Welcome to Online Insider ...
... the editorial blog by Marydee Ojala, Editor of ONLINE: Exploring Technology & Resources for Information Professionals. ONLINE Insider intends to extend the reach of the print publication, presenting a more timely commentary on the products, people, and events that shape today's online world. It explores new technologies as they impact the working lives of information professionals, explains resources for specific topic areas, and expounds on information management tools and techniques.

Lost Symbol, Lost Profits

Marydee Ojala @ 9:32 am

Financial Times columnist Tim Harford reported that Dan Brown’s latest book, The Lost Symbol, sold “more copies in its first 36 hours than any other adult hardback sold in total.” He also notes that the use of the word “adult” kept “a certain boy wizard” out of the calculation. The article then talks about the hugely discounted prices that the book sold for in the UK. Bookstore Waterstone’s offered a 50% discount, but some of the grocery stores discounted it even deeper, 75% in the case of Asda, which meant it lost money on each sale. Harford thinks book as loss leader for grocery stores will, in the long run, be good for the stores, the theory being that people who come in to buy the book will also buy groceries (that, presumably, are not deeply discounted).

I looked at the US online booksellers, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Books A Million. All three are selling the $29.95 book at $16.17, not quite a 50% discount. You may find a better price at your local grocery store, but stores such as Kroger are not adding the book’s price to its website.

Here’s what I’m wondering, though — do libraries go to grocery stores to buy books for their collections? Or are our libraries paying list price? Here’s hoping they’re getting the best deal possible on books, given shrinking materials budgets!

Library Budgets & Foreign Exchange

Marydee Ojala @ 12:28 pm

Why does it seem to always come as a surprise to librarians that their budgets can be affected  by foreign exchange? Last year, when the pound to dollar ratio was an excruciating 2 to 1, it was the US librarians bemoaning the lack of purchasing power when it came to British and European journals. This year, as we Americans are happier with the exchange rate closer to 1.5 to 1, it is the British whose budgets are in need of help. An article by Zoe Corbyn in THE (Times Higher Education) titled "Journal subscriptions at risk as weak pound hits library budget" quotes Mark Brown, chair of Research Libraries UK and head of the library at the University of Southampton, as saying libraries might have to cancel journals because their budgets won’t stretch to meet the strengthened dollar. I’m sympathetic with the predicament, and hugely aware of the difficulties of predicting exchange rates (just look at all the experts who predicted oil prices at $200 a barrel!), but I’m not sure why this is considered to be news. Exchange rate fluctuations are inevitable. Whether they go in your favor or not, however, is a guessing game that, inevitably, librarians will sometimes win and sometimes lose.

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