Thursday, March 26, 2015

Ebooks for Libraries

TL;DR

1.     I want to help authors get their ebooks into libraries.
2.     I want to help libraries acquire indie ebooks.
3.     To do this, I started a business called EAF - EbooksAreForever.com.
4.     I want to sell your ebooks to libraries.

What's going on with libraries and ebooks?

There are 120,000 libraries in the US. These libraries, and their patrons, are eager for popular ebooks. Many libraries have a budget they must spend, or they risk having that budget cut.

Currently, libraries have no allies in the ebook market. They aren't happy with the restrictions and costs of the current leader in supplying libraries with ebook content, Overdrive. Through Overdrive, many publishers charge high prices for ebooks, some higher than $80 a title. They also require yearly license renewals, and may force libraries to re-buy licenses after a certain arbitrary number of borrows.

Just one example of the perils of this approach for Americas libraries is that a library must pay for extensions of time-limited licenses of old ebooks and purchases of licenses for new ones. All kinds of sustainability and predictability issues arise. And thats true even if the budget remains the same, rather than declining, as many have in recent years. It will be harder than ever for libraries to grow their collection, whether the licenses are time-limited or come with limits on the number of times a library can loan a book.

So libraries are spending a fortune and don't even own the content they're spending that fortune on. In many cases, if they stop paying the fees, they lose the content they bought. This has been dubbed "digital decay", and it's a money grab, pure and simple. 

What's going on with indie authors and ebooks?

Some indies are on Overdrive and 3M. I've been on Overdrive for a few years. My last quarterly check was about $60, and I have a large catalog. This is small money, not just for me, but for any writer. And I was fortunate enough to have been invited into Overdrive. Many authors are not.

The vast majority of libraries don't have access to many of the ebooks that readers are seeking. The latest AuthorEarnings.com report showed that 33% of all ebooks sold on Amazon are from indie authors. Libraries are missing out on 1/3 of available titles, because they have no way easy way to acquire them.

Just as important, these are quality titles. People are reading, enjoying, and recommending them. Indie authors are hooking readers, and selling as well as the major publishing houses, but there isn't a way for libraries to offer them to their patrons.

This is unfortunate for patrons, and libraries, and indie authors, who are all missing out.


For the past year, my business partner, August Wainwright, and I have been talking to acquisitions librarians across the country, and they crave an alternative to the status quo. These libraries are looking to buy thousands of ebooks at once in order to best serve their patrons and community.

Their main wish is to be treated fairly - which means they want to own the ebooks they purchase, acquire good content at a reasonable price, and have access to as many copies as they need.

Our solution? Give libraries what they're asking for, and in a way that gives libraries the sustainable purchasing model they deserve. We're striving to offer a large, curated collection of popular ebooks that libraries can easily purchase with just one click.

We currently have just under 1000 ebooks in our collection, with more being added daily.

And we want to include your titles as well.

I'm a writer, and I'm already on a lot of platforms. Why should I sell my ebooks through EAF?

EbooksAreForever distributes to libraries at $7.99 for full length novels, and $3.99-$4.99 for shorter works. We're offering 70% royalties to the author, and the library will have the ability to purchase more copies as needed.

The way this works is that if a library wants to allow 3 patrons to borrow your ebook at any given time, they’d need to have purchased 3 “copies”. Most libraries adhere to a strict hold ratio (usually around 3:1) in order to present patrons with the best user experience possible. Our hope is that by making ebooks both affordable and sustainable, then libraries in response will automatically purchase more copies.

So, if you have a catalog of 10 ebooks that we then distribute to 1000 libraries, you've just earned $56,000 in royalties from making your books available to the library marketplace if they each buy one copy. If your titles are popular, they'll buy more copies and you'll earn more.

I heard about EAF over a year ago. What have you been doing all this time?

Listening and learning. EbooksAreForever.com is trying to serve three groups: Authors & Publishers, Libraries, and Library Patrons.

Each requires special consideration to ensure the best overall experience possible.

Currently, there is no killer app in the library market. Every library, library system, or consortium, has to reinvent the wheel in order to offer ebooks to its patrons. With no standardization in the library market, and the few companies and publishers who offer ebooks to libraries doing so in such a one-sided, money-grabbing manner, libraries have been getting squeezed without getting fair and sustainable value when it comes to content.

We needed to figure out what libraries were looking for, as well as what features authors and publishers would love to see, and how to best provide them with that.

A large part of this involved bringing on multiple partners to help make the EbooksAreForver.com website as robust and useable as possible, while implementing a fully RESTful API.

What's an API and why should I care?

The easiest way to conceptualize what an API does is to think of an interaction between two separate pieces of software without needing a human element.

EbooksAreForever wants libraries who purchase ebooks in our collection to eventually integrate access to those titles in as many places as possible; most importantly, their own ILS (catalog system).

Some libraries have their own custom ILS, others use third-party services of which there are many. You can see here that in Texas, there are about 20 different ILS systems being used. Without an API, we'd have to go one by one to help each library integrate our books into their catalogs. Think copy and pasting times a million. With an API, each service could integrate our catalog by following a simple set of standardized rules.

Another way to think about it would be to look at the connections on the back of a TV. That panel on the TV with all the coax/hdmi/usb/fiber/rca connections are in a way your TV's API. It allows other appliances (Cable boxes, DVD players, video game consoles...) to interact with your TV.

The reason you should care about this is because it allows EAF and our service to act in the exact manner in which libraries desire. One of our goals is to meet the demands of the ReadersFirst organization, which is made up of nearly 300 libraries that represent more than 200 million readers in the US and Canada. These principles, and in turn our API, are about openness and ease of use, all of which provide libraries and their patrons with the best user experience possible.

If all libraries are using various third parties to license overpriced and decaying digital content to them, how does EAF plan to interface with them? Aren't libraries tired of new companies vying for their acquisitions dollars?

What we've been doing the past year is only offering our collection to a few beta testing libraries that use Adobe Content Server. It's an expensive, ongoing cost, and many libraries can't afford it, or won't even bother with it for various reasons.

With the API in place, we can deal directly with libraries, library systems, and consortium, without Adobe—though we can also interface with libraries who prefer to keep Adobe.

I'm not sure I understand…

Having an ebook file isn't enough. Libraries also need ways to catalog ebooks, store ebooks, and provide ebook access to patrons.

EAF has been developing ways to do that, for all libraries, in a way that doesn't fleece them.

Where are you at right now?

We're at the stage where we need more content. Offering a better service to libraries is only part of the equation; we also want to offer them content that no other company can.

Indie content.

We're the only company fully opening up to indie authors, and we're paying the same rate Amazon does.

Right now, we're working with a select group of partner libraries. We've been dealing exclusively with that initial group, but now we’re adding another selection of libraries who will be joining in the next two weeks. They've weighed in and have helped us build the platform they actually want. Our full launch date is tentatively set for later this spring/early summer. When that happens, we'll begin distribution to ALL public libraries, be it individually, whole library systems, and consortium groups, through both our web platform, as well as patron reader apps.

What are these “consortium” you speak of?

A library consortium is really any local, statewide, or regional cooperative group of libraries that provides and helps with the effective coordination of the libraries they count as members. Their main focus is usually built around improving services to the clientele of libraries within the given consortium (group).

When large publishers were faced with the advent of ebooks, instead of trying to come up with viable models that worked in libraries, they applied the same structures that they used for paper. Some say they deliberately crimped libraries. And in much the same way, many large publishers, distributors, and services have refused to adequately work with consortia.

EAF is not among that group. Although we understand the need to come up with different models for different sections of the marketplace, it is our mission to find solutions where others have fallen back on insufficient ways of doing business.

Joe, you're an author. Are you sure you want to give libraries a copy of an ebook that will last forever? Doesn't that put a cap on a title's earning potential?

It may seem that way, but we have future plans. Currently, libraries can buy multiple copies of titles for simultaneous uses.

Soon we plan to offer libraries unlimited uses if they pay slightly more.

That sounds even worse for the author!

Depending on EAF's ability to saturate the library market, it will be a long while before we run out of libraries to distribute content to. An author selling one title to 5000 libraries earns $28k, which is well above the average advance that legacy publishing offers. Sell four titles, and that author is making six figures in a new market that wasn't previously open to them.

It’s important to understand that EAF is intended to be a complimentary service. Much in the same way that it used to be common for translations and foreign sales to be a part of an author's subsidiary earnings, we want library sales to be available to indies. Libraries spend billions of dollars annually acquiring content. But they likely don't have your content.

Yet.

Don't library sales hurt sales on other platforms?

That's a common assumption, but we haven't found any evidence or data to back it up. The library market has always existed, just like the used book market.


The reality is that readers who are loyal to the ebooks available at their local library may have never had a chance of discovering your titles. What we’re talking about here is an entirely new group or readers that has previously been unreachable.

If I sell my titles through eBooksAreForever, do I still own my rights?

Yes. And you can opt out at any time for any reason, though all sales are final. Meaning, if you sell a title to a library, they keep that title.

Can I sell my ebooks for more than the stated price?

