Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Ebooks For Libraries

Joe sez: I recently got an interesting email from a library in Texas.

In short, they're setting up their own internal check-out system for ebooks, and are seeking to buy ebooks directly from authors and publishers.

I asked if they wouldn't mind doing a guest blog discussing some of the issues libraries are now facing with the rising popularity of ebooks. They graciously replied, and here it is...


Mike and Linda: Thanks to Joe for giving us a chance to talk to you about libraries and eBooks!  We’re Michael Saperstein and Linda Stevens, librarians from Harris County Public Library, a large public library system in Houston, Texas.  Please grab the beverage of your choice and find a comfy chair, because we’ve tried to summarize, but this might take a minute.

First, if you haven’t been to the public library in a while, it has changed quite a bit.  Rather than being on shush patrol, you’ll find librarians teaching eReader classes, performing storytimes and early literacy activities, helping jobseekers, playing video games with teens…you get the picture.  Then there’s the books – paper, audio or electronic, we buy them, we promote them, and we connect them with readers, in person and online.

Now for the issues:


Accessibility

Libraries are not able to purchase all of the eBooks we would like to purchase due to publisher and author concerns about copyright protection in the digital format.  Only two of the big six publishers will sell eBooks to libraries, and those pricing models either limit us to a low number of checkouts or charge us more than twice the retail price for a book.  Very few picture books are available for us to purchase, even though small children are a large part of our customer base and we often use digital books in storytimes.  With adult fiction titles, we can’t always offer complete series because of format availability or publisher restrictions.  Some publishers would even like to implement a plan that would force people to come to the library to check out eBooks, rather than being able to do it online, which kind of defeats the purpose.  Librarians are also making the adjustment to focus on providing access for our customers through leasing or subscription, rather than only owning items to be a permanent part of a collection.


Better Public Experience 

Because of the way we have to purchase electronic content, our customers often have to jump back and forth online through multiple access points, instead of simply finding a book and clicking to check it out.  This can make the borrowing experience quite confusing and complex.  Then add the confusion about which formats match which devices.  We’re not just providing materials for one type of device, our customers use Kindles and Nooks and iPads and cell phones and devices we probably haven’t heard of yet.  We are constantly learning about all of these devices because we are now free tech support for the public.  Our customers show up with their new eReader in a box, and we teach them how to use it.


Collection Decisions

Public libraries have always selected print books based on professional reviews and public demand.  This doesn’t always work with eBooks.  With eBooks, we have to focus on availability and public interest.  We are also rethinking our relationship with self-publishing.  Many libraries, such as ours, are now looking for ways to purchase eBooks directly from authors and independent publishers.  Keep in mind that this is all in a time of reduced funding and we’re trying to build a huge, new, popular digital collection while maintaining a popular and relevant print collection.


Library Benefits 

So what does the library have to offer?  Book borrowing habits are changing, mainly because of eBooks.  People are more open to impulse browsing and discovery of new authors and titles and the library provides the collection and staff to aid them in this discovery.  Once they’ve discovered a new favorite, the quest for reading gratification leads to backlist purchases.  (We speak from personal experience on this.)  Libraries can never afford to purchase in sufficient quantities to discourage sales.  We don’t just house a collection in our buildings or on our websites; we actively promote reading and books, no matter the format.
We’ve probably told you more than you ever wanted to know about libraries and eBooks, but please feel free to contact either of us for more information. We can be reached at http://www.hcpl.net/.


Joe sez: I like libraries. I like librarians. I like innovation.

So I sat down and had a think, and then called up my frequent collaborator Blake Crouch and bounced some ideas off of him.

This is what we came up with.

Blake and I are willing to sell our entire ebook catalog to the Harris County Public Library, and to any other libraries that are interested, under these terms:


1. Ebooks are $3.99

2. No DRM.

3. The library only needs to buy one ebook of a title, and then they can make as many copies as they need for all of their patrons and all of their branches.

4. The library owns the rights to use that ebook forever.

5. The library can use it an any format they need; mobi, epub, pdf, lit, etc. And when new formats arise, they're’re free to convert it to the new format.

In short, the library buys one copy, and never has to buy it again.

Now I'll take questions. I'm sure they'll be a few.

Q: Joe, that's insane! You're only charging $3.99 an ebook? That ebook can be read thousands of times!

A: Good. I hope it is.

Q: And they can make copies!? Shouldn't you at least make them buy multiple copies of each ebook?

A: Why? Ebooks cost nothing to copy and distribute. Once a library purchases a copy, it should be able to make as many copies as its branches and partons need. How cool would it be if you never had to wait for a book at the library because had already been checked out? My ebooks will always be available, all the time.

Q: But you're losing sales!

A: No I'm not. They bought a copy. They can do what they want with it. And my hope is because I don't have restrictions, and keep my costs low, the library will continue to buy my new ebooks as I release them. There are a lot of libraries in the US, and a lot more globally. If I sell every library one of my ebooks for $3.99, that's a nice amount of money.

Q: Don't you think your sales will suffer if readers can get all of your ebooks at the library, for free?

A: No. Readers can already get my paper books at the library, and that hasn't seemed to hurt my paper sales.

Q: But ebooks are different! People can check-out one of your ebooks online! They don't even have to visit the library to do it!

A: Though there is overlap, it's my guess that library patrons and people browsing Amazon for ebooks are two different types of readers. In a global marketplace, I don't expect to ever run out of readers. In fact, if a lot of libraries purchase my ebooks, I may become more well-known with readers, which could increase sales.

Q: But what about piracy!

A: As I've said many times, I'm okay with file sharing. That's why none of my self-pubbed ebooks have DRM. There's no fighting piracy. But you can still make a nice living by making your work easily available and affordable.

Q: But what happens when some new ebook device comes out with a new format? You're missing your chance to sell your books to the same library.

A: If they already bought one of my ebooks, they should be able to do what they want with it, including converting it to new formats.

Personally, I find it reprehensible that publishers put restrictions on ebooks, especially for libraries.

Q: But no one else is doing this! If you do this, you'll drag everyone else down with you! You'll ruin the library market for publishers and their authors!

A: Actually, what I'm doing is forcing publishers to be competitive. Why should libraries be punished with high prices and restrictions? Why should people who can't afford books be punished?

I like libraries. I like librarians. They deserve a break.

Q: I'm a librarian, and we want to do something similar. How do we get started?

A: It is my understanding that Harris County is one of the first libraries doing this. Get in touch with them, and  I'm sure they can offer advice.

Then email me for instructions on how to buy my ebooks and Blake's. We're working on creating a simple contract and purchase order.

