A Library Demand List
May 23, 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!