During the current beta period, we are keeping all prices for novels set to a pre-established level.

However, as we move out of the beta period and expand our offerings, we will be looking at different pricing structures. It is of great important to us that we create a sustainable platform for both libraries, as well as for publishers & authors.

I’m already distributing my titles on Overdrive. Will selling through EAF affect my account?

Distributing your titles through Overdrive won’t affect your ability to also distribute through eBooksAreForever. However, libraries will most likely not re-purchase titles if they have already licensed them through Overdrive. We are actively working to persuade libraries to purchase titles - and keep them forever - through our service, instead of continually licensing ebooks at higher prices from other services. This would help library budgets go further.

Is exclusivity ever required to join eBooksAreForever?

No exclusivity is ever required.

And, since we’re still in a beta period, our advice would be to continue to distribute through other library specific channels, if you have access to them. As we grow, we believe our pricing model will earn authors far more royalties, even with fewer overall sales, when compared to any of the other market competitors. But even after we demonstrate that to be true, we will still never require exclusivity.

I'm an author. How do I submit my titles to EbooksAreForever? Do you have any requirements?

At this point, EAF provides libraries with vetted content. We want to offer great books by great writers, so we're reviewing works on a case-by-case basis. If you'd like us to consider your books, you can sign up for an Author Account here

We aren't currently accepting erotica, but we will be soon.

If I'm accepted, what next?


I'm an agent who represents indie authors and want to know more.

Contact Joe at joekonrath@comcast.net. We'll set up a call.

I'm a publisher and want to know more.

Contact Joe at joekonrath@comcast.net. We'll set up a call.

On my blog, I've repeatedly called independent ebooks a shadow industry. This shadow industry hasn't been able to effectively mesh with the library industry.

We're working to change that. And we'd like you to join us.


166 comments:

Anonymous said...

If we're exclusive to Amazon, can we still do this?

Lucian

MP McDonald said...

My question is similar to the first one. A few years ago I asked Amazon if if I could donate an ebook to a library and still remain in Select. (can't recall the circumstances) I was told no, that if the book was available on any other platform, I couldn't also have it in Select.

So, if I upload my books to Ebooksareforever, and say a hundred libraries buy my titles. At that point, I have no control over them anymore. I can pull my books so that other libraries can't distribute them, but those 100 are still out there as paid purchases. Does that count as being available? Has anyone checked with Amazon about this?

Currently, I only have a couple of titles in Select, so I'd love to do this with my series, but I don't want to close the door forever on Select because one library out of a thousand bought my book, you know?

The Queen of Fifty Cents said...

As a retired (after 33 years) public librarian as well as an author and publisher I'm extremely interested, but my question is the same. How will this play with Amazon's requirement for exclusivity? I resisted for a long time but my only sales these days are through Amazon Select. Please make this work so we can play too without losing that outlet!

Andy Goldman said...

This is an excellent idea. E-mail sent!

Jason Brant said...

Party on, Joe.

Signed up for an invitation. I love services that make things easier for people.

Shelley said...

but those 100 are still out there as paid purchases. Does that count as being available? Has anyone checked with Amazon about this?

If you had sold books to people through Barnes & Noble who had the book on their Nooks, you wouldn't worry about those past purchases when you put the book in Select. Same difference.

Joshua James said...

Same question, if we're on KDP, can we be a part of this?

Joe Konrath said...

Amazon is aware I'm doing this.

So far, Amazon doesn't seem to care.

Will they care at some point in the future? I've had titles in Overdrive and KDP Select for years and had no issues. Amazon doesn't seem to consider the library market to be competition.

Now Amazon has spiders, or some other programs, searching the Internet for titles that are in KDP Select to make sure they are exclusive and not on Nook or Kobo or iTunes or whatever.

EbooksAreForever is a private site. Its catalog isn't available to the public, unless the person registers. In theory, Amazon's bots can't find the catalog.

Will it become a problem in the future? I hope not. But if it does, I'll address it.

MP McDonald said...

@Shelley, I sure hope that's how it goes, but unlike the person who bought my book on Nook, and only be able to lend it one time, my title through this would be lendable forever through that library--at least, that's how I'm understanding this.

I'm definitely not trying to be a wet blanket, as this sounds like something I might do even if it does count against being in Select--I just want to understand fully before I sign up.

MP McDonald said...

Thanks for replying, Joe. Invitation request sent.

Joe Konrath said...

I'm definitely not trying to be a wet blanket

You're not being a wet blanket. My fears mirror yours. I make about 80% of my income via KDP Select. I don't want to get excluded.

The fact that I feel that way bothers me deeply. I swore I'd never rely on publishers again, because they had too much control over my career. If I start worrying that Amazon will boot me out of Select, I've become Amazon's bitch.

I love Amazon. They've helped me make a lot of money. But I don't ever want to rely solely on Amazon, because then I have no other options.

I've never liked Select exclusivity. but as I've said, I've been in Overdrive for years. There haven't been any problems so far.

That said, KDP Select's rules are pretty clear.

So everyone has to make the call for themselves.

August Wainwright said...

@MP McDonald

I want to jump in here to help clarify this a bit. If you have a title that is NOT in Select and you sell it via B&N, if that same title later goes into Select, it won't matter to Amazon.

It only matters that the book is or isn't actually for sale anymore on B&N - which it can't be under Select terms.

The same thing is true for us at EAF. If we distributed a title to 1 library, or 1000 libraries, and then you wanted to get that book into Select, you would just need to remove the book on our site so it's no longer for sale. Doing this would make you compliant with current Select terms.

So it's not about the end-user having access, it's about where the book is currently for sale. Hope that helps out a bit.

MP McDonald said...

@August,

Thank you for your reply. :)

Nirmala said...

Hi Joe, Are you accepting non-fiction books or is this for fiction?

August Wainwright said...

@Nirmala Non-fiction is coming soon, but for now, it's just fiction.

Nirmala said...

Sorry to hear that, but will join in once you are accepting non-fiction with the 30 books or so that my wife, Gina Lake, and I publish.

Sabrina Chase said...

I wanted to point out a possible source of confusion--your post asks potential contributors to email, but on the "How to Add Your eBooks" page, it asks them to register for an account. If the full system is not yet live it might be a good idea to put one of those yellow cone "temporarily closed for cleaning" things up ;-)

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Passed this on to my local librarian!

Patrice Fitzgerald said...

I am so THRILLED you are doing this, Joe. I'm part of a group of authors that has put out four sci-fi anthologies recently (you may have heard of The Alien Chronicles, which reached #6 on Amazon this week) and I've suggested that we try to sell directly to libraries... but we have only so much time to create new ventures. Thank you, Joe, for taking this on and spending your time, talent, and cash on pushing indie boundaries.

I'm going to put up my books as soon as you'll take them. I don't care if it makes me any more money than I'm already making, and I don't believe it will lower sales. I'm thinking of the kid in middle school just discovering sci-fi who gets turned on to reading, science, or writing because he/she read my stories. There's nothing better than giving your gifts to the world, and damn the profit.

Hurray! What a great idea.

Thanks, Joe!

y1htak said...

I think this is a good idea. I believe it will open up a new audience of buyers. I generally test drive new authors by reading their work at the library first. Then if I really like them I buy their books so I can read the book whenever I want. Also make it easy for potential buyers to buy book possibly through a link in the ebook.

Cathy Pelham said...

This is an innovative idea, and one I'm excited to pursue. My question relates to updates. An author can make corrections to their work and upload the new version to Amazon.com or other book vendors. How do you intend to manage that for libraries owning copies of an older version?

Craig Hansen said...

Joe,

I don't really understand EAF's signup program.

All it did was take my name and email and have me establish a password.

From that, a decision can be made on my book catalog? What about books by other Craig Hansens that are not me, for example?

Suz Korb said...

Oh this is wonderful! I've signed up and I do hope I get in, even though my books aren't exactly high ranking on Amazon!

Anonymous said...

Joe, no erotica is great...but what about other books that include adult content (sex, profanity) since they're not all necesarily erotica?

Leif Smart said...

I know this is probably way too early to ask given where you're at atm, but any plans for libraries in other countries at all?

August Wainwright said...

@Cathy Pelham

There are 2 possible variations on your question:

1. When we don't control the library-to-patron infrastructure - After a library purchases, we give them the necessary files and metadata to easily upload titles to their catalog. If you came back and updated your books at any point after that, we will periodically "push" updates to those files and metadata. It won't be as instantaneous as the sync functionality on Amazon, but your updates will eventually be filtered to the library.

2. When we do control infrastructure - we'll have sync capabilities through patron apps (on iOS and Android) and changes you make will be instant.

August Wainwright said...

@Craig Hansen

Because every account is reviewed on a case-by-case basis, we'll locate your titles one way or another. If there are multiple authors with the same name, we'll reach out to you via email to verify.

But, to your point, we'll also be adding additional form fields during sign up that will help to clear up this issue.

August Wainwright said...

@Leif Smart

Down the road, absolutely.

Cathy Pelham said...

