Monday, October 03, 2005

Worldcat listed holdings meme

After receiving my huge $1.58 royalty check for my first book this week I went and checked to see how many libraries had my books. According to Worldcat my first book, The Stalinist Penal System is in only 163 libraries. My second book, Ethnic Cleansing in the USSR, 1937-1949 does a little better with 207 listings. According to Worldcat their records list the holdings of over 17,000 libraries. So my publishers did a pretty poor sales job. I then compared it to other academic books and found that none of them did very well. For instance Shirin Akiner's Islamic Peoples of the Soviet Union only has 157 listings. Even really popular academic books like Norman Naimark's Fires of Hatred: Ethnic Cleansing in Twentieth-Century Europe still do not make it into even 10% of the libraries of the world including those attached to universities and colleges. Naimark's book is only listed at 1035 libraries. I know alot of academics with books blog under pseudonyms so I can not compare their numbers to mine. Still, I am interested in compiling some numbers. So I guess I am making this into a meme. If you have one or more scholarly books published go to Worldcat and find out how many libraries they are listed at. Then publish the numbers on your blog. You can refer to your books by number so your secret superhero identity remains safe. I think maybe an award should be given to the people with both the highest and lowest numbers.


Chris Conway said...


I don't care for meme's. But my book is in 262 libraries in the U.S. I have an edited volume published by one of the most prestigious publishing houses in the world that is only in 200. When I look at the state by state list of libraries holding my book, I'm pretty satisfied. No glaring absences.

I wish it were 400 or 600, but oh well..

J. Otto Pohl said...

Thanks for the data. This isn't a meme in the traditional sense. I would like to get a sense of circulation numbers. The sad fact is that the numbers are awfully low.

Chris Conway said...

Otto, you're not supposed to say "the sad fact is that the numbers are awfully low"! Are you trying to make me feel bad!

I know your book is expensive. So is mine. I think the trick to better numbers is publishing a paperback book that costs 20$. Then more libraries buy them. You must remember that library budgets are not so good... books that are 55.00 like mine, or more, are just too expensive.

Or then again, maybe I wrote the same book.

J. Otto Pohl said...

The low circulation numbers and high costs are problems. Not, the least as to why should people spend time and effort to write material that nobody will read and for which they receive almost no compensation. Paperback publishing would help somewhat. But, I think the problems are more fundamental.