Library ebooks may actually generate sales


Book publishers could be missing a lucrative boat with their efforts to curb free circulation of their ebooks through public libraries.

Traditionally, the publishers have treated libraries almost as parasites that siphon off sales with their free-circulation practices. Through a mix of licensing agreements, high prices and, in some cases, outright refusal to deal with libraries, the publishers have tried to restrict library circulation of their e-titles.

A new survey of 75,000 library ebook readers — conducted by Overdrive and the American Library Association – suggests, however, that they may be shooting their sales in the foot with their anti-library tactics.

As Michael Kozlowski of Good E-Reader explains, “the study confirms 57 per cent of people use libraries as content discovery engines. Patrons often will see a book and will end up making the digital purchase. Fifty-three per cent of all people surveyed have thought about buying an ebook listed on the libraries website and fifty-three per cent borrow ebooks and also buy them.”

About one-third of the readers actually buy the ebook to add to their personal collection after they have read the library edition, he says.

That’s hardly the profit-eating monster that publishers have long feared.

Bearing in mind that Overdrive and the library association have a horse in this race, the study suggests library ebook circulation may actually be an effective way to market the publishers’ new offerings.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I admit I’m an enthusiastic borrower of ebooks from my public library. And I still buy way too many books – both in digital and paper format.)

Libraries could open portal to indie ebook exposure


Libraries are finding innovative ways to circumvent the restrictions imposed by big publishers so they can enhance their ebook offerings for members. And there’s one recent trend that should be flashing on the radar of indie authors.

Good e-Reader reports that the Washington County Library System is reaching out to local authors, inviting them to submit their own novels in electronic format to add to the existing library system.

It is not alone.

The system developed its “Library Local Connect” program after hearing of a similar initiative in Colorado. It hopes to give worthy local authors some much-needed exposure, while at the same time beefing up its ebook inventory.

“We’ve always been very concerned about making everybody’s works accessible,” said Joe Manion, the system’s director of public services director. “What’s a little bit more difficult is to find the small author, the author who is getting started, the author who is local – but now we have the ebook revolution.”

By linking local writers and readers, they’re hoping to build a bridge to the next best seller.

The system has developed criteria to ensure the quality of submissions, and it’s working to improve the process with an automated submission tool.

Maybe this is something aspiring e-authors should discuss with their own local libraries.

Libraries fire back in ebook pricing war


South Shore Public Libraries in Nova Scotia says it has stopped buying Random House ebooks in reaction to a steep price hike.

“The demand for ebooks is high,” said chief librarian Troy Myers. “We will continue to provide ebooks to our borrowers as quickly as possible but will not purchase from Random House until they lower their prices for ebooks.”

South Shore Public Libraries operates four town libraries and rural outreach services in the Bridewater-Lunenburg area. It spends about $300,000 each year for new books, magazines and other materials.

Under a new regime announced last month, Random House has boosted prices for books available to libraries, publishers and schools, creating challenges for cash-strapped organizations.

South Shore cites the example of Robert K. Massie’s Catherine the Great, Portrait of a Woman. In January, the book was available to libraries for $30. The price soared to $130 on March 1, then to $85 on March 20. In comparison, the retail price for an individual ordering through Random House or Google Books is $20.

“It would be great if we could just purchase ebooks through Amazon or Random House for the lower price,” said Myers.

Libraries, however, must purchase through a digital wholesaler such as OverDrive, which supplies more 15,000 libraries, schools, and colleges with books from more than 1,000 publishers, including Random House, HarperCollins and Bloomsbury.

Random House justifies its price hike by pointing out that an ebook may theoretically circulate endlessly, without requiring the purchase of replacement copies. It also notes that it makes titles available to libraries as soon as the book is released in the retail market.

Other publishers are also struggling to establish a workable digital relationship with libraries. HarperCollins, for instance, imposes a lending cap on its titles, while Penquin has stopped selling digital editions to OverDrive, effectively cutting off ebook sales to libraries.

Sounds like a golden opportunity for indie authors and small publishers!