Thanks +August Wainright

Angela Reuss said...

This is amazing! It's a win/win.. and a revolutionary concept for authors, libraries, and patrons!

I'm sure that Ebooksareforever would be completely worth it to any indie author, regardless of running KDP Select promos or not.

I'm in! At least for when you start doing non-fiction anyway. Although I'm looking to write some fiction soon too.

Thanks Joe and August! You guys Rock!

Ron Vitale said...

Joe, this is a great idea. I can't wait to sign up. I do have a question for you:

Are there are restrictions for call to actions in my ebook?

For example, can I have my CTAs at the front and back of the book that drive people to my mailing list or to buy the next book on Amazon, B&N, Kobo, etc.?

Thanks!

Alexis Radcliff said...

Joe, this is brilliant. Kudos to you for trying to get more indie books into libraries. The lack is quite noticeable as someone who uses libraries a lot AND reads a lot of indie books.

I'll be very interested to watch as this evolves.

DaveMich said...

I'm not sure how this might fit into what you're doing, but this is a service my local library offers that my local library offers, and I would like to you be aware of it.

http://enkilibrary.org/

http://califaproducts.blogspot.in/

http://www.thedigitalshift.com/2012/03/ebooks/large-california-consortium-joins-movement-toward-library-ebook-ownership/

John Ellsworth said...

Amazing.
Joe, at one time in my legal career I got burned out and decided to develop websites. So I became Microsoft certified in several areas and worked at such places as Intel and Allstate, developing software and web services, so I know a little about API's. Now I've had the opportunity to upload a few of my books to Ebooksareforever and I can only say WOW. Your website is magnificent.

If the backend for the libraries is as powerful as the backend for authors, you're going to be extremely successful in this, from an acquisition-distribution standpoint.

Kudos, man.

Tom Maddox said...

Congrats on your new venture Joe. It seems like a win/win for libraries and readers.

I understand that you want to keep the perceived value of the service high so you are vetting the books right now.

Does that mean you are now one of the gatekeepers you used to preach against? Deciding what books are worthy?

No skin off my nose as I am not a writer and I don't use the library but it just seemed to conflict with your previous stance regarding gatekeepers.

That said, I really do think it will be a great service.

Joe Konrath said...

Are there are restrictions for call to actions in my ebook?

Nope.

If you're a writer and you aren't including a link in your ebooks to sign up for your newsletter, you're missing the boat IMHO.

Joe Konrath said...

Does that mean you are now one of the gatekeepers you used to preach against? Deciding what books are worthy?

Never!

That's one of August's many jobs. :)

Veronica said...

VERY cool. When non-fiction is opened up, I will be signing up! Thanks Joe for always finding something new to try and giving us the opportunity to join you!

You have been very busy "behind the scenes" this past year with this and the Kindle Worlds project (and who knows what else!) Amazing!

Terrence OBrien said...

I've worked with APIs in the past. Some are easy to implement, and some are a royal pain.

How have the beta libraries fared with the API? Does it require a programmer? Large systems could probably do it easily. How have the smaller libraries done?

Anonymous said...

Joe, this is a great thing you're doing. I was one of those people you guys sent an invitation to join early on but I didn't make any decisions because of the whole Amazon Select issue. I still can't make a decision either way, because 100% of my sales are on Amazon (I'm in Select), but I really do wish you and everyone who is in this all the very best.

One day, when Amazon finally comes out and says they have no problems with it (instead of just doing their "no comment" dance), I'd love to join you guys. But right now, I just have too much invested in Select and can't take the risk. (Goes to show you, being exclusive to any one outlet is a bad, BAD idea, but that's another blog post.)

Thanks again for everything you're doing to help indies get their books out there. You were the reason I self-published instead of looking for an agent or publisher in the first place, and you continue to be a hell of an inspiration.

All the very best to you and EAF and all the indies who sign up. I'm being such a coward, I know, but at the moment I have too much to lose to risk it all.

Good luck everyone, I hope you all make lots of money and get read by lots of people.

Tom Maddox said...

"Never!

That's one of August's many jobs. :)"

Okay, that response made me chuckle.

Ryan Petty said...

I will also join as soon as nonfiction is made eligible. EAF sounds like a great solution to several practical problems.

Like a lot of nonfiction authors, I’ve thought of libraries as a significant (though not easily accessed) market for what I write.

Way to go, Joe & August!

Anonymous said...

I asked Amazon about the Select/Library issue a few days ago. I wanted to put an old book into Select--however, that book had already been bought by a library. I then asked Amazon if it would still be okay for me to enroll it in Select if it wasn't for sale anywhere, and they said THE BOOK COULD NOT BE AVAILABLE ANYWHERE IN DIGITAL FORMAT, WHETHER IT WAS FOR FREE OR FOR SALE. If a book is available in digital format from a library, it is available somewhere in digital format other than Select. Technically, as the language/agreement stands now, from my understanding after re-reading it and emailing Amazon's KDP rep, you cannot put a title into Select if it appears in any library.

Now, is Amazon going to enforce this? So far they haven't, but it could be an issue in the future. I personally wish I'd just put the book into Select after pulling it from retailers without asking, since now that I've already received a very clear NO from Amazon, I definitely can't claim ignorance :) The good news is that the book has sold really well and had tons of reviews, so maybe Joe will accept it into his new library service.

I also hope that Amazon changes this policy or someone can prove me wrong. I mean, I really want to be proved wrong here.

Joe Konrath said...

I then asked Amazon if it would still be okay for me to enroll it in Select if it wasn't for sale anywhere, and they said THE BOOK COULD NOT BE AVAILABLE ANYWHERE IN DIGITAL FORMAT, WHETHER IT WAS FOR FREE OR FOR SALE.

Did you honestly expect a different answer?

I ask forgiveness, not permission. It's a rule I stand by, because I learned it that hard way.

Ryan Petty said...

Q: If libraries stock up on ebooks of a title to meet peak demand, can they later sell ebooks as demand eventually slackens?

Ideally (for authors), they get to own what they buy (vs. a temporary license), but they don’t get to sell of their surplus later. They in essence use it or lose it (as surplus copies remain unused).

Thanks,

Patrice Fitzgerald said...

Accepted, and loading up my books! Thanks, Joe and August!

Corduroy King said...

Does this also apply to the Kindle Worlds Collabs?

Kevin Sivils said...

I look forward to you opening up your venture to include non-fiction authors.

I will be patiently, or not, waiting for time when you do so.

Thanks for helping other authors find ways to access new markets.

Christina E. Pilz said...

Joe, you and your team have done a ton of work on this, so congrats! I'm looking forward to seeing how this breaks down even more walls between writer and reader, from which both will benefit.

I've sent in a request for an invite! Good luck to you and your project.

Craig Hansen said...

Thanks, August.

Craig Hansen said...

Thanks, August.

Alan Spade said...

August, if I understand correctly, libraries work like bookstores in so far as when a library buys an ebook it has to be requested by customers for the investment to be viable.

So, in order to lower the risks, librarians have to order mostly (uniquely?) bestsellers.

Am I wrong there?

As an unknown indie author, I don't want to lose my time using a service that will never order any ebook from me.

So, August, would you advise indie authors to register only after having success?

Have you some objective standards for an author to get a chance to have his ebooks ordered? Like a number of sales? Of reviews? A mix of the two perhaps? A set ranking on Amazon?

I don't want to sound harsh, I have already had some librarians that bought some of my books when on signing sessions, but it has been exceptional.

I like very much libraries, because I discovered Stephen King's books and other great authors there, but let's be honest, I never discovered any indie author in a library (and yes, there already were indie authors before Kindle and Amazon).

Nicole Montgomery said...

Joe - you've been hinting at this for a long time, and now I begin to understand the complexity of implementing it. Holy cow, this is amazing and wonderful. Will there be hiccups? Sure, but it's brilliant, both for indie authors and for the many people who'd never discover wonderful new books any other way. I'm making sure my college's library knows!

August Wainwright said...

@Terrence OBrien

How have the beta libraries fared with the API? Does it require a programmer? Large systems could probably do it easily. How have the smaller libraries done?

The API we're developing is for both internal and external use. We're in the process of running a pilot program with a group that will be entirely interacting through the API (the libraries involved include large metros, as well as small rural).

Beyond library specific integrations, the API will also be used for the patron apps we'll be releasing later this year (iOS, to be followed by Android builds). So libraries without the budget for technical expertise and development work will really be using the API (through the apps) without ever needing to know the details of how it works.

August Wainwright said...

@Ryan Petty

Q: If libraries stock up on ebooks of a title to meet peak demand, can they later sell ebooks as demand eventually slackens?

No. Although they "own" the ebooks, what they actually own is what's known as a perpetual or archival license. It doesn't allow them to sell, it just means they never have to re-license.

Anonymous said...

Joe, I'm glad to learn you will open it up for erotica. How do you define erotica vs erotic romance, or romance with erotic content? Or do you mean any fiction with explicit sexual content?

Anon Author

Sheila Guthrie said...

