At PubSense In Charleston: Checking Out Indies’ Ebooks With SELF-e

Image - iStockphoto: smirart
Image – iStockphoto: smirart

More Than 17,000 Library Buildings

 You’d think — who wouldn’t? — that libraries were the place to find everything bookish.

The assumption gains new interest with the news that the Cleveland-based OverDrive, leading distributor of ebooks to libraries, has been bought by Tokyo’s Rakuten, which also owns the Canadian ebook retailer Kobo and its self-publishing platform, Kobo Writing Life.

And yet at times, the library market has been a relatively contentious place for the lending of ebooks. And although major publishers now seem to have come to terms with a need to make ebook access available to library patrons, the large subset of independent authors has found little joy among the stacks.

This does not seem to be because of resistance from librarians. Many of them, maybe most of them, might well like to be able to include self-published ebooks in their offerings to patrons, particularly works by local authors. Everyone knows that being supportive of the home team is good business. But no one, least of all harried librarians, has time to try to wade through the mountain of ebooks being heaved onto the market by self-publishing. And most of that pile does need serious sorting.

So it was with special interest that many at Charleston’s Pubsense Summitconference — which closed Tuesday evening (March 24) — heard from representatives of the Library Journal. They were on stage Monday  to talk about a recently activated service called SELF-e., created by Library Journal and the Charleston-based BiblioBoard — a product of BiblioLabs, which is known for developing an app in association with the British Library.

Re-Stacking The Odds: $115 Million On Library Ebooks

Ian Singer of Library Journal. Image: Matthew Suchodolski, provided by PubSense Summit
Ian Singer of Library Journal. Image: Matthew Suchodolski, provided by PubSense Summit
 SELF-e is an answer to the unintentional shut-out of self-published ebooks from many library systems.

And if you’re an independent author — without a publishing house to put some marketing wind at your back — it’s hard to imagine you not being interested in library patrons’ growing fondness for ebooks.

During the course of the hourlong presentation at PubSense, Library Journal’s Ian Singer laid out some tantalizing numbers for the conference audience, citing information from an American Library Association Fact Sheet and Library Journal’s own Material Survey and Budgets Survey of late 2013:

  • Those 17,000 library buildings are operated by 9,700 US library systems.
  • As many as 299.9 million US library system patrons may be out there, representing more than 95 percent of the population.
  • Libraries are reported by Library Journal to spend over $1 billion on books annually, $115 million on ebooks.
  • A library reader, Library Journal’s Ian Singer reported in Charleston, may read, on average, some 29 books each year, as compared to non-library readers who, Library Journal reports, read 11 books on average in the same time frame.
  • Singer told the conference that 73 percent of print readers and 78 percent of ebook library borrowers bought a book in the last six months. They don’t just borrow.

Singer’s  report also included the artfully worded line, “Library acquisition processes and ebook platforms create constraints to demand … but there isdemand.”

That genial term “constraint” probably refers to the “friction” that some publishers prefer you encounter so that ebooks, a form of book they can neither see nor touch, can be controlled in their movements, much as  physical book can be controlled. Some of the measures providing such “friction” might include, for example, sharp limits on how many time an ebook copy can be checked out without having to be bought again.

“How many of you have library cards?” Singer asked the PubSense audience, explaining that Library Journal is an industry trade publication not affiliated with the American Library Association.

Coming as it did after a presentation by several fee-based book review services that charge authors to create reviews of their books, Singer stressed that Library Journal’s position has been that authors shouldn’t have to pay for reviews of their books.

Read More

There’s more: Read the full story at Thought Catalog

By Porter Ander­son

Writing on the Ether: At PubSense In Charleston: Checking Out Indies’ Ebooks With SELF-e

Originally published by Thought Catalog at



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