Also, please spread the word and tell other libraries what we're doing. The more libraries that do this, the more authors who will join in and do the same thing Blake and I are doing.

I'd love to be the first author to sell directly to libraries. And I have a feeling I won't be the last.

107 comments:

tyhutchinson said...

Nice move. You're always a step ahead.

Grey Gecko Press said...

I'd be interested to get contact info for Mike and Linda, since, as a Houston-based publisher, I've been trying to talk to HCPL for nearly a year about getting our books on their shelves.

Any chance you can get them to post their emails? Or a contact number?

Christy said...

Joe, I would love to participate in this. I have quite a few books that have done well on Amazon and B&N, and I would be happy to offer the same terms. Let us know how it goes, seriously. I'd love to get a copy of that contract and use it for my own titles.

I love libraries, too!

Joe Konrath said...

I didn't put their emails in the blog post because of spambots.

Michael Saperstein, Multimedia Selection Librarian michael_saperstein@hcpl.net

Linda Stevens, Coordinator of Marketing and Programming linda_stevens@hcpl.net

Tim Barger said...

Spectacular idea. Libraries have fed my imagination since I was six and I could only look at the giant cartoon annuals on the bottom shelf. I'm a writer and also a digital publisher for other authors. I'll contact them and offer my entire catalog for the face value of each title. Thanks for jump starting this initiative.

Randy Morris said...

Joe, what are your thoughts on distribution to libraries through smashwords? Do you do it there as well? Has it been successful? I'm guessing most authors won't have much data on this topic yet as its a fairly new concept. I agree that library readers and ebook purchasers are probably two different crowds without a ton of overlap so at least it's good for exposure and free publicity.

Inara Everett said...

I am a major fan of library ebooks and I absolutely agree with your post.

Here are some of the great things about library ebooks: you can sign them out at 2 a.m. (which is often when I want to read one!); no overdue fines - the book is deleted on its due date; you can't lose them (particularly good for kids and teens - I speak as a mom of three here).

On a number of occasions I have been ready to buy a bestseller with a whopping price tag, then decided to see if it was available at the library - and there it was (requiring a hold, but I can live with that). Amazing!

Altho I may not have bought that particular book, if I like it I may give it as a gift and will recommend it to others. More readers, even through library loans, can only be good for writers! I can personally attest to the fact that I now spend way more money on books than I ever did before, because of the easy availability of ebooks. I may read them at the library but that triggers the purchase of other books.

Currently, the selection of library ebooks is far too limited. I want MORE!

Thanks for your great post Joe!

Zach said...

This is great. The world is for sure changing. I'll give them a ring and offer up my books also

Sara Rosett said...

So true about how librarians aren't on "shush" patrol anymore!

Personally, I've found getting ebooks from the library a frustrating experience for the reasons listed here--more portals, long waits, etc. Glad to see librarians are working on out of the box solutions.

Joe, I think you're right about different demographics using the library vs buying books online or at a bookstore.

Chris said...

My wife and I were just talking about options to get stuff into the local library- as usual, you're already out there doing it!

Is this a common trend in libraries wanting to do this? Or is this one way ahead of the fold?

Mark Anderson Smith said...

Joe, nice one! Generosity breeds generosity...

Davieboy said...

That's a great post Joe and I hope you'll do well out of your generosity.
I must say I first found your work online but enjoyed it so much that I have subsequently happily paid good money to both Amazon and Audible(hey, where's the next Timecaster?) for your work and have spread the word about you here in the UK.
More power to you!

ryllina said...

Books (especially ebooks) by big publishers are so damn expensive these days I HAD to get a library card. I currently read 2-5 library books a week as well as several Kindle books.

Great post!


Karen Cantwell said...

Great idea! I'd do this in a heart beat - our public libraries deserve the support.

Jude Hardin said...

This is cool, but why even charge $3.99? Why not just give the books to them?

Bill said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Monica Shaughnessy said...

Joe, you made my day.

HCPL is MY library system. As soon as I get a few ebooks up and running, I'm going to contact them.

I wonder if they would host author events?

David L. Shutter said...

Joe

Love this idea on many levels, wish you two the best with it.

Here was my next thought; start a library sales page, operating under the aforementioned terms and conditions, with open participation to other indie writers.

I have hard time believing that Mike and Linda's situation is unique in trying to bring e-books to their patrons. Especially considering how the Big 6 has regarded one of the prime institution that helps develop their future customers.

Not unlike your individual sales page, it can cater to the library market and allow sales to them on a national scale. New writers can have a small buy-in to support the operating costs, or adjust the price pt. to make it self sufficient. Even if writers had to pay an initial support fee, that's not at all unlike the half dozen other bills you have to foot for an indie release.

Libraries get a growing pool of affordable, trouble free e-books and patrons get more e-book choices.

Indie writers all talk to each other...librarians all talk to each other. Think about it.

Some people will probably hate your idea (most likely just because you came up with it) but my two big takeaways are this: You're selling e-books and growing your readership.

Isn't that what so many writers are doing free promo's and e-marketing there asses off for?

Mark Asher said...

It might not be as easy to sell to individual libraries as you would like. Here in St. Louis many of the municipality libraries share one ebook collection. So instead of selling to a dozen you'd be selling to one system.

Essentially, for all of St. Louis I think you'd have the consortium I mentioned above, the city library, and the county library system for a potential of three sales of each title.

Jude Hardin said...

Another commenter answered my question, but then deleted his comment. With over 100K libraries across the U.S., there's a lot of money to be made at $3.99 per book.

Donnie Overby said...

Awesome! Keep us posted on the library's efforts and your own experience.

KellyHitchcock said...

I volunteer at my local branch library, and the waiting list for digital (ebook and audiobook) titles is sometimes hundreds of people long, but publishers don't want to sell us more licenses because they're worried about revenue. Does this seem ironic and stupid to anyone else?

Author said...

I have no problem making all my books directly available to libraries for cheap. However, I don't see how libraries can handle the task of processing thousands of POs with indie publishers and authors. OverDrive may be limited in selection but the central accounting is a time and money saver for libraries looking for ebooks.

Anonymous said...

Once again Joe, you get right to the heart of the matter; no game playing! I think it's incredible what the big 6 are doing to libraries - making them jump through hoops to meet customers' needs. It's ridiculous that a library may pay more for an eBook copy than a hard back. I actually feel BAD loaning a library book because I know it'll cost them... thanks for bringing the issue to the top, and for your generous offers to libraries. I'm sending your blog post to my local librarian!

Robert Burton Robinson said...

Joe, wasn't Amazon supposed to be working out some kind of a deal with libraries? What happened with that?