Oh, I have been hoping for somebody to start a service like this that will be fair to libraries and authors. Awesome!

I have a long-time love affair with libraries, starting about fifty years ago when I first got to check out a book in second grade. I've gotten a library card everywhere I've ever lived (even in USAF basic training!), so you know I'm serious.

I've signed up, but there's no way you'll know what books are mine (unless you can search for the publisher name), so I'll expect an email asking for more info. :D

Iain Rob Wright said...

In regards to KDP Select exclusivity, it will become a moot point if Ebooksareforever makes authors more money than Kindle Unlimited and other Amazon exclusive bonuses.

If that is the case then authors can all come out of KDP Select and just remain in KDP (non exclusively) while making money in other places such as this.

It's sad that currently all the other vendors combined (itunes, Nook, Kobo, etc) can't offer enough sales between them that authors leave Select exclusivity. If sales were healthy through these other vendors then it would be a no brainer to have our books available everywhere.

Simon said...

Joe - thanks for all the info. Now that I've read it all, can you tell me how I get the "Diamonds are forever, forever..." earworm out of my head?

Alan Spade said...

Another thought. Libraries have a fixed budget. Author earnings tells us that indie authors account for 33% of all ebooks sold on Amazon.

What is the current percentage of libraries' budget spent on indie authors titles?

What would be the expected percentage of libraries' budget spent on indie authors titles:

- if all indie bestsellers sign with Ebook Forever?
- if just one third of indie bestsellers sign with Ebook Forever?

Because, as it had been said here, KDP Select is a hurdle, and not all indie bestseller will sign.

I would recommend that the libraries share in full transparency the percentage of budget spent on indie titles.

If that's not the case, I would recommend that authors doing business with Ebooks Forever share their numbers (as we currently do with Authors Earnings).

Because, what's the use to sign if it appears that the budget of a given library for independant authors is just 0,1%?

The question about the standards for an author to get a chance to have his ebooks ordered in a library remains of crucial importance for me.

I refuse to play a game where I cannot know the odds. I don't want my books to act just as moral support for the librarians, just to enable them to say that they are also supporting indie authors.

If my books are to be in the Ebooks are Forever service, I want to get a real chance that they are ordered.

adan said...

Remember visiting your library info site about a year ago. Looks like quite a well thought out plan.

And after my experience with OverDrive via Smashwords, this sounds way WAY better.

All my for-sale work is in Select right now, so will definitely consider for both future work and work who's 90 day commitment is nearing its end.

Will send in invitation request, thanks, Joe (smiles).

Ian Pattinson said...

I have registered. However I also have books out under a pen name. Will I have to register that as well to get it considered, or could I upload those when I get approved?

Also, and apologies if you've answered and I missed it, will you be expanding to other countries and, if so, when do you expect to begin?

Aimless Writer said...

I love libraries! What a great opportunity. I'm concerned about KDP but I'd drop that for getting my books in libraries.
The library has always been my happy place. I'd walk in, take a deep breath and inhale all those books. A playground for the mind.
Great idea, Joe!

adan said...

Nice pitch for KDP and Joe from Lee Goldberg via video https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=832475120166819&set=vb.134796679934670&type=2&theater

Joe Konrath said...

Does this also apply to the Kindle Worlds Collabs?

At this point, no.

Without revealing too much of what we have planned, what makes EAF valuable is the API and business connections we've forged, and shall continue to forge, with libraries.

When we've proven that our concept is viable and making money, and that libraries like it, we intend to expand. Part of that expansion will be offering deals to large publishers to offer their ebooks in our program.

Publishers have pretty much been universally concerned that library sales will plateau, meaning they can never earn more from their titles.

We have a plan that alleviates this concern.

When that plan is in place, we'll extend invites to major publishers--Amazon included--so EAF truly does offer more titles than anyone.

It's a few years away. But it's coming.

Joe Konrath said...

Non fiction is coming.

Erotica is coming.

Patricia said...

Joe and August, this is fabulous. When I spent a day with my friend, Diane Capri, a few months ago she mentioned I should watch for this. I'll be emailing one of my books shortly. Thanks!

Joe Konrath said...

How do you define erotica vs erotic romance, or romance with erotic content?

A great question. Answer: we dunno yet.

If anyone has any ideas, we're all ears.

Joe Konrath said...

If sales were healthy through these other vendors then it would be a no brainer to have our books available everywhere.

There's the Catch 22. Why go to the competition when the market leader treats you well? But if you only support the market leader, there will be no competition.

I don't think it's possible to compete with Amazon. They do so many things right, on such a huge scale.

EAF isn't competition. It's venturing into a market that Amazon doesn't care about.

Joe Konrath said...

libraries work like bookstores in so far as when a library buys an ebook it has to be requested by customers for the investment to be viable.

That's not what we've found. Curation takes a long time, and it's risky. Budgets are being cut, and libraries have to be frugal. They don't want to get stuck with content that patrons don't want.

At the same time, if a company like EAF not only took care of curation, but indexing and cataloging and even supplying the content to the patron, libraries could 1 click an entire collection. They'd be saving their time and money, and serving their patrons.

We don't anticipate libraries going through our catalog, adding one ebook at a time. We expect them to buy certain authors, or genres, or the whole thing, and then to keep buying as we add titles.

Joe Konrath said...

I refuse to play a game where I cannot know the odds.

You play that game every day. It's called life. :)

The only sure thing I've discovered about book sales is that they are impossible to predict. I've got reams of data to support this.

Currently, libraries have no way to buy large numbers of indie ebooks. No way exists. Getting a few indie titles through Overdrive, Smashwords, or 3M, or being stuck with Adobe Content Server, is so much unlike the way libraries have always bought content that it's hard to even draw a comparison.

A better comparison is a tech one. Apple didn't know the market for the iPad until the invented it. There were no odds. Only guesswork.

Ipad was a huge success, and ushered in an era of tablet PCs. But Apple also had Lisa, Newton, Pippin, the G4 Cube, and a host of other failures.

There are no guarantees.

Dee Willis said...

Great idea Joe... As long as there is no issue with the KDP, I'm all for contributing. I will be submitting my eBook.

Alan Spade said...

"The only sure thing I've discovered about book sales is that they are impossible to predict."

I agree with you. I cannot predict with 100% certainty whether I will have sales or no tomorrow, and if I guess a number of sales, the odds increase that I'll be wrong.

But I can predict with 100% certainty that there will be independent (by indies, I mean) sales tomorrow on Amazon. I can't guess how many but I know there will be sales. Why? Statistics.

I realize that my reaction is epidermic: I don't like that one subjective Gatekeeper decides how many indies will have orders.

And because money rules the world, I'd like to get an idea of the budget devoted to indie authors. Not to a given indie author but to the whole indie community in a given library.

Why? Because, even if I, personnally, will never be assured that my books are ordered by the librarian, I would like to know the librarian's level of involvement toward my peers.

Are we treated with respect or just like an afterthought? That's what is at stake for me here.

Allowing indie authors to be logged in a public system involving libraries is a step in the right direction. Kudos for you and Augustus. I would like this step to have measurable consequences for my peers.

In this matter, the admirable goodwill that you, Joe, proved, will not suffice if librarians are not convinced that there is a real demand by readers to have indie titles in their libraries. Ways of thinking are always hard to change.

Terrence OBrien said...

I refuse to play a game where I cannot know the odds

If odds in a market became known, that knowledge would immediately change them.

We can know the odds in games when those games are very simple. That's because odds can be fixed in a simple game. But as the game becomes more complex, and there is no limit on what payers can do, the odds become unknown.

If I roll the dice, we know the odds of rolling a nine because the outcomes are so limited. But If I hit the KDP upload button, the odds of selling 1,000 books in the first year are unknown because there are millions of players all using different rules.

And that's why it's so much fun.

Terrence OBrien said...

Are we treated with respect or just like an afterthought? That's what is at stake for me here.

God Bless afterthoughts, for they generate wire transfers.

Anonymous said...

I'd love to know do you see yourself in competition with Self-e (Library Journal's beta testing, vetted content module - which doesn't pay the writers).

Thanks.

Joe Konrath said...

Why? Statistics.

Read Predictably Irrational and Drunkard's Walk. They'll cure your statistic reliance fast.

You can guess there will be sales on Amazon tomorrow. You could bet with good odds there will. But you don't know for sure until it happens. All you need is one black swan...



As I said upthread, Alan, Apple didn't know the demand for tablets because they hadn't existed. They create a market.

That's what we're doing. Libraries have no budget for indie books, because they have no way to buy them and offer them to patrons. Same as how, in 1970, libraries had no budgets for videocassette movies.

librarians are not convinced that there is a real demand by readers to have indie titles in their libraries.

Librarians are well aware of the importance and demand of ebooks. They're waiting for two things:

1. Some sort of standardization. If this involves curation, all the better.

2. Someone to treat them fairly.

More libraries would offer more ebooks if they could. Right now they can't.

Or perhaps the libraries we've been in touch with aren't representative of the entire group. In which case I've got a nifty tax write off.

Anonymous said...

