Collection Update - May

Collection Update - May

In this inaugural collection update, we’ll go over what our collection looks like today, as well as what we’re working towards in the near future. Our goal at eBooksAreForever is to present libraries with the a curated collection of the best titles from independent authors and small publishing houses. If there are any books or authors your patrons are asking for, don’t hesitate to contact us and we’ll do our best to add those titles to our growing collection.

As of May 1st, our collection includes 224 titles from 20 great authors, including:

  • Hugh Howey’s WOOL
  • Barry Eisler’s John Rain series
  • J.A. Konrath’s Jack Daniels mystery series
  • Blake Crouch’s Andrew Z. Thomas/Luther Kite novels
  • Bob Mayer’s Green Berets series
  • Multiple series from Melissa Foster, including The Bradens and The Snow Sisters series
  • Brett Battles’s Project Eden thriller series
  • Jeremy Robinson’s The Last Hunter series
  • Multiple series from H.M.Ward, including Damaged, The Secret Life of Trystan Scott, The Arrangement, and others featuring the Ferro Family

… and many more …

Over the next few weeks, and as we continue through this beta version of eBooksAreForever, we’ll work on expanding our collection into even more genres, adding new authors, uploading additional titles from our current authors, and taking input from librarians on what they’d like to see next.

Our collection and our curating process takes input from the library community into account. To find out more about how you can become in engaged in the growth of our collection, take a minute to read How Librarians Can Help Curate Our Collection.

We look forward to hearing from you.


Libraries of the Very-Near Future

Libraries of the Very-Near Future

Current State of Libraries and eContent

About 6 months ago, I read a comment on a popular industry blog by someone who stated she was a librarian. I saved her comment and I’m re-posting it here. This is what she said:

As a librarian (or bookstore buyer) with extremely limited staff and resources, how do we choose? We don’t yet have any real volume of ebooks being reviewed by known review sources. In my library, we do try to grab books once they clearly rise to the top of the heap but that leaves an awful lot of perfectly respectable books flying under our radar.

I, for one, WANT to represent independent authors in my collection. I want to bring new voices to readers. I want to provide access via print, ebook, audiobook, cuneiform manuscript, or any other format anyone wants. But it’s hard to make it happen in the current model.

So, has anything changed in the last half year?

I have to believe that the short answer is no. Progress, if any, has been slow at best.

Many larger libraries have begun to institute a model similar to Douglas County where they’re able to purchase and own content from the small number of publishers and outlets that will deal direct. Others have been fortunate to join multi-member consortium groups that have similar systems in place and are able to trickle down benefits to their members. These too are finding success dealing with small publishing houses, even going so far as connecting with Smashwords for self-published content.

But when it comes to titles that readers actually want, very little has changed. Case in point, libraries couldn’t offer Catching Fire over the holidays. And that’s a title everyone knows about.

For a better representation of the current marketplace for libraries, let’s take a look at the most recent report that Douglas County released showing the availability (or lack thereof – especially on the ebook side) of the Top 20 books at Amazon.

GRAPHIC HERE

What you see is that almost half of the Top 20 books aren’t available to libraries in digital form. Of those that are, only Veronica Roth’s Divergent Series books are offered at a price remotely comparable to the consumer market. A couple titles are over 10X the price that a reader can pay to purchase the book from Amazon.

So now that libraries are building out and gaining access to systems that could potentially allow them to own content, where can they turn to find that content? And even if those ebooks were readily available, how would you ever begin to cull your way through the hundreds of thousands of indie and small house titles out there?

Those are the questions we are attempting to answer at eBooksAreForever.

What technologies can do for the industry as a whole

Right now, we’re talking with a group of authors that represent a large chunk of what readers consider to be bestsellers. At eBooksAreForever, we believe in simplicity, so our solution to the problem of econtent availability is one that revolves around that very idea.

Our plan is to lean on available technologies to connect authors to libraries in a way that has never been done before. We are acquiring the best content, curated for what library patrons want, and delivering it in the easiest way possible.

Simplify the ebook acquisition process for libraries and connect them to great content – that is our goal.

A common question we’ve got so far is: What makes what you’re doing different from that of current distributors like Overdrive and 3M?