Marta Szemik said...

What a great initiative! I'd love to be part of this. I'm guessing Mike and Linda will be getting quite a few emails :)

Beth said...

@Author Libraries already process thousands of POs, so that part isn't the issue. The biggest issue is they need to come up with the funds to get a system like this off the ground, which at its most basic will be over $10,000 (since that's the price of the Adobe Content Server, for those who aren't as adventurous as Joe and still want DRM). With things like this, and the Smashwords program, the money saved on resources translates to so much more freedom in staff time, and purchasing more resources. I am so excited about the idea of $3.99 ebooks, over the $80 ones Random House is selling them to us for.

Veronica - Eloheim said...

I've read HUNDREDS of library books (at least). I never could have afforded to purchase all of the books I've checked out although I have bought back list books from authors I have found at the library.

I would love for my titles to be available in libraries.

I really, really would.

Thanks Joe,
Veronica

Adam Geen said...

Awesome! I'd be more than happy to throw my hat in the ring as well!

Gonna have to look into this further.

Brian Rush said...

GOOD FOR YOU, Joe (and your buddy too).

One interesting point arising from all this that I haven't seen raised yet is that the Big 6 publishers are shooting themselves in their collective asses AGAIN. By trying to restrict access to eBooks, by trying to hold back the tide, all they're accomplishing is to create opportunities for others to profit from their obtuseness.

Joe, there are distributors who offer self-published and small-publisher-published eBooks for libraries and I'm signed up with at least one of them but haven't paid the matter a lot of attention (my bad). How is what you're doing here directly (which, again, I applaud) different from what they do?

Joe Konrath said...

Joe, there are distributors who offer self-published and small-publisher-published eBooks for libraries

They restrict what libraries can do with ebooks. My way has no restrictions.

Veronica - Eloheim said...

A friend of mine lives in Texas and I just asked him if this is his library system. It's not, but it's close by.

He sent me this link: http://www.hcpl.net/form/digital-title-purchase-suggestion

It says This form is for the use of library internet customers only and is not intended as a marketing tool for authors, publishers or materials vendors. Authors or companies should send reviews, pricing and contact information to the Materials Selection

So we shouldn't submit to that page. However, it got me thinking. I wonder if other library systems have a similar page for their patrons.

I have a lot of folks following my work around the country. If they asked their local libraries to buy my books then it might actually happen!

I still wonder if the libraries buy directly from indies???

Lots of ~thoughts today! ;)
V

Razzberry Jam said...

Wow, this is fabulous! Please keep us updated, I'm working on several projects right now and just helped my niece self-publish her first book (OK, technically her second, because it's a total rewrite and reworking of the first book). I would LOVE to have libraries lending out my future e-books, just like they lent out my first two books.

Stella Baker said...

Thrilled to see this. I've been a librarian for 100 years (well, not quite) and am an indie author (one novel out a year ago, another ready for release in Sept.) Overdrive does offer administrative support but the cost of ebooks from the Big 2 (since the others won't even play)is so outrageous. Also, there's a significant lag time between paper release and ebook release, punishing ebook customers. I hope HCPL's new model takes off; it's a great idea. One question: if one sells their ebooks directly to a library, does that violate KDP terms? I do make money every month on Kindle lends, and I can't afford to lose that. Anyone know?

Bryan Chapel said...

"Only two of the big six publishers will sell eBooks to libraries, and those pricing models either limit us to a low number of checkouts or charge us more than twice the retail price for a book."

My local library here in little Roscoe, IL put this issue on the front page of their newsletter a couple of months ago, and urged the community to write letters and call publishers to sound off on their horrible practices, and to let them know that people are being informed and taking note. They even went as far as calling out the offending publishers and providing their full contact information.

Brick and mortar bookstores going under because they didn't adapt and evolve with a changing market is one thing, but we need our libraries. Publishers need to wake up, but can they?

Linda S said...

It's been great reading all of your comments! Here are a couple of responses from Mike. If you have contacted us directly, we might not be in touch today, but we will be in touch. Thanks!

@Randy Morris
We have contacted Smashwords ourselves. I am not 100% sure that the first library to purchase their bundle has them live yet, so I agree that the data on this may be limited at this time.

@ Chris
Douglas County Library is the pioneer in purchasing directly from publishers. They were the first. I can think of two or three other systems who are trying this. Not all libraries will be able to do this as there are costs involved. We need a server to house the titles as well as Adobe Content server to handle the DRM. Douglas County has been great in providing resources for other libraries who want to do this, but it will still be hard for smaller libraries to do this. It helps when smaller libraries can form consortiums and pool resources. Some are going about it that way. It is becoming more and more talked about, though.

@Jude Hardin
The idea of giving the titles to libraries for free is a nice thought and we would never refuse it if offered, but we want authors to get their fair share for their work. We want authors to thrive and be paid for their work and we are not looking to take money from their pockets.

@ Author
We are hoping that others like Smashwords start to sell to libraries so that we do not have to handle the countless PO’s. And you hit the nail on the head for one main aspect of what we are attempting. While not all libraries follow the same purchasing rules, we need to be able to do Purchase Orders. We’re excited about the possibility of working with Smashwords in the future and hope to see other companies do the same.
We have had much success purchasing through Overdrive, and we will continue to do so, but it also has its negatives. First and foremost, we lose control of the material. Titles also generally cost more through Overdrive than they would purchasing from the authors or publishers directly.

Author said...

"We are hoping that others like Smashwords start to sell to libraries so that we do not have to handle the countless PO’s. And you hit the nail on the head for one main aspect of what we are attempting. While not all libraries follow the same purchasing rules, we need to be able to do Purchase Orders. We’re excited about the possibility of working with Smashwords in the future and hope to see other companies do the same."

For logistical reasons, libraries need to purchase from distributors, which is why Baker & Taylor, Ingram and Overdrive exist.

For ebooks, the logical distributor would be Amazon, using a system which would let authors opt into library sales and equally allow libraries to shop at a central location, with Amazon in the middle taking a cut. I'd be shocked if Amazon isn't already studying this fast and hard.

Hope it comes to fruition.

Leonard D. Hilley II said...

Great information! Hope all the other libraries hop aboard, too.

Barry Eisler said...

I'm curious to see how Ewan Morrison will explain that supporting libraries and providing free books to countless readers who can't afford to buy them is bad for culture, society, and All That Is Good. I've tried to figure it out myself, but try as I might, I can't find anything objectionable. It actually seems like a brilliantly simple, win-win idea.

I'm sure I'm missing something, though. Ewan, we need your help!

Glory Gray said...