Two competitive shoe companies each sent a representative to an undeveloped country to see if there was a new market to tap. One of the reps came back and said, "Forget it. Nobody there wears shoes." The other came back and said, "The place is a goldmine! Nobody there has shoes yet."

Anonymous said...

Is your submission format Mobi or Epub or either? Thanks, this is a great idea for authors and the public.

Iain Rob Wright said...

Both epub and mobi are required. Calibre is a free app to anyone unaware of how to create their own epub and mobi files.

Alan Spade said...

"I refuse to play a game where I cannot know the odds

If odds in a market became known, that knowledge would immediately change them."

It depends. For decades, the odds for independant authors to sell through libraries were known, and it didn't change anything: there were zero chance for an independant author to sell through libraries.

Remember the time when a traditionally published author named Joe Konrath sent 7000 letters to libraries? Even him, who was trad published and successful, got very poor results with this. So, imagine what were the odds at the same time for an indie author...

The odds were pretty well known, and it didn't change anything.

This is not to say that they can't be a market for indie authors in libraries.

My point is that I don't want that Ebooks Forever be an empty shell.

A few years ago, there was a guy making comments on this blog whose pseudonym was Wannabuy. He liked very much indie books and defended them.

I would love to have a librarian named Wannabuy. Joe says that we have to create the structure to allow these librarians to emerge.

But the indie market exists since a few years. It would already have economic sense for librarians to buy indie books since 2010 or 2011.

Yet I don't see any librarians proclaiming their love of indie books here or anywhere else. I don't see any librarian congratulating Joe for his initiative in this section of his blog.

I hope that Joe is right and that creating the structure will be enough. But I won't hold my breath.

Anonymous said...


As 99% of self-published ebooks are poorly executed (terrible spelling, grammar, punctuation, formatting, etc.), how on earth are you and your colleagues going to sort through the "shit volcano" of titles in order to offer libraries high-quality products while maintaining your sanity?

(see Chuck Wendig’s blog post: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2014/02/03/slushy-glut-slog-why-the-self-publishing-shit-volcano-is-a-problem/)

Anonymous said...

Hey Anonymous above,

2009 called -- they want their moron-meme back.

Don't you worry your precious little head about Chuckie Wendig's little pants-peeing tantrum -- at the time, he was just worried that his "legit" published books were getting spanked too badly by all the indies outselling him.

Steven M. Moore said...

I'll react to two comments that concern me: (1) epub and mobi files are required? Are these both produced when formatting exclusively for Amazon? I pay for formatting so I don't know the answer. I can always check with her, but I don't receive epub or mobi files for any of my ebooks. I guess she'd have to provide them, with additional cost to me. (I pay for this service because she does it well, and I'll have more time to write).
(2) "I don't see any libraries proclaim their love for indie books here or anywhere else." I think that happens a lot. While some libraries are interested when I offer free pbooks for their collections, I haven't come across one yet that really pushes indie. Local bookstores can be even more snooty. To continue the statistics discussion, Joe, maybe your sample of libraries is biased.
r/Steve

Joe Konrath said...

2009 called -- they want their moron-meme back.

LOL. Yeah, Wendig is just plain wrong.

I've addressed this many, many times.

http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2011/07/tsunami-of-crap.html

Joe Konrath said...

Yet I don't see any librarians proclaiming their love of indie books here or anywhere else.

When I began self-pubbing in 2009, and stopped pursuing legacy pub deals, I was considered an outlier. No one was proclaiming love of indie books back then.

In 2015, we're 33% of Amazon sales. We're legitimized. I'm not an outlier. I'm one of the crowd.

Readers didn't know they wanted indie books until Amazon gave them the opportunity to read them.

The libraries we've talked to--and there have been many--want good content at fair prices.

Readers want indie titles. That's already been shown. A company needs to step up to offer these titles to libraries. That's what we're doing here.

It's fine that you don't see it. I do.

Alan Spade said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alan Spade said...

"Readers want indie titles. That's already been shown. A company needs to step up to offer these titles to libraries. That's what we're doing here.

It's fine that you don't see it. I do."

I hope that you are right, Joe. On the economic and business standpoint, you are right. What indies are fighting against is a form of dogmatism (and perhaps also networks of influence). I hope that reason will prevail.

Ripley King said...

Joe has more to worry about than Wendig's rant. What he has to worry about are the authors that game the ratings war. It's a war where money talks, and everybody else just hopes for the best.

Like or not, it's just too easy to game ratings. He needs to read each selection, period, or risk looking like a fucking moron.

Anonymous said...

You must find it real comforting, Ripley, to believe that any indie who has garnered a few hundred reviews must be "gaming the ratings war," whatever the hell you imagine that means. Or that those indies are throwing money around, because "money talks."

But maybe... just maybe... it's because readers are actually discovering, reading and recommending those indie books?

Ponder that shit. Contemplate it. It's deep.

And then go write another of your whiny-ass blog posts about how big ole meany Joe is just "another bullshit gatekeeper."

Doofus.

Patrice Fitzgerald said...

This whole idea of gaming the rating system is highly exaggerated. A couple of years ago a few people paid for reviews, leaving those who are anti-indie shouting about this being a widespread phenomenon. I don't know anybody who does that--or ever did--and I know a LOT of indie authors.

I suppose if you consider asking for reviews from people who've enjoyed your books to be "gaming the system," then sure, many indie writers do that.

Much ado about nothing.

Ripley King said...

I stand by every word I said. Like it or not, the truth hurts. The "trade reviews circle-jerk" exists whether you like it or not. Buy rating, sure, happens all the time. Trash other authors because you don't like what they said? Rate them low because you don't agree with a comment? Happens more often than you think. Retaliation posts anyone?

I'm saying anyone who pretends to be a gatekeeper damn well better know how the game is played. Each and every single book should be vetted, or Joe risks looking like a damn moron. His name is attached to this whether August does the actual vetting or not. His name is on the line. Not mine. Not yours.

And no indie should ever suffer a gatekeeper. Period. That's my opinion, used to be Joe's opinion, and too many here agreed with him, over and over.

Makes me wonder what happened.

Anonymous said...

Project much?

Nobody owes you, or any writer, access to an audience, Ripley. You have to earn it, one reader at a time.

Man- or woman- up a little -- you're going to "suffer" gatekeepers, whether you want to or not.

Nowadays, most of us indies call them readers.

Ripley King said...

My post in full:

More Bullshit Gatekeeping

The one thing I've always liked about being an indie author, letting the readers decide for themselves what makes a good book. Readers get to be the sole gatekeepers of literature, and not the agents or publishers, or other businesses who take it upon themselves to decide what books you can read based on their potentially biased criteria, and what books you don't get to read.

Joe Konrath just launched ebooksareforever.com A service for indies that want to see their e-books in public libraries. The idea is to give public libraries a fair price for a book ($7.99 for full length novels), and ($3.99-$4.99 for shorter works), offering 70% royalties to the author. Sounds great, right?

Hold on, Indie Author, you have to vetted. You must have sold a 1000 ebooks, and have gathered 100 reviews (on your entire backlist), and even then it's not a sure thing. You still must be vetted.

100 five-star reviews? Are the reviews themselves actually vetted? You can tell by reading the review if the person actually read the book, and cared enough about the story to write a review and tell others what they found. That's a given.

100 reviews total, and just look at the averages? Is that just on Amazon, or everywhere? The Kindle Boards goes a little more in-depth with this discussion.

In two and a half years I've managed to gain 29 reviews. If you look at them as a whole, and average them out, I'm probably a solid four-star author with a margin of talent, or close enough to that to make me smile. But, like so many of us out there, we're left sucking hind tit. Again.

Joe Konrath said...

More on this topic on Kboards, which goes into some different aspects of curation.

http://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,211661.0.html

Curation is a very important aspect of EAF that makes it valuable to libraries.

Imagine being a buyer for a large library, with a $50k budget to spend on ebooks. Imagine you could buy them from Amazon.

What would you buy?

Let's say you buy all the bestselling authors that you already know about; what next?

Do you begin to look at rankings? Customer reviews? Genre bestseller lists?

You're looking for ebooks that your patrons will borrow. What would happen if you bought 5000 ebooks last year, and 12 months later 1000 of those ebooks you bought haven't been checked out even once?

Creating a catalog for EAF isn't easy. We're curating so libraries don't have to. Rather than buy titles one at a time, libraries can buy thousands of titles with one click. We're saving them a lot of time, and a lot of money.

But we have to make sure the content the libraries are buying is going to be used by their patrons.

If an ebook has only a single Amazon review, and it is ranked 900,000, including it in the EAF catalog means we're running the risk of selling the library a book their patrons won't ever borrow. If we have hundreds (or thousands) of titles that patrons don't borrow, the library will stop buying our catalog.

It means we'll no doubt miss out on some great books in the beginning. That's unfortunate. August and I are discussing ways to work with authors who may not have a lot of sales yet, because we know we're going to miss out on some future hit.

