,000; the two major costs then, add up to about $3,772,000, leaving Bantam with a gross of approximately $1,618,000 – not exactly peanuts. When a few other things are factored in, the profit really begins to grow. Almost immediately after its original publication date, Bantam had a second print run of another 100,000 copies; the profit on these would be greater because the only costs for the additional copies would be the variable costs, such as paper, binding, and printing. In addition, large-print rights were sold, and a limited, signed edition ($150 per copy) was printed. And since Bantam is also in the paperback business and had the rights to reprint in that format, the costs for Bantam were less to produce the paperback edition itself. (In December 1998, Bantam shipped its first paperback printing of Fear Nothing, 1.8 million copies, to ties in with publication of Koontz’s new book, Seize the Night, also scheduled for December 1998 publication, with a first run of 400,000 copies.)

Even when a publishing house does not have a spectacularly successful writer such as a Dean Koontz or Stephen King (who was reported by the British paper The Guardian in February 2000 to have signed a three book contract with his British and American publishers – Hodder and Staughton and Simon & Schuster, respectively – for $48 million) on its roster, however, good editorial staff who know how to choose books with sales potential can go far toward ensuring profits that are steady, even if relatively modest, over a long period of time. One example is St. Martin’s Press, long an independent publisher but now owned by the German Holtzbrinck organization. St. Martin’s rarely publishes a “blockbuster” title but instead produces some 600 solid titles each year that are brought primarily by libraries – including mysteries, regency fiction, science fiction, and gay fiction – to produce a return on investment of more than 30 percent, a very respectable return in any investor’s language. And in early February of 1999, the New York Times carried the obituary of publisher Marion Boyars, who published “only what she liked, whether the book was likely to sell or not”; and although the names of most of the authors of the 500 titles she published may be unfamiliar to most American readers, among them were dozens of the world’s finest writers, including four Nobel Prize for Literature winners and a number of other prestigious award winners.

Another source of relatively modest but successful profit can be a house’s children’s line; practically no one but libraries purchases hardcover children’s books, but they purchase them in quantity and over the years. Wanda Gag’s Million of Cats, for example, has been in print for nearly a half century, but every year hundreds of libraries purchase new copies because the little book is beloved by children, and the copies simply wear out from being read and handled so much. HarperCollins, perhaps one of the biggest and most successful publishers of children’s books, attributes a great deal of its financial success over the years to its juvenile line. This kind of slow but constant return on investment over the long haul is very attractive to investors – as HarperCollins proved to be to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation.

At the same time, the very smallness of the publishing world makes it attractive to investors. A conglomerate seeking to diversify might have to spend tens of billions to take over a major company in, say, automobile manufacturing or pharmaceuticals. In 1984, however, Gulf & Western paid some $700 million in its takeover bid for what was then the largest American publisher, Prentice-Hall; this sum was far, far less than what it would have had to pay for Ford Motor Company or General Motors; it was only in the late 1990s that a few book-publishing company buyouts exceeded a billion dollars. To the investor seeking to diversify holdings without assuming major financial obligations, a publishing house can be a real bargain.

For librarians, the ongoing concentration of the publishing industry caused by mergers and acquisitions has both positive and negative aspects. On the positive note, it has on occasion resulted in saving some publishing houses from going under because of financial pressures which for libraries means that a certain degree of diversity in the publishing of the books we choose to buy is maintained. A good example is that of Atheneum, a distinguished house created in 1958 by three best men in the book business – Alfred Knopf, Jr., Simon Michael Bessie, and Hiram Hayden. It was, said the New York Times on March 15, 1958, “as if the presidents of General Motors, Chrysler, and Ford left their jobs to start a new automobile company.” The books they published not only were distinguished literarily but also sold well. However, a lack of capital – as well as personality conflicts among the partners – brought the fledging company to the point of financial crisis by the 1970s. The owners realized that in an infusion of much-needed capital could only come from sale of the company or from merging with another publisher.