This is so exciting! I'm anxious to see the results so our libraries up here in Canada can learn from them as well. Kindle does not work for Canadian libraries; they must purchase through Overdrive or Kobo. So the Smashwords possibilities could be exciting.

David L. Shutter said...

Barry

Funny comment. I was wondering where you'd been during all the Morrison & Mieville discussions.

Though, you did have a public debate with Ewan didn't you? Is that posted anywhere?

jnfr said...

I was raised in a very poor and poorly educated family, one which believed girls didn't really need much education. Public libraries saved my life.

Thank you for supporting them, Joe.

Joe Brewster said...

This sounds great. I love libraries.

Sounds like a plan.

Maybe we can coax a socially-minded philanthropist to step up & be the new Andrew Carnegie & fund the necessary digital infrastructure.

That would be nice.

Mike Langlois said...

I'd love to do this as well, using the same terms that Joe is offering.

Any chance to support the library system is a win as far as I'm concerned.

zx81basic said...

This is a very interesting article. I'm a library director in Georgia. I'd like to find out more about this and see if it's something we could do.

Christine Edison said...

Thank you so much for addressing the issue of eBooks and libraries!

I am a librarian and a writer, and your blog has been very insightful on eBook stuff from the writers' points of view.

To answer a question in a previous post, I know of only one eBook provider that has a deal with Amazon, and that's OverDrive. Because of this, Penguin has placed restrictions on their Kindle eBooks so that people have to download them manually, and then only to a registered Kindle, not to a Kindle app.

I am very concerned that libraries continue to be prohibited from purchasing eBooks from publishers. We get eBook questions every day from patrons, and they are very surprised when we tell them we can't get a lot of eBooks for them because of publishers' restrictions. If we can order the titles, the eBooks are often much pricier than the print books. Random House recently tripled their eBook prices to libraries.

Thank you for offering an elegant possible solution, which I will pass along to others at my library for consideration. I hope more writers will follow your lead!

Sincerely,
Christine Edison
Batavia Public Library

Kristi Lea said...

Good for you!

I hope at some point to have enough books to sell that a library will want to buy them :)

I myself am a library patron and a huge buyer of books. I will check a book out of the library and later buy myself a copy if I like it and its more convenient. And I will try authors new from the library and later end up buying their books.

And (this is a biggie), at points in my life I have had NO budget for books. The library is it. There are lots of people in this boat every day for all sorts of reasons, some temporary and some permanent. Just because someone doesn't have a spare $25 laying around doesn't mean they don't deserve to read a book.

It makes me sad that there aren't more children's books available digitally. I buy a ton of books for my kids. And I take them to the library and have to limit how many they check out at a time (seriously, 10 each is more than enough..) I want my kids to read, and even with a good salary I would go broke buying a fresh copy of every book they ever read. And it kills me to realize that there are children out there who don't get the opportunities that mine do because their parents can't shell out as much for books as I do (and there are plenty of people, especially in rural areas, for whom it is impractical to drive to a physical library, so digital ought to be a good thing for them).

I don't write just to make money. I write because I have stories to tell. I publish them because if I don't, then no one else will ever get a chance to read the story. I would love to replace my day job with writing (maybe one of these days I will have enough written to do that). But I don't believe that limiting my readership is the way to succeed.

Sariah Wilson said...

It sounds to me like there is a great opportunity for someone to step in and fill this gap. I'm another author who would be willing to sell my books per Joe's terms to libraries. Libraries need all the support that authors can give them.

Elaine said...

Very cool idea. I'm on board! Besides the Douglas County, Colo, library, the Washington County Library system in Minnesota is doing this as well (http://goodereader.com/blog/e-book-news/usa-library-invites-indie-authors-to-submit-ebooks/?et_mid=576499&rid=234327096).

It would be fantastic if there was a clearinghouse where authors could submit content and libraries could buy it, per Joe's terms.

Kathy said...

Wow! This is great news, Joe. It looks like you've started something here. I heard you speak at Digipalooza last year in Cleveland, and I'm already talking with out systems librarian to see if we can get your e-books into our catalog. I share so many of the frustrations of Michael and Linda from HCPL and your move gives me hope that we might be better able to serve our public.
Thanks so much!

jvin248 said...

Joe, I'd been planning on hitting up the local libraries to carry my books (hometown author angle) and see expanding nation-wide is a good idea.

It takes only two things:
-Content from independent authors.
-Retail-type of order and download system. Add in the EULA. Something like Paypal first and a bank later to cut transaction fees.

The possible sticky thing for the authors is if they are in the Amazon Kindle Select program they will have to wait. If the price is the same here as other channels (such as Amazon) then even if an individual orders from the library system then everyone is still ok.

I actually have a retail web server system I was developing for some automotive parts guys who later changed business plans. It's not too hard to duplicate that system and we could get it running pretty quickly to sell books to libraries.

After I hit my word count tomorrow maybe I can get a demo up and running unless you've got a guy already done with one. Send me an email if interested.

Anonymous said...

Theoretically Joe - what if there was a website that would handle the technical side of things for the libraries (and the POs), provide a database that the library's customers could log in to with their cards and check things out - and with there being literally unlimited copies - what's to prevent people from using that site exclusively? Why would you ever buy another e-book if you had a site that would be easy to use and deliver up whatever book you wanted whenever you wanted it? It wouldn't matter if you're selling your books for $2.99 on Amazon if I can get it for free at another site.

Yes, authors would make an initial amount of money when the libraries first purchased the book (let's be generous and say half the libraries in the country bought it, so you make $200,000 on the book), but from that point on there's no reason for a customer to ever buy another book from you. Do you put ads in the books at that point?

And how would a company like Amazon feel about a site like that? I would think authors with KDP Select would be unable to participate.

I know you've used pirating sites as an example, but those aren't very easy to use and carry all sorts of dangers with malware and viruses.

I don't agree with the way publishers are doing things now with regards to e-books and libraries, but at least some of that wait might encourage someone to buy a book. With no wait, I just don't see the incentive. Do you put ads in the books at that point?

Jill James said...

My ebooks are going to libraries (if they choose to take them) from Smashwords. We shall see.

River said...

I was a public library librarian (35 years)--or at least until last year with budget cuts. I worked as a systems admin for 4 counties but it was frustrating. We were given the word 'no' on everything but plain computers. No Facebook, no Twitter, no blog, no ebooks. We were still adding books on TAPE, for heaven's sake. It may take a generation change to get ebooks up and running in libraries. I like where this is going, esp. as a patron now and self-pub writer (how do you think I'm surviving?).

