average shelf-life, or circulations
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One of my coworker/patrons asked what the average shelf-life, or number or circulations, a book had. I told him that the number depended on how well the book was made, and that paperbacks generally had a shorter life span than hardbacks. Beyond that I could give him no number. Are there averages available?
I have a feeling that 'everything' does actually include the question posed, yes ...
I'm sure that my coworker/patron would find that amusing but ultimately be unsatisfied. I've asked a book jobber to try and find an answer. When I get it, I'll post it here.
I do a fair bit of evaluation and weeding, but I couldn't begin to give an average. It depends on the type of binding. I've seen some newer books where the binding broke fairly quickly and books with proper sewn bindings that have circulated 100 times and are still in good condition. The Harper Collins number, 26, is just ridiculous. No book should be falling apart that quickly unless, perhaps, it is a mass market paperback. A current best seller should easily be getting 30 to 50 circulations without damage.
I think how they got that number is... there are 52 weeks in the year.... the average time a physical book goes out is 2 weeks, voila!! Math. 26 circs in a year.
Which, of course, if you actually work in a library everyone knows it's not that easy. Sometimes a book goes out for a day, sometimes it gets renewed twice *cough* or three times *cough*.
And, very, very rarely, unless the book is mistreated (small sticky fingers, left out in the rain, read in the bathtub with unfortunate consequences, put in a bag with an old banana) does a physical book only get 26 circs in its 'lifetime'.
I have to agree with HarperCollins -- at least when it comes to school library books. When they're jammed into bookbags along with gym shoes and stored at the bottom of shared lockers, I'm lucky if our titles last through 16 checkouts.
(I got this maximum figure of 16 through looking at the Circulations column on my Gateway shelflist.)
But, not many schools (as far as I know) use stuff like Overdrive and use e-books to loan out from their libraries. I'm mostly talking about adult books. And most adults do know how to treat their books, and so they get many, many, many more circs than 26.
In November 2010, we looked into this, trying to find which individual copies of our fiction titles had gone out the most times. Our data was as follows:
10. Patterson, James The Midnight Club out 169 times
9. Parker, Robert B. The Judas Goat out 177 times
8. Parker, Robert B. A Catskill Eagle out 182 times
7. Tyler, Anne. Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant out 184 times
6. Berg, Elizabeth. Durable Goods out 186 times
5. Connelly, Michael. Black Ice out 192 times
4. Allende, Isabel. House of the Spirits out 193 times
3. Silva, Daniel. The Unlikely Spy out 200 times
2. Paretsky, Sara. Bitter Medicine out 205 times
1. Grafton, Sue. C is for Corpse out 254 times
However, there are other times when a book circs once and gets dropped in the bathtub or covered in what we can only hope are coffee stains. I had a weird case once where we had multiple copies of a book (I think it was Elegance of the Hedgehog?) get damaged in the same way...the exact same page range fell out of all of them. Clearly a flaw in the binding, I'd say. So there are a lot of factors that go into it; I wouldn't even want to guess at an average life for an individual book, really.
Also, DanielXJ: "And most adults do know how to treat their books." I have to laugh a bit at that. I find some horribly damaged books in adult fiction sometimes that indicate to me that, no, most adults don't know how to treat their books. Or maybe they know how to treat THEIR OWN, but don't feel like extending our books the same privilege, ha. After all, they didn't pay for it! (Though of course they did, through taxes, but you know.)
Fair enough kmaziarz, from my experience in the library where --I-- work, the adults in general (there are always exceptions of course) know how to treat books. So do 90% of the teens, and probably 80% of the kids.
And when something like them dropping it in the bathtub comes up, most of them even come to us wanting to pay for a replacement before we have to bill them etc.
I've been doing a lot of weeding in our health, nutrition, and exercise books in the 600s. This is a very popular area and most of the books of 30 circs or more. Some have circulated more than 90 times. Oddly enough, whether hardbound or paperback doesn't seem to make much difference, but how well the book is made does effect longevity. Lightly glued bindings are the worst offenders followed by cheap paper that's turned yellow. I don't weed fiction, but I do know that fiction gets even more use.
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