Even if platforms like Overdrive and Axis 360 and 3M are solving some issues in the acquisition process for libraries (which they are), they still fail to account for the fact that they’re solving problems for a system that will no longer exist in its current form if the marketplace continues to evolve (which it will).

We’re approaching the same problems, but from a much different angle. We believe in empowering the library. We believe in allowing them the freedom to offer the best solutions possible to their patrons. So we’re attempting to give libraries a way forward – a new way of working with authors and publishers.

Because the current publisher-vendor-library relationship needs to change. Vendors currently control the user’s experience – they control most everything in the current system. The way in which these vendor sites work keeps patrons from easily engaging and interacting with the library itself, pushing them off the library’s website and on to theirs, driving a wedge between the library and the patron.

No matter how you look at it, this is not ideal for the library. (I’ll leave the discussion about being at the vendor’s, and publisher’s, whim and not owning content for another day.)

But technology and a new relationship paradigm can be accomplished. I believe it MUST be accomplished if libraries are to thrive in this new and evolving landscape.

The way forward and what we envision

At eBooksAreForever, we have a clear vision of what we see for libraries of the not-so-distant future. Most likely, budgets will continue to decrease, so we must find ways to do more with less. Here’s what we’re betting on:

Real evolutions (possibly revolutions) in the way technologies are used by libraries will bring the disjointed and fragmented branches of the current system together to form increasingly solid standards.

In building the beta version of the eBooksAreForever platform, we quickly came to realize that whoever is able to step in and find a way to unite the seemingly endless versions of what being a modern “library” means, will be positioned extremely well to offer libraries an unprecedented amount of purchasing power.

Between the multiple ILS systems, cataloging systems, and numerous vendors (all with different prices and processes), it is all but impossible to move towards a more standardized way of operating. For libraries, this is very bad. But for publishers and vendors and software developers, it’s business as usual – and business is pretty damn good. (See: Overdrive has annual revenues in excess of $100 million and Simon & Schuster profits rise 32% in 2013 for just two quick examples.)

Moving forward, we see libraries as discovery and marketing venues, both of which are worthy of much greater attention. For instance, I live in San Antonio and only have to look as far as the local all-digital Bibliotech for what the future of libraries might resemble as a blend of discovery mixed with the community hub for information access.

BUT…

We also want to stay flexible in our pursuit of better solutions for libraries. Readers might demand something much different than what we are fighting for. Libraries may tell us they want us to shift and evolve into something we haven’t yet imagined. We promise, from day one, to stay dedicated to this cause; we aren’t going anywhere.

Which is why we leave this site – and its future – up to all of you.

If you want to blog for us, we’d love to have you. Give us your opinion. Write up a feature on your library; tell us what you’re doing different than everyone else. Have you found an obscure new book that your readers are in love with and you think other librarians should know about it? Then post about it here. Post about things in your county or state. Post about what you’d really like to see become a standard in the library community.

Soon we’ll have a fully interactive forums section, but for now, we’re leaving the blog on this site open to any and all opinions. If you have a library account, you can submit a blog post whenever you like.

So I say to that original commenter, if she finds her way here: This is how you get what you want. This is what it looks like to choose.


Why I Want to Live in Bexar County

Why I Want to Live in Bexar County

From a post on Joe’s main blog where he was discussing the realities of the current ebook marketplace:

Libraries, like Bibliotech in Texas, are able to directly meet the new demand. For the link-lazy, this is what Bibliotech is doing:

Mission:
Provide all Bexar County residents the opportunity to access technology and its applications for the purposes of enhancing education and literacy, promoting reading as recreation and equipping residents of our community with necessary tools to thrive as citizens of the 21st century.

Through BiblioTech, residents of Bexar County will be able to access over 10,000 current titles through e-readers that they can check out to take home or read on the premises. Residents will also be able to use their own e-readers or tablets to access the collection.

BiblioTech currently has 600 e-readers, 200 pre-loaded enhanced e-readers for children, 48 computer stations, 10 laptops and 40 tablets to use on-site. Additional e-reading accommodations will be made for the visually impaired.

Am I the only one who wants to live in Bexar County?

Bibliotech is at the forefront of what the libraries of the future could look like as community information hubs. For more, read my last post on the current and future state of libraries.