Such a wonderful, simple idea. I hope it spreads quickly.

Stephanie

J. R. Tomlin said...

I have several books that have done well on Amazon. There are a lot of authors who would love to sell our books to libraries WITHOUT DRM. I would love to participate on those terms.

Grace Brannigan said...

I think it's a great idea. I'm in.

A.Rosaria said...

"Joe, that's insane! You're only charging $3.99 an ebook? That ebook can be read thousands of times!"

Just to offer some alternative viewpoint I'll go with the idea that this is insane.

What if they become so accessible that people will prefer to go to an online library instead of Amazon because it's cheaper or free?

What if one online library gets the largest share of the market and the other libraries start dwindling to a few competitive ones?

What sets this whole business apart from the file sharers profiting from eBooks?

Will this not legitimize file sharing for profit in a way?

asraidevin said...

To A. Rosario, you still have to go the actual physical library to sign up for a library card, so you have to be local and you have to have proof of address. So I can't sign up for a library outside where I live.

Your theory only works if we get all books into all libraries and no one wants to spend money on books at all.

really no one NEEDS to buy books. We could all just start using libraries now and stop buying books, you'd never run out, even if the library stopped buying new books. Now, this method would not get the newest Nora Roberts, Stephen King or J.A Konrath.

Archangel said...

There is PLR already massively in place to compensate authors via library loans, but not in the USA, of course. Nearly all of Europe has a version of PLR. So do Canada and (if I'm not mistaken) Australia and S. Africa. It was lobbied for in the U.S. in the early 1980s, but it didn't a chance w/ the party in power then re budgetary condensing for libraries /personnel shake out which some say is coming again and harshly so as cities look at high costs of aging plants and inefficient plant systems. In certain quarters, some speak of a central non-brick/no mortar outlet as libraries continue to divest of book-books, and some see future as no need for rooms of shelves with nothing on them. Community centers some say will do story hours and other gatherings libraries used to do. There will be a centrally run ebook/recording outfit that will lend books to each town, prob on the PLR model.

The PLR model in the Netherlands, for instance also pays foreign authors for library lends, via The Authors' Registry.

Here's an excerpt from a year ago on PLR: If you're a UK author registered for PLR, you should have received any money due to you for the year 2009/10 this week.
For those who don't know, PLR stands for Public Lending Right. The UK PLR Office distributes money to UK authors based on the number of times their books have been borrowed from public libraries in Britain in the last year.

This year they are paying 6.25 pence per library loan. This money is paid to authors as compensation for their presumed lost royalties on sales.

All UK authors are eligible for PLR (even if they don't currently live in Britain), but you do have to register with the UK PLR Office first. If you're a UK author with at least one published book to your name, therefore, you should sign up immediately to get what is due to you. Non-UK nationals cannot claim from the UK PLR Office, but many other countries (though not the USA as far as I know) have similar in place to compensate writers for library lending. In many countries there are also reciprocal arrangements to compensate non-nationals for lending in the country concerned. In Britain this is co-ordinated by ALCS (the Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society), and UK authors should also register separately with them.


Over the years I have made literally thousands of pounds from PLR payments; in the case of some books I have earned more from PLR than I have in publisher fees or royalties. So it really is well worth taking the few minutes needed to register yourself and your book/s. Otherwise, you really are leaving money on the table.

The admin office of PLR has been transferred to a new office as of 2012.

Archangel said...

6.5 pence depending on exchange rate to US dollars could be about 10 cents. There are 100 pence to a pound

Archangel said...

or less than 10 cents a lend.

Clay Snellgrove said...

the only fault in the idea is letting libraries copy the book, in essence buying 100 or even 1000 copies for the price of one. you are surely not in favor of letting consumers buy and copy your book. an ebook is a copy of the book. if they loan it, than they don't have it until it's returned. This is how libraries should be. otherwise I love the idea of having our books accessible online from libraries. I would love to sell me work to every library out there. http://www.amazon.com/The-Ball-Player-ebook/dp/B007YK2CMI/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1336062119&sr=8-1

Alan Tucker said...

I've donated a print copy of every one of my books to my local library and several school libraries (since I write YA). Hopefully soon one of these models — Smashwords, Joe's, or someone else's — will take hold and we can all enjoy a wider distribution.

I.J.Parker said...

Had some trouble with the robot thing not showing. My well-thought-out long comment was lost.

I'll try again. I cannot afford to support the libraries. Joe cannot prove that libraries don't cancel sales. He has no sales figures from before the time libraries started offering free reading material.

Furthermore, my sales are not like Joe's. We don't write the same sort of book. He may want to be generous because he's still making a good living. I don't. I have fans, but few people buy my books on impulse.

If Amazon Prime can pay me something, I think libraries ought to do the same thing. Mind you, they like my sort of books. They consider them educational. So let them pay. At 5.99 they get a bargain. I work hard on each one.

Joe Konrath said...

you are surely not in favor of letting consumers buy and copy your book.

I have zero problems with copies.

E.C. Belikov said...

Barry Eisler said...
"I'm curious to see how Ewan Morrison will explain that supporting libraries and providing free books to countless readers who can't afford to buy them is bad for culture, society, and All That Is Good."

It's simple, Barry. It would be a blow to rich literary culture because people would be able to read books in libraries that haven't been "approved of" by NY. How else can we know what is worth reading and what isn't?

In all seriousness though, I love this idea. I think libraries should be able to buy eBooks affordably, and let as many people that want them check them out at once.

My only concern (if you'd even call it that) is why not make the contract for a predetermined length of time, like a lease? Maybe something like 5 or 10 years. That way just in case the library/book landscape changes radically you have the opportunity to renegotiate. And if everything remains roughly the same at the end of the contract you could offer an extension for another 5-10 years (or whatever) for $0.00, if you want.

Anonymous said...

I sometimes use inter-library loan to borrow books.

I think because you are placing no conditions on the use of your books by libraries you will soon find that the number of libraries who will buy your ebooks will be small since they can simply loan them to each other to loan to patrons for free. I think this is not a wise business decision.

RJ Lockett said...

For me, giving libraries unlimited e-copies is not a prudent business decision long-term. Once people get wind that they no longer have to go on Amazon or Kobo to buy my ebooks and they can get unlimited copies free, they're going to stop buying my books.

It is my point of view that it would be more prudent to sell libraries limited licenses. For instance, libraries can buy a limited license my ebooks for a one-time purchase of $7.99 for each title. This license would give a particular branch the right to lend my book a maximum of 50 times per month. Beyond 50 lends, the branch would have to purchase an additional license.

P.S. Power said...

I have no problem with the idea of letting libraries have the books for a single price.

