A Primer on Library Perceptions for Indie Authors

A Primer on Library Perceptions for Indie Authors

EAF is getting closer to official launch later this year, and we wanted to take an opportunity to weigh-in on a few of the more important aspects of the relationship between indie authors and libraries.


Something we’ve continuously attempted to convey during our beta period is that the consumer marketplace and library marketplace are two entirely different entities, and as such, need to be approached from different strategic angles.

This article discusses a few of those details, and is meant to be a first step towards building a knowledge base that both indie authors/publishers and libraries can reference in pursuit of a long-term, sustainable relationship.

Budgets and Economics

Library budgets are shrinking.

This is a reality that all libraries deal with, and a trend which will continue moving forward.

For the past two years, the annual American Library Association (ALA) meeting has had multiple panels that seem to end with the same, ongoing sentiment:

Librarians are not satisfied with the status quo, and are pushing for more experimentation and better options.

Nor should they be satisfied. During a time where they’re forced to deal with shrinking budgets, libraries are routinely required to pay markups of 3X, 10X, even 20X+ over what consumers pay to purchase the book outright. And in most of these situations, the severely marked-up price only allows them to lease titles for a limited time.

When you force libraries to pay huge platform fees, lock them into proprietary systems, charge them enormous markups on popular titles, and then require them to re-license, or lose access to, those titles on an annual basis, it’s easy to see why so many librarians are disenfranchised with their current options.1

This directly from a recent American Libraries Magazine supplement on Digital Futures:

A major concern is for perpetual access to all titles. Librarians have expressed the desire to be able to move content from one aggregator to another if a change of vendors is made. [Additionally] Pricing of ebooks continues to be a concern, as many are offered to libraries at rates multiple times that of the price for consumers. It is clear that no single model will meet all libraries’ needs, and a call for options has been heard. The options might include such terms as a perpetual access copy of a title at one price, with additional copies at a reduced price…

This is indeed a key concern and brings us back to the economics of modern libraries and their collection budgets.

What librarians are asking for is so obviously fair, that it’s baffling they have to ask for it in the first place. They want fair pricing and options that don’t force them into choosing between bad licensing terms or no ebooks at all, and they’d like to permanently own the titles they buy.

Indie authors and small publishers would love to step in to fill that gap. We are in a digital age, and there is no reason why a purchased ebook shouldn’t be available forever if both parties (author/publisher & library) are treated fairly.

Perpetual access to ebooks is exactly what we offer at EAF. We already give libraries the ability to purchase additional copies of popular titles as the library sees fit, and we’ll soon follow with unlimited use models. The combination of both perpetual and unlimited access is our ultimate goal, so we’re working hard to find ways to fairly compensate authors while also meeting the needs of libraries and their patrons.

However, the budgets of these libraries can vary wildly. So in thinking of solutions that work in a perfect scenario where libraries have the funds to spend on ebook acquisitions, we’re also looking at various ways in which libraries could potentially gain access to indie titles, regardless of their budget size.

Features like community level collections come to mind, where for greatly reduced prices, individual libraries can gain access to the ebooks written by authors that are part of their immediate city/county/community.

To further extend library budgets, we never require setup fees. With the launch of our patron apps and ILS-integration API, we will soon give libraries the ability to bypass the need for any additional solutions to access purchased titles. Essentially, any title purchased from eBooksAreForever will come built-in with no platform fees, no need for tech-heavy self hosting solutions, no lease or subscription fees, and no expiration dates.

We’re also striving to give librarians access to constantly updated data showing what their patrons are requesting and reading, allowing them to pay for what they need and use, not for what they don’t.

One size doesn’t fit all, so EAF is making different options available for libraries that best suit their needs, while always making sure authors are fairly compensated.

We will be sending emails directly to authors and publishers in the coming days and weeks about our progress in this area and what we see as potentially viable options.

Library Interest and Marketing

Librarians have told us that they are slightly overwhelmed with the idea of having to discuss ebook acquisition with indie authors. We’ve heard stories about how libraries will set up booths at conferences and trade shows, and a vast majority of the people who seek them out are indie authors wanting to get their books into the library.