However, look at it from our perspective. We're only potentially valuable to libraries if we serve those libraries' patrons. If a patron used the EAF app to download ebooks from our catalog, tries five titles, and can't get through any of them because they aren't good, that patron will stop borrowing our titles because they no longer trust us, and libraries will stop buying our catalog.

This isn't an open playing field like Amazon, where consumers choose what to buy and are picky. To a library patron, all ebooks are free. Patrons will likely assume, if the library bought it, that the book is good. But if it isn't good, and neither are the next few that patrons tries, our company won't be in business for long.

Imagine you own a buffet restaurant. To stay in business you'll need to offer customers dishes they'll eat. If you serve something that no one eats, you wasted money, plus you risk customers not coming back because they didn't like your selection.

It may be okay if you have four or five dishes out of fifty that customers don't care for. But what if 1/3 to 1/2 of your dishes aren't ever touched? How long will you stay in business?

EAF wants to connect authors and readers through libraries. But to do that, we need to have libraries trust our curated catalog, and show them that their patrons like our titles.

That means vetting, and saying no to some people.

At first.

In the future, we'll have a system in place where libraries can buy our catalog risk-free, and where authors can earn money forever. All authors, not vetting.

But first we have to take our baby steps, make some inroads, and get into the black.

Joe Konrath said...

And no indie should ever suffer a gatekeeper.

That's just silly. And it has never been my opinion.

If you don't want to be vetted, don't submit your titles. No one is forcing you.

And no one is stopping you from starting your own business and selling to libraries the way you believe is best.

Do you think you can come up with a business plan where libraries buy your entire catalog if every author that submits will automatically get their book into your catalog?

Do you think you can come up with a way to read a catalog of thousands of books objectively?

If so, do it. I wish you much success.

Anonymous said...

Poor Ripley appears to be confusing indie publishing with a religious crusade of some sort.

It's a business. Sure, one where you wake up sometimes with a goofy grin already plastered onto your face, staring at the ceiling with wide-eyed wonder, amazed all over again that people actually pay you to make shit up.

But still... a business.

Joe Konrath said...

Poor Ripley appears to be confusing indie publishing with a religious crusade of some sort.

Publishing isn't an ideology.

We all have goals. I've been very active and vocal in informing authors about how self-pubbing has advantages over legacy publishing, and how legacy publishing tends to screw the majority of authors.

But this is business, not good vs. evil. Though I could point to instances where the legacy industry certainly behaved badly to the point where "evil" was an apt description, it still remains the only way to get widespread paper distribution, and huge advances. If it works for you, good for you.

For me, I value having some control over my career, and I doubt I'll ever work with a legacy publisher again. This isn't sour grapes on my part because I was rejected. Being rejected is what allowed me to make as much money as I have. It's simply a business decision.

Amazon was wise to have an open platform. It allowed readers to much more choice.

But readers aren't EAF's customers. Libraries are our customers. They don't want endless choice that will take them weeks to sift through, in order to find books for their patrons. They prefer curated content that has a high likelihood of being enjoyed by their patrons.

That means we have to be gatekeepers at first, or our business won't work.

Again, not evil, just business. But eventually, we will open up to more authors. Once we implement the second part of our plan.

There is money to be made. For all. Libraries, and their patrons, will benefit, as will writers.

But that will take some time.

Joe Konrath said...

Any indie can add their ebooks to Smashwords and opt-in to the Overdrive distribution channel. Doing this will allow any library that purchases from Overdrive to purchase your titles via Smashwords. So if you want to make sure you aren't being vetted, then you can achieve that via Smashwords/Overdrive.

But therein is the Catch 22. If you aren't already a name author, what is the chance of a library buying your book? What is the chance they'll even find it?

Libraries are able to one-click buy EAF's entire catalog. This is an entirely different way to buy. And it requires an entirely different way to sell.

Corduroy King said...

Nice Joe. I hope you guys select my titles. I look forward to working with you.

Alan Spade said...

I'm very grateful for Ripley's intervention, because she has established what I was not able to: there's a vetting process.

My question about standards was all about that, but it had not been answered.

Sorry Joe, but there's a lack of transparency in the original post (I didn't know about the KB post. My second book in English is released tomorrow and I just had time to go quickly to KB to announce the release there).

I understand the vetting behind the process. I was sure from the beginning that librarians prefer successful or highly successful books, because this is how they work.

Of course, as an indie I hate being vetted by anyone but by the readers, but I still would have submitted my book if it had a chance to be on the catalog.

Remember what I was saying about odds? Now I know for sure my book (only 26 reviews and in the ranking depths) would never stand a chance and that I would have lost my time trying to get it there.

I'm not bitter, I'm pragmatic. If my book had been reviewed more than a hundred time and had been on the top 1000, I would have attempted EAF, PROVIDED I knew for sure these were the requirements.

I'm already using Overdrive, and I never sold one ebook there, so I had a hint of the odds before starting this conversation.

Alan Spade said...

Ive started a new thread on KBoards: "what is your local library's budget for indie authors?"

http://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,211852.0.html

I've had one response for the moment, and it is zero dollars.

I also suggest authors to share their numbers of ebooks sold to libraries on the thread or on their blogs.

It would also be great if Author Earnings could study this, and compare the money made by a trad pub author in libraries vs an indie author's, and also the raw numbers of books trad published in libraries vs indie published.

Joe's initiative is great, but if we could inform our readers that the money they spend on taxes going to libraries is practically only devoted to trad pub books and ebooks, and that this doesn't reflect EXACTLY, for instance the indie market share of the first retailer in the world, maybe things would advance a little bit in the right direction.

Matt J said...

Joe, one issue I haven't seen addressed yet is the inevitable push-back from libraries (which I'm sure you have already been dealing with at least a little bit) who want their indie book purchases to come with MARC-ready Unicode files which can be uploaded into their ILS systems. Cataloging the ebooks is a lot of extra work for libraries with smaller staffs and smaller budgets. If you are considering contracting out some of the cataloging for your indie titles, I would be happy to help out there, as I am a Cataloging Librarian with extensive experience. There are services which do this very thing as well (Cassidy comes to mind), but everything comes with a higher price there, and OCLC (the Google of MARC metadata) most likely won't work with you (although I could be wrong). Anyway, just a thought, since I'm wondering if this has become an issue yet.

Steven M. Moore said...

Joe,
After reading most of the comments here and checking out "the fine print" at the EAF website, it's pretty clear that EAF has nothing to offer for many indie writers. Thanks for creating yet another exclusive club!
I'll elaborate on this in a blog post, I'm sure.
r/Steve

August Wainwright said...

@Matt J

We supply each library who purchases with validated ONIX 3.0 files containing the necessary metadata to create proper MARC records.

We've had a lot of help from libraries to get this correct, and have done multiple ONIX to MARC crosswalk scenarios.

You're correct that dealing with each individual ILS is very important and we're working towards making that process as smooth as it can possibly be.

Matt J said...

Thanks, August. Just a note that we use the MARCEdit program (which is free) here at UNH, and it is great for creating different crosswalk scenarios and XML-compliant MARC metadata. Cheers!

Sandra Hutchison said...

There's a lot here, so maybe I missed it, but have you had any thoughts on this program's relationship with (or differences from) Library Journal's SELF-e program?

August Wainwright said...

@Sandra Hutchison

The largest different between EAF and SELF-e is that SELF-e does not pay royalties to authors and publishers. It's not a platform for authors to leverage their rights.

SELF-e appears (from what I understand) to offer two overall paths: 1. Curated module(s) that can be purchased by libraries through a service called BiblioBoard, or, 2. If you're not accepted to #1, you can add/donate your ebooks to state level lists. So, for instance, a library in Arizona can find self-published authors in the same state.

Again, I'm not 100% positive here, but I question why libraries have to pay for modules of curated content, but self-published authors who were accepted get no royalties from that transaction.

On the other hand, I absolutely see the value in allowing libraries in a certain geographic region - be it state or local - to highlight books from self-published authors of those communities. This is something we've discussed with librarians as well.

Quite a few people have expressed that they just want to get their books in libraries, and would rather they be free than go through a vetting process. If that's true, than SELF-e and the state level lists are a great option. We also intend to add geo-based discovery/purchasing features to EAF as well.

But EAF is focused on making authors royalties. If libraries see value for their patrons in content provided by indie authors, then those authors deserve to be compensated fairly. And I've yet to speak with a library professional that disagrees with that sentiment.

Joe Konrath said...

@Alan - What was your budget for personal computers in 1973?

Wait... you didn't have one? Perhaps because personal computers didn't exist in 1973?

Asking libraries to come up with some imaginary budget for a market they don't have adequate access to is shortsighted at best, ignorant at worst.

3M and Overdrive aren't giving libraries what they want. Even with Smashwords syncing with Overdrive, how are libraries supposed to know what to purchase, other than Hugh Howey and HM Ward?

We've been in constant contact with libraries for over a year. They have large ebook budgets. They're wasting them on licenses where they pay out the ass and don't own the content.

Libraries want good, curated, affordable, indexed content. Whether it is indie or not isn't important. Anyone paying attention knows how much market share indies have grabbed.