If I stop making enough money to live on and do what I want, I can always not let them have the work for a year or so first. I really don't think that will be a huge problem.

Everyone is assuming that people won't par for something that they could get for free, but I don't think that's true all the time. I know that I've paid for things that I already had, just to make sure the artists involved could keep doing the kind of work I wanted to see.

A lot of people are like that.

Even if not, I think of it as an investment in the future. The more people that read regularly, the more individuals we will have that try to think on a regular basis.

Peter Dudley said...

Like many, I'm in favor of your idea. How did you arrive at $3.99?

Also, I'm sure many of us will be curious to figure out how this conflicts with KDP Select, if at all.

Joe Konrath said...

Once people get wind that they no longer have to go on Amazon or Kobo to buy my ebooks and they can get unlimited copies free, they're going to stop buying my books.

I've sold plenty of paper books, even though libraries carry them. Why didn't libraries kill my paper sales?

Kristian Alva said...

Once people get wind that they no longer have to...buy my ebooks and they can get unlimited copies free, they're going to stop buying my books.

I've found exactly the opposite to be true. Sales of my fantasy series started out very slow, but as soon as I uploaded a free copy to Smashwords and got a few thousand downloads, my sales skyrocketed.

A free copy of the first book in the series is still available on Smashwords, and sales remain very brisk.

Clay Snellgrove said...

No doubt free giveaways are an effective marketing tool. But u haven't given all your books out for free forever. We are obviously looking down the road at when everybody reads ebooks and libraries lend them pain free. If we are okay with every library getting a copy of every book for the price of one it will eventually be known by the reading public and hurt sales

Rob Gregory Browne said...

If we are okay with every library getting a copy of every book for the price of one it will eventually be known by the reading public and hurt sales.

I'm sorry, but people have been saying this about libraries for years and I don't think it's made a significant difference in sales for libraries to offer free books.

People act as if this is something new. The only thing new about it is the fact that we're talking digital copies rather than paper copies.

I spent my life in libraries borrowing books. And you know what? I DISCOVERED a lot of great writers whose books I know regularly buy because I want to have a copy for myself and not have to return it in a couple weeks.

Tim Tresslar said...

It's an interesting thought, Joe. And it seems like there'd be some money to be made, too. The American Library Association has 65,000 members, not all of them libraries. (That membership includes librarians and other organizations. But let's say there are 50,000 library systems in the country and half of those take you up on that deal. 25,000 books at 3.99 is about $97,500. Then if these libraries decide to buy multiple copies of your books, something that would cost them next to nothing, that amount doubles, triples, quadruples. (I know these figures are rough. Sue me.)
The library system hasn't spent $20 yet, but it has Joe Konrath novels for all its branches and any patrons who want them with no waiting. You put a few bucks in your pocket and get lots of exposure, which is good and could lead to sales, and they get practically unlimited books for a minimal investment. Am I on the right track here?

Clay Snellgrove said...

I'm all for selling the libraries an ebook and letting them check it out forever. I just disagree with letting them loan it to 1000 people at the same time. Treat it like a book is all I meant.

Joe Konrath said...

If we are okay with every library getting a copy of every book for the price of one it will eventually be known by the reading public and hurt sales

I live near one of the biggest libraries in the state. I haven't checked out a single ebook there, but I've bought hundreds of ebooks.

Sorry, I just don't think libraries hurt sales.

Joe Konrath said...

Am I on the right track here?

They don't need to buy multiple copies. They can make copies for free.

But let's say every new ebook I write sells earns me $50k from libraries, and I do four a year. Plus I have a backlist of 40.

I could make a nice living just selling to US libraries. Eventually the UK, Canada, and Australia will join in. And as I get my titles translated into other languages, so will the rest of the world.

A single $3.99 sale to every library in the world is a very large amount of money. I wouldn't even need to sell to individual readers.

But I think I'd actually sell to more readers than I am now, because I'd have more fans.

Tim Tresslar said...

Right, by 'multiple copies' I meant multiple titles, sorry. I think it's a great idea. You get to make some dough, do something good for libraries, gain new readers. Plus you open up a whole new market for yourself with little or no cost. I don't see a downside.

Alan Spade said...

I don't think you have told us about the timing. When you have finished a book, do you release the ebook for libraries as soon as you release them on your site and on others like Amazon or do you wait a few months or a year for novelties before releasing them to libraries ?

What we are beginning to see with libraries in the US is similar to what happened recently in France with distribution for physical books with Amazon : Createspace has recently allowed french authors to distribute physical books on Amazon.fr (before, I had to pay 90€ a year for my physical books to be visible in Amazon.fr and in booksellers database, and there was no description with Amazon).

I think the ebooks are making self-pub authors more credible in France with Amazon (and there was also the question of investment and deploying the prints), and that is good for paper books.

See where I'm coming ? If libraries are interested with your ebooks, Joe, why not propose them also paper books ? Perhaps it's to soon for that.

But I've been thinking about deals like an ebook free for a paper book sold to a library, or discounts for multiple paper books (bundle).

I'm pretty sure the libraries will have to make more supple their order system in the future, if they want to stay with a majority of readers.

wannabuy said...

@Brian Rush: "One interesting point arising from all this that I haven't seen raised yet is that the Big 6 publishers are shooting themselves in their collective asses AGAIN. By trying to restrict access to eBooks, by trying to hold back the tide, all they're accomplishing is to create opportunities for others to profit from their obtuseness."

May I rephrase? The publishers are missing the young emerging readers who do not yet have the funds to buy all the books they want but will instead be given an ereader (say grandma) and start reading.

I became a fan of dozens of authors prior to age 14 off of library books. My parents let me read *anything*, even books they *strongly* disliked. Joe could be building a lifelong fan base off of this move.

Fans that will one day have the funds to buy. If not... Joe will figure out product placements in his e-books.

Lightsaber

Eric said...

It seems to me (I'm a retired academic librarian with a young adult librarian daughter and an author wife) that there is a real opportunity here for small publishers. How about a deal that the publisher sells his/her entire line of books for 3.99 or 4.99, whatever, as a package deal to a library without any restrictions as you lay it out. The librarian would obviously be pushing those books and it would be a great way to publicize the entire line.

Sariah Wilson said...

I'm sorry, but people have been saying this about libraries for years and I don't think it's made a significant difference in sales for libraries to offer free books.

I'm on the side of libraries. I feel the same way that you do; I've discovered some of my favorite authors there.

