The State of EAF - An Update for Authors
This post is copied from an email newsletter sent to approved Author/Publisher accounts on eBooksAreForever.com. After receiving feedback, we believed it was best to post for all to see.
Over the past few days and weeks, a number of you have asked about various aspects of the progress that EAF is making. A lot of that information has been dispersed through individual conversations, blog posts (here and here), and tweets. However, I wanted to bring all of it under one roof and give you a full update on where we’re at, what the upcoming weeks have in store, and what our ultimate goals are.
This email will be a bit long, but I want to make sure we are covering all of your concerns. If you have a question that isn’t listed here, you can always respond directly to this email, or, feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Why haven’t there been very many orders?
The first thing I want to convey is that we’re still in a beta testing period. A large portion of our time is spent speaking directly with libraries and their developers to deliver them a completely unique experience when we launch in the coming weeks.
The reason for this is we want to give libraries a service that is functional, intuitive, and enjoyable to use. But the technology needed to allow a vast majority (I’d estimate 99%+) of libraries to purchase your ebooks in a sustainable way simply doesn’t exist yet. So we’re creating it.
That being said, each “test” order placed by a library during the beta is treated as a real order when it comes to royalties. On June 19th, we had one of our beta partners - Califa Library Group - test the service and they ordered every single book that had been approved to that point. So it’s likely you’ve already had a small sale.
My account doesn’t show any sales; why can’t I see them?
This is an issue pertaining to the current design of the Payments page within your account and something we’ll be updating shortly. Currently, the Payments page defaults to showing sales from the last 30 days. To see a larger sales period, you’ll need to change the dates within the date-picker at the top right of the table.
Based upon your feedback, we’ll be changing the payments page to show the most recent sales, regardless of when they took place. Further filtering will be added soon.
How many libraries are you working with?
This is a bit difficult to answer, but the estimate I can give you that most accurately reflects the current number is about 10-20. The reason for this is:
- One of our main partners, the Califa Library Group, is actually a state-level consortium. They purchase titles and allow members - of which they have about 200 member libraries in California - to access that shared collection. But this also means that holds are common and this isn’t ideal to ensure that each individual library has access to all of your ebooks.
- In the coming days, we’ll be launching a pilot with a national library association that will start with 5 libraries and quickly expand. They have hundreds of members, and our goal is to be able to access all of them by the end of the year.
- The yearly budgets of other individual partners is being set, and they won’t purchase any materials from any vendors until that is finished.
Although this is a bit vague, due to the pilot program, this number will be increasing rapidly.
There are over 100,000 libraries in the US and Canada. That’s our longterm goal. To make your ebooks available at every single place where books are loaned to patrons. In order to do that, we have to invent a way for all of them to be able to integrate with us. Those libraries need to see what they can buy before they start buying. Which is why we’re building our collection concurrently with building the infrastructure needed to sell the collection.
Why does this seem to be taking so long?
It goes back to the point above about how the technology needed to solve this problem (getting indies into libraries) simply didn’t exist. Some may argue that Overdrive & Smashwords allows indies into libraries - technically that’s true - but it doesn’t actually solve any of the library’s needs. Plus, most of you aren’t on Smashwords for a number of reasons.
If you look at the home page of eBooksAreForever.com, you’ll see that the current splash header is “eBook Acquisitions Made Easy” instead of something specific to getting indies into libraries. The reason for that is simple: when we started talking to libraries 12 months ago, their indie acquisition process looked like this:
- First, they had to have the ability to self-host the ebook files they were trying to purchase. Immediately, this eliminates 99% of the market.
- If they had that technology in place, they had to reach out to publishers or authors directly, negotiate pricing, negotiate access rights and DRM, sign contracts, setup the publisher/author as a vendor (sometimes this meant having them register with the county or state), and go through a number of other hurdles just to be able to purchase ebooks.
- Then, “purchasing” required the publisher to submit large spreadsheets of metadata (some publishers didn’t even have this), which the library had to convert into usable files within their setups. After that, they had to setup FTP accounts on both ends for the publisher to send over all of the files and the library had to manually check (or create unique scripts each time) them against the metadata files to make sure nothing was missing.
It wasn’t uncommon for this to take weeks. Some publishers just gave up in the middle of the process.
Now, here’s how this works on EAF:
- A library visits the Shop page, clicks the banner at the top to “Add Collection” to their cart, fills in their billing information and assigns a PO number (this is automated on all purchases after the first time).
- They submit payment by company credit card, or by direct deposit.
- We compile their order on the fly and provide a link within the order page to download all of the files.
All of the metadata is converted to library compliant ONIX 3.0 on the fly. All of the book file names and cover images are matched for easy injection. The library simply needs to drop all of the files onto their system and import the ONIX metadata file.
When the Califa Library Group placed an order for 1,122 ebooks, the entire order process took about 5 minutes. We’ve done test orders that took less than 60 seconds. So EAF has taken a process that took 4 weeks and reduced it to about 4 clicks.
And once the patron apps are available on iOS and Android, the process will be even easier because there will be no ONIX file - or any files for that matter - to deal with. Everything will automatically show up within the apps AND within the library’s ILS.
Can authors start contacting libraries about EAF yet?
We love that so many of you want to get out there and tell libraries about eBooksAreForever and indie authors in general. It’s great to hear. And, by all means, please don’t hesitate to bring us up if you’re talking to libraries.
However, the 99% of libraries we referenced above won’t be able to act yet, regardless of how much you make us sound amazing.
Because of that, we are advising authors to remain in a holding pattern for a while longer, until we launch.
When will you fully “launch”? What will that look like?
The plan is for it to look like a bonanza of awesomeness.
We launch when the apps are available for patrons. The day those apps are downloadable on the app stores, then we’ll immediately gain access to the other 99% of libraries that we don’t have access to now. Our app development is almost complete and we’ll begin user testing soon.
We’re already working on a number of really exciting programs that we’ll release to you around the time the apps are set to launch. Essentially, we want to make it extremely easy for you to reach out to libraries and have them purchase your ebooks.
If Step 1 was making the acquisition process easy for libraries, then Step 2 is making it easy for authors and libraries to speak the same language, and Step 3 is connecting library readers with your work. There’s an opportunity to build a thriving indie library marketplace, and we want to help make that happen.
Our goal is to get your ebooks into every library in the US and Canada, then quickly start working on the UK, Ireland, and Australia, as well as other international markets.
I’ll update you more on these programs in the coming days and week.
Again, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to let me know.
Thanks for being a part of this with us.
P.S. - The best way to stay updated on any urgent news, updates, or system status reports, is to follow EAF on Twitter. It’s the first place we’ll alert when changes are made.