A Library Demand List

April 11, 2021

This visualizationThe visualization below takes the current New York Times Best Sellers list for combined print and e-book fiction and scales each title according to the demand for its e-book edition at a collection of U.S. public libraries, selected for their size and geographic diversity.

You can scale the visualization below

by the number of holds to get a sense of the relative number of patrons waiting for each e-book.

by the number of copies owned to get a sense of which e-books libraries have purchased/licensed in great quantity. These tend to be books that have lingered on the list and/or were well-promoted ahead of time.

by the ratio of holds to copies owned to get a sense of not just which books are popular, but which are “more popular than expected”; think acceleration instead of velocity. These tend, conversely, to be newer books and/or surprise hits. (This is my favorite view!)

Read more details.

None of these views will show you the raw number of e-book holds, because this isn’t a full accounting of all U.S. public libraries—I wish!—and the numbers have meaning only in comparison to each other, not as free-floating measurements.

The ranks revealed when you hover over a title are within the current NYT list, not among like, all library e-books. I do not currently have a way to survey all library e-books 😉

I think these views of the NYT list are interesting because library e-book lending has exploded in the past few years, and now consitutes a very important channel for reading in the United States; it feels worthwhile to try to understand how its patterns both mirror and diverge from book buying.

I am being slightly cryptic about where this data comes from, for Secret Reasons, but/and I think this is compatible with my desire to show a broad gist rather than a fine accounting. The NYT list is gist-y, after all—not a raw tally of books sold, but a deeper divination of commercial momentum.

If you’re not familiar with the supply side of the library e-book equation, it’s worth reading Dan Cohen’s post outlining the myriad acquisition models for these weird entities. It’s… a lot!

Project scope: This is intended as a sketch, and I consider it finished. I’ll keep this page in sync with the NYT list for at least one year, until February 2022.

Thanks for viewing!

Robin

1.THE FOUR WINDS
Kristin Hannah (St. Martin's)

Holds rank: 2 · Owned rank: 2 · Ratio rank: 7

2.WIN
Harlan Coben (Grand Central)

Holds rank: 5 · Owned rank: 5 · Ratio rank: 3

3.THE CONSEQUENCES OF FEAR
Jacqueline Winspear (Harper)

Holds rank: 13 · Owned rank: 10 · Ratio rank: 9

4.DOUBLE JEOPARDY
Stuart Woods (Putnam)

Holds rank: 14 · Owned rank: 11 · Ratio rank: 15

5.THE BOUNTY
Janet Evanovich and Steve Hamilton (Atria)

Holds rank: 12 · Owned rank: 13 · Ratio rank: 6

6.LATER
Stephen King (Hard Case Crime)

Holds rank: 10 · Owned rank: 8 · Ratio rank: 13

7.THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY
Matt Haig (Viking)

Holds rank: 1 · Owned rank: 1 · Ratio rank: 10

8.ETERNAL
Lisa Scottoline (Putnam)

Holds rank: 11 · Owned rank: 12 · Ratio rank: 2

9.THE ROSE CODE
Kate Quinn (Morrow)

Holds rank: 7 · Owned rank: 6 · Ratio rank: 5

10.LIFE AFTER DEATH
Sister Souljah (Atria/Emily Bestler)

Holds rank: 15 · Owned rank: 15 · Ratio rank: 12

11.KLARA AND THE SUN
Kazuo Ishiguro (Knopf)

Holds rank: 4 · Owned rank: 4 · Ratio rank: 14

12.THE SONG OF ACHILLES
Madeline Miller (Ecco)

Holds rank: 8 · Owned rank: 7 · Ratio rank: 8

13.THE DUKE AND I
Julia Quinn (Avon)

Holds rank: 6 · Owned rank: 14 · Ratio rank: 1

14.WE BEGIN AT THE END
Chris Whitaker (Holt)

Holds rank: 9 · Owned rank: 9 · Ratio rank: 4

15.THE INVISIBLE LIFE OF ADDIE LARUE
V.E. Schwab (Tor/Forge)

Holds rank: 3 · Owned rank: 3 · Ratio rank: 11