But the difference here I think is that libraries have a limited stock. Currently I'm number 246 out of 532 patrons waiting to check out one of the 42 copies of "Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn. I have to wait. If I read it and love it, then yes, I'm probably going to want to read more. And I may not want to wait in another long line to get the next one and will go and buy it instead (which has certainly happened to me before).

With Joe's model, there's no waiting ever again. If I want to read "Gone Girl," I simply log on to my computer, get on my library's website, and it's mine. Ditto for any other book of any other type forever.

What incentive is there to buy a book when with a click of the mouse I can have a free copy of whatever book I want?

If that's the model indie authors and the libraries convert over to, then I think we'd probably need to start assessing things like, do we sell it on Amazon for one or two years first, and then give it to the library to give away for free forever? Do we start using book product placement?

It's one thing to do it now while the Big 6 are still in play and we can't really get in to libraries. But it sounds like it could all change really fast.

Julie Glover said...

Living in the Houston area and having a Harris County Library card myself, I'm thrilled to hear that they are on the cutting edge of this. It is ridiculous how few ebooks and self-pubbed books are available at libraries. That's definitely an area that needs to be developed. Thanks for the info!

Mike Saperstein said...

As others have previously mentioned, libraries have been around for a while and we have not hurt book sales. People have always been able to come to us and get free access to books, yet they still purchase more than they get from the library. Libraries help to foster a love of reading and I personally believe that libraries are a large part of the word of mouth sales. Libraries have never been out to hurt sales of the author and we never will.

In order to read the eBooks in our system, you need a physical library card and to get that you need to stop by one of our branches. The titles that are checked out, whether they have unlimited circulation or not, will expire on devices. This is something that will happen for each eBook we circulate so that the system stays uniform and alleviates confusion.

Each individual author or publisher we purchase from will tell US how they want their titles to be handled. Do you want unlimited circulation? One copy to circulate for each copy we purchase? If you want to wait a certain amount of time for your eBook to be on the market before you sell to us, that is your decision as well. In other words, only sell the title how your comfortable doing it. We expect this to be done on an individual level for each author or publisher.

There are also road blocks that libraries have to overcome in order to do this. This is NOT something that every library can do overnight nor will it be this decade. Not all libraries even offer eBooks yet. The cost to get a system like this up and running has an expense to it on the part of libraries and for some systems, it is too high at this time.

Also, until a vendor wants to sell to libraries in a way they can host the eBooks on their own servers, going to each author and publisher to see if they will sell to us is the only option we have. Smashwords is ahead of the curve on this in that they do have a bundle deal that libraries can purchase, but choosing and purchasing individual titles is optimal so we can be more selective with our limited budgets. Hopefully this will happen soon!

I also wanted to say that if you contacted us by Friday August 31, you should have received a form letter to know we will be contacting you back shorty. If you did not get something from me and sent something by Friday, please let me know as I might not have gotten it.

Thanks all!

Anonymous said...

What a great post and discussion to stumble upon. I don't know the background of many of the contributors, but I am wondering if the the thinking of the primary author or either of the librarians has been shaped by Richard Stallman's "copyleft" notions and his aversion to DRM. I just found out about Stallman earlier this week, and the idea of allowing libraries to produce infinite copies of an ebook sounds like something he would support.

Or maybe this doesn't go far enough for Stallman's taste. I don't know enough about the subject, but in any case it seems like this is an attempt to share literature by writers who are more concerned about reaching readers than earning every possible penny.

Sasha said...

Sorry that this is completely off-topic but wondering if reviews and sockpuppetry could be the topic of a future blog post, Joe?

Don't know if this story has made it overseas but it was even on TV in the UK today:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/booknews/9515593/RJ-Ellory-detected-crime-writer-who-faked-his-own-glowing-reviews.html

I think it has implications for all authors.

Alan Spade said...

@Sasha : exactly what I said on the other topic : all the authors does not believe ebooks are a zero sum game.

I don't want to debate it here because it's not the subject of this post, but for me this is not a case of self-published versus published authors.

Just one thing : back in 19th century, Balzac explained us in his novel Illusions Perdues (Lost illusions) that in order to generate the buzz about a book, you had to be friend with two jornalists in two newspapers : one who praised the book and the other who destroyed it. Each articles would further the controversy and generate more sales.

This is not in any way a justification. Just to say treachery and manipulation existed well before Amazon. It is our problem as authors, but may also include publishers acting on the "best interest" of authors.

diƤtplan said...

good post

GEO777 said...

Joe you said,
"A single $3.99 sale to every library in the world is a very large amount of money. I wouldn't even need to sell to individual readers"


You are not saying every library SYSTEM should buy one copy and make copies but every library in each library system --correct?

example:
Here in Toronto, the public library has exactly 99 branches throughout this city of 5 million+ people. Taking your single copy of $3.99 that would be 3.99 X 99 = $395.01. Then the Toronto library system could make as many copies as it needs to for the Toronto patrons (say the author gets really popular and they need 500 copies --they can do it).


Joe, have I understood you correctly?


Because then It would be a great amount of income (and promotion). There are hundreds of library systems but thousands and thousands of individual libraries across the world.


thank you
George

GEO777 said...

Ps I pose this question because sometimes people use 'library' to mean the whole system of a region (Toronto Library) or 'library' to mean each individual branch within that system.

TK Kenyon said...

I think you captured the hysterical tone of naysayers perfectly.

TK Kenyon


TK Kenyon Shelfari
Celiac Maniac
Google +

Anonymous said...

Looks like the best way to create a buzz about your book is write fake reviews on Amazon.

Anyone see this scandal brewing? Some famous Kindle authors named here:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/suwcharmananderson/2012/08/28/fake-reviews-amazons-rotten-core/

Anonymous said...

New York Times is also covering the fake reviews on Amazon story:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/26/business/book-reviewers-for-hire-meet-a-demand-for-online-raves.html?_r=1


Christy said...

Joe, just read this on ABC news:

Bestselling author RJ Ellroy has been caught faking 5-star reviews for his own books, and writing negative reviews on the books of other authors.

He admitted after the evidence was posted online.

I know that every author loves reading glowing reviews of their own works, but slamming other authors with sockpuppet accounts? REALLY?

Patrice Fitzgerald said...

Funny. Just got back from 17 days in Hawaii with a lot of relaxing time... I was thinking about how to get my presidential campaign-themed novel (now also in paperback) fast attention -- because this is the season -- and I realized that I could simply give a copy to libraries. Count me in as a supporter of the movement to get indie books into libraries for full and free distribution.

P.S. Power said...

I'm pro library all the way. Even if it doesn't make me money.

As to the problem of people writing fake reviews...

Is there anything to discuss? No one thinks it's great and attacking others work is horrible and should be stopped.

