Monday, March 4, 2013

Library Request Exchange: An update

By T.W. Fendley

In January, we launched the "Library Request Exchange" on The Writers' Lens (see link at the top of the right sidebar). Here's how it works:

  1. We exchange book info: Author, Title, Publisher, ISBN, genre/subject
  2. Then you put in a request at your local library for my book, and I put in a request at mine for your book.
Simple, right?

Well, I quickly discovered there's a learning curve...why am I not surprised?! Two quick lessons I wanted to pass along are:
  • Authors/publishers must take steps to make their books library-accessible through services like OverDrive or Library Direct.
  • Print providers and ebook providers aren't necessarily the same, so it may be good to submit a patron purchase request for both.
I decided to submit my first requests from the Library Request Exchange only for ebooks. That's what worked for my book, ZERO TIME, and I was a bit leery about requesting too much because I know libraries have limited budgets. What I learned was that print books are handled through a different department (with a different budget/book provider), so perhaps there was no advantage to submitting only the ebook request. I've since requested the print books, too. I've got my fingers crossed.

Of the four ebook requests I submitted, three were "not available" on OverDrive, the ebook database St. Louis County library uses. (I haven't yet heard about the fourth book). The librarian explained that "not available" means the publisher or author hasn't licensed that ebook to libraries for lending.

According to OverDrive's website, the digital marketplace contains over 1 million downloadable titles from more than 1,000 publishers. Their download service for libraries provides ebook, audiobook, and other digital content to millions of library users. As a reader, I LOVE the OverDrive app. It's my preferred way to listen to audiobooks (using a little gadget that allows me to connect the iPhone to my car speakers)--much more convenient than CDs. One of the reasons I signed with my publisher, L&L Dreamspell, was because they distribute to OverDrive. 

But what if you want your book in libraries and you're self-published or your publisher doesn't yet distribute to OverDrive? Ripley Patton shared this excellent blog post from Behind the Lines that talks about how OverDrive works (or doesn't, as the case may be) for indie authors. It looks like you need at least five titles to become listed. That info was from a couple of years ago, though, so perhaps the situation has changed.

Another author listed in the Library Request Exchange said she's never heard of OverDrive; her books are licensed through Library Direct.

When I searched for "Library Direct," I found Smashwords began distributing to them last year. In an Aug. 8, 2012, post on, Mark Coker said Smashword's library pricing option allows authors and publishers to control library pricing. He believes that gives indie authors a strategic advantage over traditionally published authors whose books are "handcuffed by the library-unfriendly policies of the large publishers. The ultra-competitive pricing will also allow libraries to stretch their limited budgets while at the same time enabling them to acquire large collections of indie ebooks."

Smashwords authors also can have their copyrighted books listed at Open Library, DRM'd, for one checkout at a time. Checkouts expire after two weeks. It can only be checked out by one person at a time. To check out a book, a reader must register for an account with Open Library. (See more)

Anyway, I'll keep you posted on how the Library Request Exchange is going. Don't be shy-- list a book that you'd like to see available at libraries. I was interested to see Library Journal's Patron Profiles service, in conjunction with Bowker, stated "50% of all library users go on to purchase books by authors they first discovered at the library..." Yay, libraries!

And if you know how other indie authors/publishers sell to libraries, please leave a comment and let us know!

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