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Not Dead Yet: Is Print Emerging From the Ashes of COVID?

by | Nov 4, 2021 | 0 comments


Pamela Smith, VP and General Manager, Ingram Library Services, said that Ingram is the largest book distributor in the world and helps content reach its destination. It works with over 60,000 imprints and serves publishers such as Oxford University Press, whose US distribution is done by Ingram. Starting in 2021 there have been supply chain shifts in many areas. Public libraries had many shutdowns and were closed for several months. In the publishing industry, books saved the day and were deemed a necessity. Backlist titles sold exceptionally well as readers chose to return to familiar authors. Ingram shipped their books to libraries. Digital sales soared in 2020 and 2021. Audio books were extremely popular because they permitted multitasking. Consumers became willing to try different formats. (For Zoom presentations, when you want to look smart, get a grey background or a credible bookshelf.) We are continuing along the trend of labor shortages. Smaller numbers of places to print materials means only one run of a title can be made. What can you do?

  • Communicate with your vendor,
  • Order early,
  • Explore backlist titles,
  • Anticipate delays, and
  • Stock up.

Emily Tufts,:Associate University Librarian, Ontario Technical University, compared changing collection strategies during the pandemic. They have relied on a shared print collection. which allows them to stretch budget resources. Before the pandemic they relied heavily on print collections.. When the the library closed, demand shifted. because of working at home, child care duties, and the loss of access to print reserves.

Ebook spending was much less than print in 2020 because of reliance on shared print selection of ebooks.  However, now  ebook spending is growing. Many courses are still delivered online.

Students and faculty thought that if they could buy an eBook, the library should be able to buy one too, which is often not the case.  Looking ahead to the “new normal”, DDA will expand, publisher options will continue, and hybrid course delivery will be supported, although students prefer online courses.

Sara Duff, Acquisitions and Collection Development Librarian, University of Central Florida, described the university’s  relationship to print. An automated retrieval center was requested by students and is working well. Faculty members still prefer reading in print, so the library tries not to duplicate print and electronic copies of the same book. Some areas of print-preferred books are on their approval plan (i.e. art books). Staff and students do not understand single user eBooks. Not too much changed in the pandemic. The budget did not grow, some shipments ceased temporarily, and users’ attitudes changed.  Many classes are now in person. Going forward both eBooks and print books will: continue to be purchased, and approval plans might shift slightly. Unfortunately, print will always be a pillar of their acquisitions strategy.

Don Hawkins
Charleston Conference Blogger


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