The one thing they agreed on was that they did not want to be taken over by a nonbook corporation that would swallow them up, and so they fused any such offers. The solution came, however , in Atheneum’s merger with Scribner’s. As a result, Atheneum was able to continue to produce a line of critically praised books through the next few decades – even after 1984, when Scribner’s merged with Macmillan (which was itself brought by Maxwell Communications). Doubleday, too, faced a major financial crisis during the 1970s and was finally bailed out by Bantam, later of course itself acquired by Bertlesmann. In both cases, the alternative to merger appeared to be oblivion. These are not isolated or even uncommon cases.

There is another side to that positive aspect mentioned above, however. For every publishing house that has been saved, another has been lost through acquisition or takeover. As discussed earlier, Doubleday brought one of trade publishing’s most prestigious lines when it acquired Dial Press, only to dissolve the newly acquired company a short time later because of the parent company’s financial difficulties. Coward and McCann, another fine house, was brought by Putnam’s, and then quickly disappeared from the publishing scene entirely. World Publishing, once a giant in the industry, was taken over by New American Library in the late 1960s and within a few years just faded away; ironically, NAL’s new owner, Penguin, soon abandoned New American Library to the same fate. Juvenile publishing was not immune to the ware of the 1970s and 1980s, either. A fine children’s house, Bradbury Press, was brought by Macmillan, probably because of that house’s stellar author, Judy Blume, but soon after Bradbury was allowed to wither on the vine. In the late 1990s, two more excellent lines were lost too; Cobblehill and Lodestar Books each counted a number of prizewinners among their authors but still bit the dust.

By the end of the 1990s, dozens of the grand old names in publishing no longer existed, and library collections could only be the worse for the loss, because every company’s demise lessons a library’s purchasing options. But add to this another development of the last few decades, the rise of the “blockbuster” book, and the negative effect of publishing trends on library collections become even more obvious.

More than a decade ago, Joni Evans, then president of Simon & Schuster’s trade division, said in an address to the American Bookseller’s Association convention, “It’s a dramatic and sexy time now [for publishers]; it feels like we’re the new Hollywood.” She was referring to the then-new (but still flourishing) emphasis in trade publishing of the blockbuster book, a book that can be expected to sell hundreds of thousands or even millions of hardcover copies at an extraordinarily rapid rate. Books by Stephen King, Danielle Steel, John Grisham, and a few others can almost guarantee this kind of sale and so guarantee whopping profits for their publishers. Evans went on to say that she’d rather pay $2 million to one author like this for a new book than buy ten lesser (in the sense of sales) authors’ works at a tenth of that cost each, primarily because with big-name authors the risk is just not there.

What this kind of thinking portends for library book purchasers is obvious. Librarians, especially in public libraries, do buy best-sellers, but good librarians are likely to be just as interested in obtaining the works of those ten “lesser” authors that Evans would prefer not to publish at all. Publishing’s response to criticism of this sort is to say that it’s the blockbuster books that make it possible to publish the works that won’t sell in huge quantities; at one time Doubleday published a small but influential line of poetry books and claimed that it was the “biggies” that paid for its poetry continuing existence (which shortly after met a quiet demise), but there’s little real evidence that this relationship of best-sellers and less than “best”-sellers has any real connection. At the same time, paying millions of dollars up front for a certain author’s new book means that the publisher must recoup that amount and do it quickly; the easiest way to do so is to charge more for the finished book, and there’s little doubt that this is a major factor in the continuing escalation of book prices – a real concern for libraries. (It is interesting to read Publisher’s Weekly ‘s annual issues in which they describe publishers’ would-be best-sellers that turned out instead to be bombs. The stories would be amusing if it weren’t for the ugly fact that library dollars did a lot to pick up those losses.)

The impact of higher prices on libraries is that libraries can purchase fewer and fewer books each year – even when library budgets show a modest increase. In fact, very few librarians saw their budgets increase by 100 percent or more in the 1980s and 1990s, yet book prices tripled during that period. In addition, the nothing-short of phenomenal increases in serials’ prices over the last decade, plus the increasing pressure on libraries to spend more on electronic information sources, have also had a profound effect on library book purchasing. Ergo, for reasons completely beyond their control, librarians are buying fewer books, and fewer books mean weaker collections. No one expects that publishers will help the situation by ceasing to risk so much to get phenomenally salable books, but while “blockbuster” may mean “sexy” to Joni Evans and publishers like hers, there’s nothing sexy about them at all; there is something just plain greedy about the whole situation, however.

