If you're an Indie Author in the USA or at least familiar with the American reading culture, you'll know that for many readers, the first stop is not the Kindle Store or any eTailer. The first stop for a book they are uncertain about buying is to go the library and get a copy free of charge, to try before they buy. Most readers, when asked, report that they do actually buy a copy of the book if they enjoyed it enough to ever read it a second time. If they didn't, well, they might try another by that author but they won't spend money on an author's work unless or until they "know" they like it--by free lending from their local library system.
Why am I mentioning this? Because all the way back in 2011, Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords (my eBook distributor) started working on closing deals with various Library Consortium entities and individual Library Systems or Library Associations (e.g., American Library Association or ALA) and a new document was published late last week (on January 11, 2013). Click through to read more about Libraries and how they affect you as a Smashwords Author/Publisher.
Understanding Library Direct at Smashwords
Mark has provided to Smashwords authors the opportunity to be made available--at a price we authors set for ourselves--to any/all of the American libraries with whom Smashwords has closed a deal. These deals were closed under a "Common Understanding" document which is a simple, short and very openly-worded document specifying in clear and simple terms that libraries can choose to buy a copy of an ebook, lend it the way they've always done for paper books (one copy at a time), and the publisher still owns the copyrights. Gee, imagine that!
I really liked the article in Publishers Weekly discussing Mark's deal with the various Library Consortia across the USA. It gives a clear understanding of what's being offered to libraries and praises Mark for doing it. The article also gives a veiled disapproval of how the Overdrive system works--or rather, suffers a massive #FAIL for most of us who've tried to "borrow" a book from a library via Overdrive. Between the DRM and the lack of flexibility in the hardware support, the Overdrive system is stuck in low gear. They need to get it together and catch up because the rest of us are moving "at the speed of the internet" (a saying from the 1990s) not the speed of floppy disks (from the 1980s).
The deal Mark has closed with several Library Consortia is similar to a Creative Commons License for software or other Intellectual Property. Personally, I think it's enough. I don't think libraries are trying to steal books (scoff) and I don't care if library patrons try to steal a copy of MY book--if they want it that badly, I am actually flattered!
Using Library Direct at Smashwords
The Library Direct option is a fantastic way for some of us who aren't all that huge (yet) to get the potential exposure, should a library choose to purchase our book. Even better, with the Smashwords Pricing Manager, we can even choose to make our books free to libraries (and still charge readers). You'll need to be logged into your Publisher/Author account at Smashwords to see the Pricing Manager screen as it is linked off your Dashboard. If you go to the Pricing Manager and scroll down to the bottom of the page, you'll see your books listed and can set the prices as you please. Here's how I have mine set:
As you can see, I've left the price at full price for retail but made the books available free to libraries. If they want to purchase it, they get to own a copy free of charge. It's kind of like giving libraries a coupon code for a free copy that has no expiration date on it. I've done this for both my lone romance novel, Dicky's Story, my Webbiegrrl Writer marketing book and for both of the books under my SciFi Publisher Account. I can't imagine not offering my books for free to the Great American Library System(s).
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