**It’s worth noting that as I write this quick little post – from my home in San Antonio (that’s Bexar County by the way), where it’s currently sunny and exactly 72 degrees – Joe is experiencing the winter of Illinois and 20 degree temps with snow that I’m fairly certain hasn’t let up for two straight months. So cheers to Bexar County and the team over at Bibliotech!**


I Love Libraries

I Love Libraries

My name is Joe Konrath, and I love libraries.

My affection for libraries began at a very young age, when my thirst for knowledge and entertainment outgrew my family’s budget to supply me with books. We lived in a small suburb with a small library. How small? The card catalog could fit on a 3′x5′ table.

Remember card catalogs?

I discovered countless new books at my local library, and I credit that opportunity for turning me into the bestselling author I am today.

Thanks for that. I will forever owe a debt to libraries.

But even though I’ve sold over a million ebooks, the majority of libraries in the US and Canada don’t carry the majority of my titles. In fact, the majority of libraries don’t carry ANY of my titles.

After years of being mistreated by large publishers, I decided to self-publish. And even though independent and self-published authors could account for more than 35% of ebooks currently being read, they aren’t represented in libraries.

This bothers me.

So I began to research how to make my work, and the works of other authors, available to libraries, and I discovered that large publishers and middle-man companies mistreat libraries just as much, if not more, than they mistreat authors.

My partner in eBooksAreForever, August Wainwright, and I have spoken with dozens of librarians, and we’ve heard the same tales over and over.

  • Publishers charging too much for ebooks
  • Publishers limiting ebook usage for libraries
  • Publishers only offering older titles
  • DRM issues and checkout limits
  • Licensing deals that don’t allow libraries to own ebooks
  • Expensive start-up costs for libraries to offer ebooks
  • Third party systems that cause as many problems as they solve
  • And some Big Publishers outright refusing to deal with libraries at all

Our conclusion?

Libraries want to offer ebooks, but are being hamstrung by big publishers, lack of a standardized system, high costs, and unfair terms.

At the same time, there are thousands of authors anxious to make their ebooks available to libraries, and have no way of doing so.

Which is why I decided to start this company. To connect authors and libraries in a way where all parties benefit, and no one is taken advantage of.

Currently, we’re only available to libraries who can host their own files, for instance through access to an Adobe Content Server (ACS), or to library systems who may be running similar server setups. During the ongoing beta period:

  • All ebooks are $4.99
  • The library owns the ebook forever
  • A library system can buy a single title for multiple branches, and add more copies as they need them
  • The library can buy the entire eBooksAreForever catalog, or a specific genre, or a specific author, or an individual title with only one click
  • The library can add new catalog titles with one click
  • The author makes 70% royalties, and is paid monthly

In the future, the eBooksAreForever services will expand beyond simply selling titles to libraries. Our goal is to be able to work with every library in the US and Canada, not just those that have ACS in place. So we’re looking for every opportunity to seamlessly integrate with a library’s ILS to make our services available to everyone.

Ultimately, at eBooksAreForever, our mission is to revolutionize the way libraries and their patrons interact with authors and publishers. We see ways in which readers can get all the free content they could ever dream of, authors will go on making royalties forever, and libraries will be freed up to spend their budgets elsewhere (like on ereaders and computers).

And that’s what we’re looking to deliver. That’s the end game.

How is that possible? Contact August for info on our long term goals.

As the world becomes increasingly digital, and library funding keeps getting slashed, eBooksAreForever is going to lead the way in helping librarians, libraries, and library systems provide invaluable services to patrons and communities. We know your job is to help, entertain, and inform people, and there aren’t many jobs as necessary in our society. We know the current publishing climate, combined with the hurdles of bureaucracy, make it even harder to do an already challenging job. We know you value authors, and we know you’re vitally important to the world but aren’t being allowed to do all that you could be doing.

Libraries are essential.

eBooksAreForever wants to make it easier for you to provide the valuable services you currently provide, and will continue to provide into the future.

Please help us spread the word. Tweet this URL and Follow us on Twitter. Like us on Facebook. Sign up for our newsletter for more information. Talk to one another. Blog for us.

Soon, the forum will be open on this website. We want to hear your concerns, We want to know more about the challenges you face. We want you to help each other so we can pool our knowledge and figure out what works best.

No one else recognizes your importance.

But we do.