Monday, July 11, 2011

So, you want to be a famous novelist?

by David Williamson. In Winnipeg Free Press, March 14, 1993.

Between the mystique and the reality of novel-writing, a tremendous gap exists. People hear of the great success of someone like Michael Ondattje and they whip their computers into action, with visions of best-seller lists and movie contracts dancing in their heads.

Let’s consider one of these; let’s call her Jackie. She quickly discovers how time-consuming a novel is. Even if she can spend a few hours every day on it, she will need at least two years for organizing, writing and rewriting. By the end of that time, she should have a completed manuscript of about 300 double-spaced pages, assuming she can cope with the social consequences (family members ignored, friends alienated).

Most beginning novelists give up, never finish anything, but Jackie persists. She sends the manuscript away to a major publisher, but she quickly finds out that most major publishers do not accept unsolicited manuscripts. She tries some that do. After several rejections, most people give up, but Jackie persists. In a Creative Writing class she joins mainly to learn how to get published, the instructor tells her that her novel is terrific and, luckily, he knows someone who knows someone who runs a small publishing company as a labor of love.

The small company, Altruistic Press, decides to publish Jackie’s novel, but they can’t afford to print it until a year later. Her novel, His Daughter’s Tutor, comes out. But Altruistic can’t afford either major advertising or a sales force. They send out copies to important newspapers and magazines, hoping the book will be reviews.

Altruistic is affiliated with a sales agent in Toronto, but he won’t push a first novel by an unknown. The only stores to but a few copies – on consignment – are those in Altruistic’s home city. They display the book not under “New Releases”, where all the bestsellers go, but under “Books of Local Interest”, where only the most dedicated browser and a few tourists ever bother to look.

Meanwhile, the major journals have chosen not to review Jackie’s novel because it comes from such an obscure house. There are two periodicals, however, that review nearly everything. One of these loves the book but includes it in a group of five reviewed together under the heading, “Of Many Books”. The editor of the other periodical gives His Daughter’s Tutor to a young man who wishes he could get his novel published and can’t. He hates all first novels. He writes a scathing review, full of sarcasm. Jackie reads the review and considers suicide.

Some of her friends – ones she counted on – don’t buy her book because they expect her to give them free copies. But a few do buy it and like it. They tell others and gradually something wonderful happens. The first run of His Daughter’s Tutor sells out. All 1,000 copies. Jackie has a standard contract – she gets 10 per cent of the list price of $14.95. For her years of hard work and heartache, Jackie gets the grand total of $1,495. Altruistic decides not to risk going to a second print run. Jackie tears her portrait of Michael Ondaatje off the wall. She decides to become a teacher.

David Williamson is the author of three novels, The Bad Life, Shandy and Running Out. His latest book is an anthology of new writing from Minnesota, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and the Dakotas called Beyond Borders, which he co-edited with Mark Vinz.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Gifts and exchange evaluation