A few even admitted their response eventually defaulted to “Add your books to Smashwords, and we can look for them through Overdrive”, when in reality, the likelihood of that process ever playing out is very small.

This is eye-opening for many different reasons.

First, because it demonstrates the true amount of work required for librarians to interact with indie authors at scale.

Think about it like this:

If a librarian is asked about a popular title by a few patrons, he/she may attempt to source the book. Let’s assume the book was published by a small independent press. Within a few back-and-forth conversations, the librarian will not only be able to inquire about the desired book, but will also gain insight and easy access to all of the other books available from that small publisher.

This effect is amplified the larger the publisher is. If they target a publisher with thousands of titles, a relatively small amount of effort could result in many new books for their patrons.

However, when looked at in reference to indie authors - all of which act as individual publishers - each of these interactions is completely separate of all others.

This presents a HUGE hurdle for libraries.

Second, multiple librarians have said they are more than a bit dismayed that they are approached so many times with the same common pitch by indie authors. This pitch, from what we’ve been told, amounts to “You should add my books to your library.” or “Patrons would love my books.”, and nothing much else.

No marketing materials. No thought-out plan. Not even a summary or description of their titles or series.

This obviously doesn’t represent libraries’ interactions with ALL indie authors, but indie authors need to have a tight presentation to be taken seriously by libraries, as well as an easy route into those libraries, just as libraries need an easy way to attain wanted titles for their catalogs. Reducing friction as much as possible should be a priority.

Right now, we’re working closely with acquisition librarians to create this framework, and we’re working to make the process simple for both parties.

Third, let’s take a deeper look into that canned response:

Add your books to Smashwords, and we can look for them through Overdrive

It’s important to understand, although the librarians we’ve talked to hate having to give this answer because they know it most likely won’t come to fruition, they’ve still provided a path that could be utilized.

Librarians want indie authors to be represented in their collections. Over 50% of the bestselling ebooks are by independent authors, and patrons want access to these titles. Libraries want local authors highlighted in community collections. They want to help new writers reach new readers. And they want indie authors to be fairly compensated for the work they’ve produced.

If another service works better for you to find your way into libraries, or has terms that work for you, then you should be encouraged to attempt that option. I’m confident librarians would say the same.

But, to this point, the potential solutions in place have not made the librarian’s job easier, thus increasing the time and efforts required by librarians to seek out great independent content.

From both a marketing and interest standpoint, this has to change before indies can easily find their way into libraries and garner the attention of patrons.

Discoverability and Royalties

Discoverability is a common buzzword right now. Every conversation pertaining to indies and their success (or lack thereof) will contain discoverability as a major point of interest.

Many of the authors we’ve spoken with rightly look at libraries and their patrons as an opportunity to extend readership into new areas. Additionally, some have noted that they’d be willing to forego royalties because what they’re most concerned with is discoverability.

However, foregoing royalties in an attempt to gain traction with libraries misses a large portion of what the goal of librarians truly is.

Part of the job of librarians is to assess their specific patrons’ needs. What works at a large metro library, may not work at a smaller rural library. What’s popular and read often at a suburban public library will often be very different from that of a local community college or large university.

These individual needs are what drive librarians to speak of the need for multiple solutions.

But in all the time we’ve spent talking with librarians, not one has ever implied that libraries wish they could offer their patrons great content without having to pay for it; or that being able to do so would solve any of the acquisition problems they face. Every single librarian we’ve talked to about licensing, pricing, and discoverability has shared the same mindset: “Authors deserve fair pay for the work they’ve produced”. In our interactions, this sentiment appears universal.

Furthermore, the librarians we’ve worked with are not only HUGE fans of indie authors, but massive advocates for sustainable writing careers.

The long-term answer to the indie author’s discoverability problem is not FREE; not in the consumer marketplace2, and not in the library marketplace. If the ebook is produced professionally, has compelling cover art, is well edited, and patrons choose to read it, then the author deserves to be compensated. Librarians certainly agree with this.