If libraries aren't aware of it, it is because they haven't been informed.

We'll inform them.

Joe Konrath said...

Ive started a new thread on KBoards: "what is your local library's budget for indie authors?"

That's like asking a reader, "What is your budget for indie authors?"

Readers have a budget for ebooks. Indie or not is irrelevant. They want good, affordable stuff to read. They could give a damn who publishes it.

Libraries also have a budget for ebooks. But they're getting screwed by those who supply the ebooks.

EAF is a way for libraries to acquire ebooks without getting screwed.

Offering indie ebooks means we can offer content that the library owns, and likely doesn't already have, inexpensively without paying extra for licenses (either per title or for software).

You're just not asking the right questions, Alan. Because you haven't talked to dozens of librarians; especially those at the forefront of this tech revolution.

But it isn't my job to convince you of anything. The libraries know what they want.

Wayne McDonald said...

I'm not sure I understand the anger. There's tons of gatekeepers around including Amazon(Selena Kitt has blogged a lot on that) already.

Still anyone can submit to Overdrive through Smashwords. So... no one is loosing anything but some might get something and that makes it bad?

Corduroy King said...

Wow I havde to admit it Joe you really started something cool here. In the immortal words of Elwood P Dowd - 'An argument in any conversation is a good thing. It means that everyone is participating and no one's left out.' Keep up the good work Joe, August!

Alan Spade said...

"We've been in constant contact with libraries for over a year. They have large ebook budgets. They're wasting them on licenses where they pay out the ass and don't own the content."

Joe, that's exactly why I ask that question. Why does most libraries persist in buying only trad pub books in these conditions? They are wasting money. Public money.

With the success of 50 Shades of Grey, I bet that most librarians know there are indie books out there.

Maybe I'm wrong because I can't prove it (and that's also for that reason that I'm asking the question), but I have the feeling that librarians consistently reject indie books because they think they don't have been curated. But they are not checking the books (they cannot check all the indie books), so they are acting out of preconceived notions.

I've had an author's answer in KB saying: "They can get indie books no problem, if they want them. They can buy them on Amazon."

But are they doing that?

I bet that HM Ward has readers that have already asked for her ebooks at their libraries. Do they get them easily?

That's why there is also a suggestion on the thread on KB: that the authors, and yes, mainly the indie bestsellers share their numbers about their library sales.

Because, by knowing these numbers, we can deduct if there is really a budget for indie titles at the libraries. Are indies selling more and more each year at the libraries? It would be fascinating if we could have an answer.

By knowing if there is a budget for indie titles, we can deduct if indie authors stand a chance.

If I didn't think that there is discrimination towards the indie titles, I wouldn't ask that question.

"What is the budget of your local library on indie titles" is an indirect way of asking: "do you think the librarians discriminate indie books because they think they haven't be vetted?"

But maybe you are right and the question should be a little different. Maybe we should ask the librarians: "how much money have you spent on indie titles in 2014?"

Anonymous said...

Joe,

"I then asked Amazon if it would still be okay for me to enroll it in Select if it wasn't for sale anywhere, and they said THE BOOK COULD NOT BE AVAILABLE ANYWHERE IN DIGITAL FORMAT, WHETHER IT WAS FOR FREE OR FOR SALE.

Did you honestly expect a different answer?

I ask forgiveness, not permission. It's a rule I stand by, because I learned it that hard way."

Pirated copies are free, and available for just about any book, so per the above Amazon will have to boot everybody of select...

Joe Konrath said...

Alan, the library market is an entirely different market than the consumer market, with an entirely different set of rules.

Why does most libraries persist in buying only trad pub books in these conditions? They are wasting money. Public money.

Most libraries don't have a choice, It's complicated, but in a nutshell, every library and library system is trying to figure out how to offer ebook content to patrons, and they all have to reinvent the wheel in order to do so. There are no easy ways. No standardization. No central database of ebooks.

Buying ebooks with DRM, high prices, and licenses that much be renewed is only part of the problem. Libraries have to have a cataloging system, and a delivery system to patrons. Above and beyond buying ebooks, these services are high priced, unwieldy, unfriendly, and still don't allow libraries to own the content they've purchased.

but I have the feeling that librarians consistently reject indie books because they think they don't have been curated

Libraries have to jump through hoops to offer any ebook. There are more hoops required for indie ebooks, including discoverability, ease of purchase, licensing, platform, API, app, indexing, and a host of others.

Most libraries don't buy indie ebooks because there is no fair and easy way to do so.

"They can get indie books no problem, if they want them. They can buy them on Amazon."

No, they can't. For half a dozen giant reasons, and many other smaller reasons. They. Just. Can't.

If you don't understand why they can't. you can spend 18 months talking to libraries to see how different systems work.

"What is the budget of your local library on indie titles" is an indirect way of asking: "what is the budget for your local library on plutonium?

Because many libraries would have a better chance at buying plutonium than they have indie titles.

You don't understand this, because you don't understand how ACS, Overdrive, and 3M work, don't understand the bane of DRM and proprietary format, don't understand cataloging and integration with ONIX and MARC, don't understand how licenses work, don't understand the importance of consortia, and don't understand that indie authors trying to work within the current system(s) are screwing libraries the same way big publishers are.

If I walked into my library and demanded, "You need to start offering rocket rides to the moon!" I'd have about the same shot of getting that as I would getting them to order my ebooks in this current system.

The system doesn't work. Libraries want something else. Some are trying to create it on their own. But no company has come in that gives libraries what they want, simply and cheaply, in a way they can integrate with and implement immediately. They current players are out to suck blood from libraries. The libraries being bleed hate it. Others can't even afford to do it. Some outright refuse.

Veronica said...

Everything starts from the unknown. Uncertainty is a fact. It's how you deal with the fact of uncertainty that really counts. There are no promises that specific outcomes will result even when more variables are known and you do everything "right."

You get a vision/idea and you proceed step-by-step from there.

I've spent a LOT of time in libraries both as a child and an adult and I'm thrilled that you are creating a way to make it easier for indie books to have a place in the library going forward. AND, helping libraries extend their purchasing power while generating new income streams for indie authors.

I'm sitting here imagining the number of details and decisions you've already put into this project and the increasing number now that you've gone public with it.

Damn impressive..... and thank you again.

Alan Spade said...

"Libraries have to jump through hoops to offer any ebook. There are more hoops required for indie ebooks, including discoverability, ease of purchase, licensing, platform, API, app, indexing, and a host of others.

Most libraries don't buy indie ebooks because there is no fair and easy way to do so."

Joe, obviously, I don't have your experience with dealing with librarians.

Yet I don't think that the technical issues that you list tell the whole story, and I don't think the "discoverability" hurdle you listed (which includes vetting ebooks) is just a hurdle like any others.

What you are doing with EAF is VERY VALUABLE, and your efforts deserve every bit of respect, but in my opinion, these efforts doesn't include the balance of power that is necessary for the ball to get rolling.

It's not your fault. It's not your responsibility.

But what we have to demonstrate is that the patrons want more diversity of titles in their libraries, more ebooks, and that includes more indie titles.

Librarians will move only if they feel the pressure, not from us indie authors, but from their patrons.

It is not a question of smoothing out all the technical issues OR putting more pressure on librarians, it is a question of doing BOTH at the same time.

My point is that if we indies want EAF to succeed, we have to support it by triggering a demand from the librarians, and if we want to trigger that demand from the librarians, we have to trigger the demand from the patrons.

How can we achieve that? By showing to the readers the huge discrepancy between the number of titles available on Amazon and at their library, by showing that we indies would like to offer our ebooks to the librarians.

Of course, you will ask me why I'm not submitting my titles to EAF in this case. Merely because I know my books don't meet the standards (number of reviews, ranking).

When and if I feel there are enough readers who would request my books from librarians, I'll put my books on EAF.

But I encourage other authors who have enough readers to put their ebooks on EAF.

So in order: educate other authors, who will educate their readers, who will educate the librarians.

Anonymous said...

I've definitely discovered more (20x more at least) authors at the library than gone to the library knowing about an author and looking for his/her books.

I've also bought a lot of books from authors once I found out about them at the library.

With the price of most indie books being so low, I can see myself finding an author at the library and then buying additional books from that authors from Amazon rather than waiting/needing to check those titles out from the library.

Corduroy King said...

Let's not forget how this is going to help the public library system. I mean saving this amount of money? This will allow them to possibly expand instead of retreat in the face of the digital horizon.

Alan Spade said...

"I've definitely discovered more (20x more at least) authors at the library than gone to the library knowing about an author and looking for his/her books."

You are right, anon. I discovered Stephen King because my librarian suggested me to read his books.

Librarians are definitely prescribers, but who suggest the books to the librarians?

Some patrons suggest books, but I'm inclined to think that publishers, and among them the Big 5, prescribes their books to librarians.

It's something that we have to change, and the only "tool" we have is also the most powerful: the readers.

Mark Edward Hall said...

"I'm inclined to think that publishers, and among them the Big 5, prescribes their books to librarians.