Importance of gifts
  • Developing special collections
  • Source of out-of-print materials
  • Acquire unique holdings
Why gifts may not be valuable
  • Duplicate existing holdings
    o If in good copy, replace the a library copy needing replacing
  • Inappropriate to collection
  • Poor condition
    o Gifts will save the cost of purchase.
Gift policy
  • Selection criteria
  • How gifts are accepted and disposed of
    o Be upfront on how gifts will be accepted
  • Who has responsibility of appraising gifts for tax purposes
    o Get a appraiser to appraise rare materials
  • What types of non-library materials may be accepted as gifts
    o Donations
    o Money
    o Equipment
  • Tax implications
  • Method of acknowledgement
Unsolicited gifts
  • Donations are accompanied by a great deal of emotion
    o Explain policy, the donor should be aware of it
  • Library workers must be tactful in the handling of gifts
    o Be grateful, regardless of knowledge it won’t be kept
  • Policy to accept all donations, with proviso of being able to dispose of unwanted gifts
  • Policy to only accept those items which fit into selection criteria
  • Be wary of gifts with special requirements (i.e. must stay together, housed in separate rooms)
  • Appraisals for tax receipts
    o If item is really valuable, library might get donor to pay for the appraisal. It can get very expensive.
Solicited gifts
  • Free publications requested in same manner as purchased materials
    o Paper trail, no money sent
  • Letter or order form sent out
  • Development officers now hired in libraries to assist in fundraising or in approaching individuals to bequeath special collections to the library
    o Hire someone who knows what they’re doing
Acknowledgement of gifts
  • Gifts should always be acknowledged 
  • Letters should be sent to donor
    o Thank you
    o valuable addition to the library
  • Often plates will be placed in items, or plaques on walls acknowledging donation of a collection
  • Library newsletters are a good place to acknowledge gifts
Record keeping
  • Unsolicited gifts need the same paper trail as purchased items, so that they may be catalogued and processed in the appropriate manner
  • Solicited gifts will have the same paper trail as purchased results
Exchange programs
  • Most often used in academic libraries and museums
  • To acquire materials that are available in no other way or for which exchange is more economical than purchasing
Why are materials not available for purchase?
  • Items published in smaller countries not easily identified
  • National bibliographies in other countries may be outdated by the time they are published
  • Other countries may not be able to accept foreign currency or may be too poor to purchase items, and want to exchange
Sources of exchange materials
  • 3 types of materials to for exchange
    o own publications (e.g. museum or gallery)
    o unwanted or surplus duplicates
    o Items purchase specifically to give to an exchange partner (Barter exchange)
Items to be included in exchange agreement
  • Exact mailing address for each partner
  • Specific titles or general types of materials
    o list titles and materials to be exchanged
  • How materials to be sent
  • Basis for exchange
    o piece by piece
    give 10 receive 10
    o title for title
    o # collection for # collection
    o page for page
    o value for value
    • $100 for $100
    • o lot for lot
  •  # collection for # collection
Exchange procedures
  • Correspondence
  • Preservation treatment
  • Original cataloguing
  • Preparation of lists
  • Storage
  • Packing and shipping
  • Record keeping
Canada Book Exchange Centre (CBEC)
  • unwanted materials shipped to NLC
  • list of available items sent out to participating libraries
    o send items before receive items
  • approx. 3 million items held
  • approx. 2 million are periodicals
  • approx. 60,000 Canadian official publications
    o federal and provincial
  • approx. 200,000 foreign official publications
  • approx. 200,000 are monographs
Sources of information
  • UNESCO Handbpok on the International Exchange of Publications
  • UNESCO Bulletins for Libraries
  • Yearbook of International Organizations
  • International Library Directory
Evaluation of collections
  • Why?
    o Judge the effectiveness of what we do
    o Judge the efficiency of our doing it
    o Judge whether results are worth the cost
Internal reasons
(G. Edward Evans. Developing Library and Information Center Collections, 3rd Ed. (Englewood Colo.: Libraries Unlimited, 1995) 403)
  • What is the true scope of the collection?
  • How does the service community use the collection?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of the collection?
  • How well are collection staff carrying out their duties?
  • Are changes in the policy needed?
  • What allocations are needed to strengthen weaknesses?
  • Is the overall budget adequate?
External reasons
(G. Edward Evans. Developing Library and Information Center Collections, 3rd Ed. (Englewood Colo.: Libraries Unlimited, 1995) 404)
  • What is the library’s performance?
  • Is the library comparable to others?
  • Are the alternatives to space expansion?
  • Is the level of duplication appropriate?
  • Provide data for funding agencies
  • Provide data for consorts, networks, and other cooperative programs
  • Provide data to donors
Evaluation methods
  • Impressionistic techniques
    o Get a field expert to browse for important works.
    o Survey users for collection thoughts
  • Checklist method
    o Most frequent
    o take compiled list of major resources and check against library
    o Drawbacks
    * Titles on list may not be appropriate for your library
    * Most lists are selective
  • Doesn’t give a clear picture
    * Lists may be out of date
    * No attention given to ILL
    * Time-consuming
Statistical methods
  • Use studies
    o heavily used areas
  • Develop set of criteria for quality and value
  • Examine the use of a random sample of items in the collection
  • Collect Document Delivery statistics
  • Keep record of in-house use
  • Calculate how much obsolete material in library
  • Relate findings to library’s local goals