Discoverability and royalties are not, and should not be, tied directly to each other.

If indies experience the discoverability challenge and aren’t in libraries, and then suddenly, 200,000 indie titles are made available for purchase by librarians, how does this solve your discoverability problem? If anything, you now have two discoverability problems: getting the librarian to purchase your book and getting patrons to read it.

This is the main reason why we’ve created EAF as a collection of curated indie ebooks and chose to market it to libraries as such. By listening to libraries and delivering exactly what they’re asking for, we believe we’re solving both of the library discoverability issues with one large feature.

When libraries trust that the titles within eBooksAreForever represent a desirable collection of indie content, then we’ve removed the largest barrier to discoverability in libraries: getting the librarian to purchase your books. And this has been borne out in all of our testing, where most libraries choose to purchase everything at once, and then return later to purchase everything new.

Additionally, once your titles are purchased, we will help market and advertise to those patrons, where the library has a vested interest in helping readers find great new content.

We understand that finding readers is difficult. And it’s our belief that, through a mutually beneficial relationship with libraries, we can help bring new readers to your books.

That’s why we’re working on ways to allow ALL authors access to eBooksAreForever. It’s why we’re considering different solutions for different challenges at various types of libraries.

We hope this article - one of a larger series that will soon take shape - has helped to paint a more complete picture of what libraries experience in reference to acquiring indie ebook content.

We’d love to hear your feedback, comments, or questions.


1 These issues are also responsible for the growing movement where libraries build self-hosted solutions to reclaim the process from the for-profit vendors, but long term viability is still out of reach for most libraries. BACK

2 This is not meant to reduce the validity or viability of advance copies, giveaways, or permafree as strategies in the consumer marketplace. All have their place if used within a larger overall author/publisher strategy. BACK


Will Public Libraries Exist in 50 Years?

Will Public Libraries Exist in 50 Years?

Will public libraries exist in the next half-century?

To begin to answer that, let’s think about a similar question: “Will people still be watching TV in 50 years?” That answer seems quite simple:

Yes. And no.

For me, the idea of “watching TV” conjures up distinct images, one of which consists of sitting on the couch, bored to tears, while flipping through hundreds of unwanted channels. Not that I didn’t enjoy some shows, but I rarely got what I perceived to be “my money’s worth” — or better yet, what I really wanted.

Now, the idea of TV is changing. “Programmed television shows” are evolving into “video content.” We’re no longer completely required to pay for channels and shows we’ll never watch. Choices abound.

If you specifically asked, “Will we still be viewing scripted video on screens in 50 years?” My answer would be Yes. Will the experience look anything like its long-dead-cousin? No. And the most likely reason for that is, again:

CHOICE.

In much the same way as the thinking about television, whether or not libraries are relevant, or even exist, in the future will likely come down to how they deal with consumer choice.

The Changing Needs of Communities

During grade school, many of my projects followed a parallel track that looked something like this:

  1. Receive a riveting assignment - for instance, a book report on Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe or a report on the Cape Verde Islands (I specifically remember both of these).
  2. Immediately forget the assignment until the last possible minute.
  3. Run to the library the day before the due date and grab as many books as I could to complete the assignment.

When my father installed our first dial-up connection and I learned what “AOL” meant, needing to run to the library the day before was immediately replaced with waiting to log on the night before.

Until the Internet entered my life, I was entirely limited in my options. Either my family had a book or an encyclopedia that I could use - which was highly unlikely - or I went to the library. That was it.

Things are much different now. People are bombarded with such a plethora of choices that many are spending a substantial amount of their free time on choosing what to choose.

In an original article by David Rothman of LibraryCity.org, he highlights views from publishing pundit Mike Shatzkin who says that libraries make no sense in the future and from Forbes contributor Tim Worstall who thinks that we’d be better off closing libraries and buying everyone Kindle Unlimited subscriptions. But what both viewpoints are directly referring to, and what they fail to properly highlight, is the context of the “book” when it comes to the future of libraries.