Building up your own work is less damaging to my mind. Fake, but well, if it makes a person feel better, then fine. I can't be bothered to care about that.

Anonymous said...

Christy said:

"Joe, just read this on ABC news:"

Be good to know if Joe had heard of this way of promoting ebooks and how widespread he thinks it is. Don't remember Joe discussing this. New topic?

David L. Shutter said...

On a quasi-related note because Blake is in on the Library deal; am I the only one that didn't hear a word about PINES before it released?

Am I the only one that noticed it in the all sci-fi top ten? Hit #2 last night and is also featured on the Kindle main page.

PINES was fantastis btw. Best of luck Blake!

Anonymous said...

For licensing, the question of site vs. system is important - I believe one of the posts already discussed independant libraries forming consortiums to help cover the costs of buying/maintaining the servers necessary eBook collections (especially the ones requiring DRM). With consolidation like that occurring, charging per-site seems like a reasonable balance, and also gives some potential for long-term data collection which could benefit the authors: a tour could target specific locations based on volume (especially important for authors of multiple series, so they know what to talk about most), and offers the potential for location tie-ins in future books.

One other model to consider is multiple versions of the same title. Libraries get the "standard" version, while purchasers would get the "enhanced" book. This might include embedded art/music, linked side stories that show up as references/complications in multiple points of the main story, but would normally be ignored as it only indirectly impacts supporting characters. So long as the "standard" version is complete, libraries are fullfilling their function of providing literary access for the entire community, while authors still have the potential to earn a living selling to individuals (even after virtualization and consolidation reduces the US to the Library of Congress as our only remaining library).

Alan Spade said...

Completely off-topic (sorry for that) : for how much time Stephen King's ebook "It" has been priced at 1,24 $ ?

I was as much surprised to see the 1396 pages of this ebook at this price than to see it was only ranked 2487 on Amazon.com (compared to number two of the french Kindle store).

dafaolta said...

As a librarian whose system is wrestling with the idea of ebooks and how to execute getting them into our patrons' "hands" I have to say I love this. I applaud Mike and Linda and their Library for taking the initiative on this idea. It's a necessity when so many big Publishers are limiting how many times an ebook can circulate before we have to buy another "book".

The cost of the Adobe Content Server is an ugly one that might be shared by Libraries and various school systems and Community Colleges and Universities on a city or county level, depending on the area. Public libraries don't have the deep pockets they needto hoist that weight all on their own.

The PLR idea is a good one. There is an organization in the US called the Copyright Clearance Center (CCC) that businesses can subscribe to if they are in the habit of making multiple copies of articles on a regular basis, so it there exists a framework similar to the PLR model described.

I know that people are concerned about the dilution of their sales from Library access to their ebooks, but I think this is misplaced. Ebooks are different than hardcover or paperback books, but don't discount the job Libraries do of getting your books into the hands of people who haven't heard of you and wouldn't find you otherwise. And even if the people who borrow a copy of your ebook from their Library never buy another book from you, don't discount their ability to talk you up to their friends and family.

There is also the fact that, since they have ereaders of some form, they are just as likely to buy more of your stuff because they did like your book. Maybe not immediately, given the economy, but that doesn't mean that they won't ever get to it.

Self Publish Kindle said...

Nice idea! In addition to adding wireless internet to their locations, many libraries have also moved towards lending out eBooks and eReaders inside the library. They have adapted to paperless models and now offer this kind of reading technology to people who might not otherwise be able to afford it. Very interesting.

Heather Teysko said...

Hello there - I'm with a library consortium in California, Califa, that is also setting up our own system. I would love to talk with you about buying your eBooks. Here are some links about our project:

http://bit.ly/x9WLhJ

bit.ly/LBf5SP

http://bit.ly/N0DFz9

Please contact me so we can get it set up. I was trying to get contact information from your website, but for some reason it isn't loading, so I'm hoping this works. Thank you!

Heather Teysko
hteysko@califa.org

Victoria said...

Hi!
I was really inspired by this. BUT the link to the library is not working. There's a new one http://hcpl.lib.overdrive.com/94D388A5-8DF1-4721-956B-80D784CDB74C/10/50/en/Default.htm but it does not have a contact email...:(

Linda Bonney Olin said...

I love the concept, but realistically there is much greater potential for lost sales with non-DRM ebooks than with print books or DRM ebooks.

If a patron borrows a print book or DRM-protected ebook from his local library, when he returns it he no longer possesses it (unless he's crazy enough to spend time and money photocopying it). If he loved it, he might recommend it to his friends, who might buy it. He also might buy a copy of your other books if the library doesn't have a copy immediately available to lend him. So far, so good for the author.

Now, if a patron borrows a non-DRM ebook, she can, for no cost and little effort, make copies for herself and all the friends she recommends it to, so they don't need to buy it. She can offer it to all her Facebook friends, set up a Hey Everybody Look What You Can Get Free website, etc, etc. If she wants to read your other books, why buy them? She can download them free from the library, since there is no wait with unlimited copies.

I suspect the income potential of selling unlimited ebooks to libraries won't be that great, either. Why would all those thousands of libraries spend their limited dollars to buy your non-DRM ebook, if their patrons can use interlibrary loan arrangements to acquire (with no wait) one of the unlimited copies from a library that did buy it?

I love libraries too, and I'm not a money-grubber. I just hope a system can be worked out that doesn't shoot writers in the foot.

Eric Welch said...

You'll note above that I thought this was an opportunity for a small publisher to gain some traction for his material. I managed to broker a deal between a forward thinking publisher of highly regarded young-adult books and my daughter who is director of a middle school library in a suburb of Chicago. For $1000, the publisher gave her school district copies of his entire catalog (over 100 titles) in the three major formats: mobi, epub, and pdf. These were all non-DRM and there were no restrictions on use. They could have unlimited simultaneous uses, and ownership was forever. The school district loaded them on their website (access to students) for download by the students to any device they wanted. This was intended to be a pilot project and my daughter collected all sorts of data that she presented at the October 2013 meeting of ISLMA. What they found was that students loved it, the teachers loved it, it increased sales of paper copies, teachers began using the books in class (extra paper copies were purchased for those students (very few) who did not have devices, and visibility and publicity for the publisher and his authors increased dramatically. There was no evidence of "pirating." It's important to remember that a sale is lost only if the book would have been purchased otherwise. I believe the evidence suggests that the massive downloading that is done of so-called pirated copies is being done by "collectors" simply to prove they can and do not represent a "lost" sale since they never would have bought it anyway.

We are currently trying the same experiment in a public library, but the data is not yet all collected.