Commission approves deal greatly expanding county library’s audiobook selection

The St. George branch of the Washington County Library System, Utah, Aug. 6, 2019 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The Washington County Library’s digital catalog will be getting a lot bigger, thanks to a deal approved by the County Commission Tuesday.

The St. George branch of the Washington County Library System, Utah, Aug. 6, 2019 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

The commission approved a $48,000 purchase request from Library Director Joel Tucker that will provide the library system with an estimated 28,000 e-audiobooks through RB Digital.

BR Digital is a part of Recorded Books, the largest independent publisher of audiobooks in the world, according to the company website.

“It’s really exciting to have access to all of their titles,” Tucker said as he gave a quick review of the program RB Digital has offered to the library.

Currently, the Washington County Library has over 3,100 electronic-based audiobooks and over 5,100 e-books that, like regular physical books, can only be checked out by one person at a time, according to a letter Tucker sent to the County Commission prior to Tuesday’s meeting.

Tucker wrote that there are currently two ways to purchase e-books and audiobooks for the library. The books can be purchased for up to three-times the cost of a regular book or be bought for a limited time or use, such as per-year or 50 uses, before the title has to be repurchased.

Washington County Library Director Joel Tucker has a hardy laugh in front of the St. George branch of the county library system, Utah, Aug. 11, 2018 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

The county library has opted to buy the copies so they are always available to readers. Unfortunately, more publishers are going to the limited checkout format, Tucker wrote.

“Regardless of how we purchase, we are restricted to one check out at a time for each item, just like a hard copy book,” he wrote.

Due to the growing popularity of e-books, the library has spent an estimated $52,000 annually to keep up with the demand.

The deal offered by RB Digital gives the library access to its massive electronic catalog with an unlimited checkout option – meaning multiple people can check out an e- audiobook at any one time. At a cost of $48,000 for the new program, the county is paying a heavily discounted price from the $75,000 it would normal cost to subscribe to the service.

The estimated value of the 28,000 titles, if bought outright, is over $1 million, Tucker said.

Image shows a screen capture from the Washington County Library online portal for RB Digital, St. George News

“It’s a good addition to the library, and we’re pretty excited about it,” Tucker said. The library’s expanded offering of e-books and audiobooks will likely become available within the month, he said.

While hard copy books remain a major source of the county library’s circulation, e-book and audiobook circulation is on the rise, Tucker said, noting that hard copy book distribution has gradually gone down.

In an email to St. George News, Tucker proved the circulation numbers for the library’s regular books and e-books between 2013 and 2018:

Hard copy books

  • 2018: 1,222,608.
  • 2017: 1,277,195.
  • 2016: 1,310,107.
  • 2015: 1,408,738.
  • 2014: 1,441,115.
  • 2013: 1,527,486.

E-books/audiobooks circulation

  • 2018: 220,197.
  • 2017: 157,992.
  • 2016: 108,291.
  • 2015: 75,223.
  • 2014: 25,684.
  • 2013: 39,256.

Ed. note: It was originally reported that the library was gaining access to 200,000 e-book and audiobook titles. This was reported in error and has been corrected.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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