How much merit would we put in someone today, if their opinion just a few years ago was to close libraries and give everyone a stipend for Border’s bookstore? Seems ridiculous. And, although I hardly believe Border’s = Amazon, the comparison is just.

Libraries, in my sole opinion, are meant to be community repositories of lasting information and ongoing learning. And as the needs and choices of communities shift and evolve, so too must the way libraries operate. But the goal of the library should remain the same, regardless of how they achieve it.

“But the Internet is an infinite repository of all things. Who needs libraries?”

The key is in the word community.

The continental United States is a vast body of land. At the macro level, the needs of those in Alexandria, VA, might be similar to those in San Antonio, TX, but at the individual level, the people and the communities could vary wildly. Demographics will differ. So will incomes, education levels and job prospects. And each of these differences calls for someone who is familiar with, and can operate within, the community they serve. If this can’t happen, then libraries will never thrive.

In the very near future, libraries can and should explore becoming the community hub for things such as entrepreneurial learning, computer science education, 3D printing, the “Maker Movement,” crowdsourcing and crowdfunding, among many others. Some libraries are already doing this. Librarians have always been highly skilled at pointing people in the right direction when it comes to their educational needs. Their role doesn’t need to be diminished, but expanded upon with no reason for libraries to give up their traditional roles as distributors and promoters of content. People will always have choices on where to learn new information, but if the path of least resistance is through their local library, that choice becomes easier.

This may be even more important in lower income areas. Smartphones are nearly ubiquitous, but for creating certain kinds of content, they are no substitute for desktops. Libraries can fill that gap. And, for some, libraries may be the only opportunity to gain access to and interact with sophisticated multimedia and other “enhanced” technologies that will become more and more relevant in the coming years.

Here in San Antonio, where eBooksAreForever is based, the biotech/biomed industry is large and growing quickly. A community center that aims to highlight areas like this to high-school and college aged members could serve to both produce educated local community members in technical fields and increase the growth rate of local industries, providing a perpetual win-win for the area.

But ongoing learning is only half of the equation. The other is being a repository for lasting information. Unfortunately, this is the area I believe requires the biggest shift in thought if libraries are going to have a long and healthy future.

Digital Licensing Harms Library Budgets

It seems to me there’s one GIANT flaw in the current iteration of digital libraries: Publishers enjoy far too much control over content and, especially at the top, have done little to help ensure that libraries can afford ebooks and digital versions.

So many of the issues that we face in the tech world are based on the fact that we try to apply physical rules to digital objects; libraries aren’t immune to this problem. When publishers were faced with the advent of ebooks, instead of trying to come up with viable models that worked, they applied the same structures that they used for print. Some say they deliberately crimped libraries. Often that meant loans to one patron at a time, just like a physical book. But it gets worse when you consider the absurdly high prices, time-limited licenses, “digital decay,” holds and other limits on simultaneous users.

Just one example of the perils of this approach for America’s libraries is that a library must pay for extension of time-limited licenses of old ebooks and purchases of licenses for new ones. All kinds of sustainability and predictability issues arise. And that’s true even if the budget remains the same, rather than declining, as many have in recent years. It will be harder than ever for libraries to grow their collection, whether the licenses are time-limited or come with limits on the number of times a library can loan a book.

Now consider a better alternative. If libraries could purchase ebooks at a fair price, “own” those ebooks - with no recurring licenses. Ebook acquisitions would be far, far more sustainable.

In the same article by David Rothman, he brings up that books still seem to be the major draw of at least his own local library. Potentially, the same could be true for a majority of libraries. I wonder what percentage of those people surveyed would consider an ebook to be a “book” in the sense of circulation.

This seems important because most patrons don’t realize that popular new releases from major publishers in digital ebooks usually cost the library a disproportionately large amount, relative to the same book in physical form. And yet, a lot of the librarians I’ve talked to stress that they only want to spend their budget on titles patrons want. (Which I wouldn’t argue against - as a rule, libraries probably shouldn’t purchase content their patrons don’t want.)

But when you take away the benefit to the library in cost, and the ebooks are on a yearly license, and the patrons still have to wait in long hold lines for the digital version, it’s hard to imagine** why libraries spend such a large amount on these new titles.

The cost seems to greatly outweigh the benefit to both the patron and the library. The library would be better served to stock up on more competitively priced ebooks, and then buy a few physical copies of popular new releases, as this is usually cheaper than purchasing new releases in digital format.

(**The obvious argument here is that bestsellers are staples for libraries in both digital and print, and local taxpayers favoring popular ebooks may not appreciate having to mess with print if it’s against their desires. It’s an argument that can’t be ignored, and shows that the problem must be attacked from multiple angles.)

Where libraries and patrons alike can instantly benefit is from the power in the almighty mid-list. We should all want to see more small-press books and literary fiction in general in libraries, along with first-rate nonfiction that may not be popular despite its merits. The idea of libraries working to nudge patrons from bestsellers to other, often-better books, is an appealing one.

Efforts need to continue to bolster the power of the non-extreme-bestsellers - something we believe in and which we’re actively engaged in here at eBooksAreForever - as these mid-list titles could serve as an excellent base to a sustainable ebook catalog.

But similar attention will eventually have to be focused on those small groups at the top.

Ultimately, if libraries are to survive and thrive well into the future, we’ll need multiple solutions working in harmony.


What are your thoughts? What are some of the other things libraries could be doing to help with community changes and budgetary constraints? Leave a comment to let us know what you think.


Thanks to David Rothman for his valued insight. Read more from him at LibraryCity.org.


Curated Content

Curated Content

​One of the more important issues that we deal with as we continue to grow EAF is the need for our collection to be curated.

For Libraries:

This means that you’ll have direct input into what our collection becomes.

We’ve already had examples where acquisition professionals at libraries have pointed out individual authors they’d love to see added. We immediately contact that author and attempt to quickly add their titles to EAF. So far, we’ve been very successful at accomplishing this.

It can’t be overstated how much time and energy this could save you. It’s no secret that the process of reaching out to each indie author or publisher, beyond being both difficult and tedious, is simply not sustainable; we hope to provide a solution to that problem.

Additionally, having a curated collection of popular indie titles at sustainable pricing models, all of which can be purchased with minimal effort, allows libraries to tap into ebook content that they’ve been unable to access until now. The ebooks offered by EAF are ones that consumers are purchasing every day, in great numbers, and offering them to your patrons is now simple and affordable.

For Authors:

A large amount of the emails and questions we receive are on the topic of curation and vetting. This is to be expected and, in a perfect world, curation wouldn’t be necessary. In fact, both myself and Joe Konrath (as co-founders) believe that curation is completely unnecessary in the consumer space. Putting up walls (like some indies are familiar with) and falsifying “best-seller” lists to limit consumer access to certain titles is simply wrong.

But the important thing that we need to continue to convey is that the consumer marketplace and library marketplace are two different entities. There are many things that would be expected when it comes to Amazon/B&N/Kobo/Apple/etc that just don’t work the same way for libraries. Mostly, this is due to the fact that the consumer reader market is growing, where as library budgets are shrinking – and they’re shrinking while ebook prices are continuing to climb for them. We’re dealing with far more limitations and completely different needs.

So before we can service a huge number of indie authors, we have to supply a set idea of where things will go. That’s what we’re doing right now.

We believe - and libraries have requested - that we need to control both quality and quantity of titles, as well as the number of titles per genre. We can’t go to launch with 80% of our titles being mystery titles, or romance titles; which may lead to someone who passes all of the internal criteria we’ve set being temporarily denied at this point. Being denied access now doesn’t mean you’ll be denied in 2 weeks, or 2 months. Overall, there are various factors that go into the curation process, of which number of reviews, quality of reviews, number of titles, whether your books are in a series, estimated sales figures, cover art, book description, current genre saturation, library interest, and overall availability are just a few.

This is an ongoing concept and one that will most likely change and evolve as we grow. Please feel free to reach out to us directly, and check back for updates as we move forward.


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.


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.