It's something that we have to change, and the only "tool" we have is also the most powerful: the readers."

That's what this post is about, Alan, it's about Joe and August working toward a system that makes it easier and cheaper for libraries to catalog independent titles. Yes, the readers are a powerful and powerful tool, but if the titles aren't available the readers can scream at the walls all day long and the books still won't magically appear.

Alan Spade said...

That's why I said both things were important.

Rob Cornell said...

So let me get this straight. Ripley is butthurt because he/she doesn't have very many good reviews. So the explanation is that those of us with a large number of reviews "bought" them, and Ripley suffers because he/she won't "play the game."

Fuck you.

I've earned every review I have (including the bad ones) with the contents of my books and nothing else.

It's nobody's fault but your own that you're unsatisfied with your results. Instead of writing childish blog posts ranting against a supposed fixed system, maybe you should practice writing better books.

Terrence OBrien said...

Joe, that's exactly why I ask that question. Why does most libraries persist in buying only trad pub books in these conditions? They are wasting money. Public money.

Transaction costs. It now takes too much in time and resources to manage an acquisition program for independents.

Joe is entering the eBook library market as a new player. He is offering competition in that market. Curation, gatekeeping, and bundling cater to the needs of the libraries, and make the products more attractive to the buyer.

Low prices and a lack of rights expiration allow libraries to get more books for the same budget, or get the same number of books with a shrinking budget.

It's a classic case of a newcomer entering a market with a competitive product.

Some authors don't like the idea? OK.


Joe Konrath said...

Instead of writing childish blog posts ranting against a supposed fixed system, maybe you should practice writing better books

Primates have a very developed sense of fairplay, and often point fingers at others when things aren't going their way as a reason. Envy, and schadenfreude, are two nasty examples. So is moral panic, which is something I wrote extensively about years ago when John Locke admitted to buying reviews.

People who aren't well reviewed and believe they should be, feel helpless, and are eager to blame their predicament on what they perceive is unfairness, injustice, or others "gaming the system." It's much easier to believe that some people are cheating than it is that you're unlucky--or, worse, not a good writer.

Human psychology at its ugliest.

I've had over 14,500 reviews on Amazon. Haven't bought one. But some people just can't believe that, so they start inventing conspiracies. Lump "paranoid delusions" in with other ugly human traits.

Being excluded doesn't feel good. I've dealt with more than my share, having more than 500 rejections before making a sale. Anger isn't the solution. Neither is whining.

There is no key to success. No secret to getting hundreds of reviews. Some writers may trade reviews, or offer their books to readers for free in exchange for a review. But, ultimately, the book is going to find an audience, or it isn't. If it isn't selling, experiment and make changes. And write more. Your best promotional tool is writing as many great books as quickly as possible.

Your worst promotional tool is bitching online about how the world owes you a living.

But what the hell do I know? I'm just a guy who got really lucky. My success isn't repeatable, even by me.

However, I don't sit around and wait for things to happen. Or complain when they don't happen.

I do stuff. I experiment. I fail. I innovate. I think about the future. And I write a whole lot.

That's not the guaranteed key to success, but so far I've done okay. You don't get 100 reviews by complaining. And you don't change the world by cutting down people who are trying to change the world.

That said, I love it when people disagree with me on this blog. It makes the discussion more interesting, and more valuable.

Alan Spade said...

It's worth mentioning that August said on KBoards that he refused an author's books who had more than 300 reviews wit a good rating (if I remember well) because the book was poorly edited.

So, there is a human decision in the process, which is good IMO.

The issue with the reviews saying that the ebook is poorly edited is that these comments are sticky: if you hire a good editor who cleans all the book, the reviews remain.

To get rid of those sticky reviews, you may have to change the ebook's title and cover (and that means investing in a new cover), and then try to get as much reviews as the 300 you patiently gathered.

Not always as easy as it sounds.

August Wainwright said...

@Alan Spade

To give context to the conversation, I was commenting on how we've received a large number of emails that revolve ONLY around number of reviews, even though that's only one of many criteria we take under consideration. What I said was:

To be more specific, I responded to an author who was upset at being denied access at this point. Their issue was that they had received 200+ reviews on book 1 in a series, and over 300 reviews of the combined series. They demanded to know why they were being left out when they clearly met the criteria. However, the first book in the series was set as permafree and most of the reviews weren't entirely favorable. Further reviews of later books in the series showed constant reader frustration with the lack of editing involved. At that point, no amount of reviews and/or sales would make those titles a good fit for a collection of curated titles.

In contrast, there have been multiple debut novels (with little or no reviews), as well as other books that have great covers, great blurbs, and great author interaction with readers on various sites. Maybe these books haven't taken off yet; maybe the author hasn't run promotions; or maybe they haven't found the right audience. Regardless, these types of books are FAR more valuable to us - and more importantly, to libraries - then poorly edited, poorly represented books that have lots of reviews.

adan said...

@August Wainwright

Regarding the quote below, more for clarification than anything else, is it possible then,for an author with less than a set amount of reviews, to be part of ya'll's initial offering to libraries?

Thanks so much -

"...there have been multiple debut novels (with little or no reviews), as well as other books that have great covers, great blurbs, and great author interaction with readers on various sites. Maybe these books haven't taken off yet; maybe the author hasn't run promotions; or maybe they haven't found the right audience. Regardless, these types of books are FAR more valuable to us - and more importantly, to libraries"

Joe Konrath said...

Many seem concerned that they'll be excluded.

There's no need to be concerned. If you aren't accepted this time, you will be eventually.

Our business model is going to change, and our plan is to take all comers.

But before that happens, we need a core catalog, and we need to start selling that to libraries and build a rep in the industry. We need to roll out our app. We need to tweak our API so it plays well with everyone.

Then we'll launch phase two, and start accepting a lot more titles. It will be less about vetting for libraries, and more about allowing library patrons to do their own vetting, like customers do on Amazon.

EbooksAreForever isn't meant to be an exclusionary club. It needs to be exclusionary for a while, for libraries to catch up with the tech we're planning to unroll. But the end goal is to be one-stop-shopping for all libraries in the world to have unlimited access to all ebooks in the world.

We have a looooong way to go before we get there. So being told we can't use your titles right now isn't a true rejection; it's only a delay.

adan said...

"We have a looooong way to go before we get there. So being told we can't use your titles right now isn't a true rejection; it's only a delay." -

I'll say this, this is a lot more honest and upfront than what I experienced distributing through OverDrive via Smashwords.

A few I know of did ok that route, most didn't.

Either way, I wish all of us the best. (smiles)

Ripley King said...

Don't mind if I use the comments here for my next blog post. I'll have fun!

August Wainwright said...

@adan

To answer your question directly: Yes. Absolutely.

There are many factors that go into the curation process, of which number of reviews, number of titles, whether your books are in a series, estimated sales figures, cover art, book description, current genre saturation, library interest, and overall availability are just a few.

adan said...

@August - that's fabulisimo 😊

Anonymous said...

Don't mind if I use the comments here for my next blog post. I'll have fun!

Ignored Writer Pens Blog Post About Conspiracy Keeping Him Down, No One Reads It.

News at eleven.

Alan Spade said...

August and Joe, is EAF sharing its data with Worldcat? Is it planned?

http://www.worldcat.org/search?q=au%3A+{LASTNAME}%2C+{FIRSTNAME}&qt=results_page

b326e33e-d868-11e4-9012-cbbe142482e2 said...

@Joe Konrath:
"We don't anticipate libraries going through our catalog, adding one ebook at a time. We expect them to buy certain authors, or genres, or the whole thing, and then to keep buying as we add titles."

Although, with a fancy enough API, you could set up some sort of on-demand purchase system where the libraries display the meta info in their catalog, but wait to buy a title until a patron actually wants to borrow it.

Alan Spade said...

Ok Joe, I've written a blog post (in French story), where I translate part of your blog.

http://alanspade.blogspot.fr/2015/04/toucher-les-prescripteurs-de-livres-et.html

I'm sorry about that but there's a bit of fear in the last part of my article: "the possibility for a reader to download in an unlimited way ebooks legally, without moving from his home, scares me."

That's this sentence of your blog I'm refering to: "Soon we plan to offer libraries unlimited uses if they pay slightly more".

Unlimited uses means unlimited readers and unlimited downloads, in my book.

If it's free, convenient and legal, why would readers buy our ebooks on Amazon any longer?

Joe Konrath said...

If it's free, convenient and legal, why would readers buy our ebooks on Amazon any longer?

Why do people buy paper books from Amazon when they can get them for free at their library?

Corduroy King said...

Because we love these books. Heck I started reading Joe's books via the local library and bought all of the paperback for future readings. That goes for a whole wall of hardcover and paperbacks that I started reading by other authors through the libraries and then bought them for my own collection.

Amber L Argyle said...

I'm so excited about this opportunity!

Alan Spade said...

"Why do people buy paper books from Amazon when they can get them for free at their library?"

I understand your logic, but that's not a good comparison, Joe. They can read the book at their library if the copies have not already all be borrowed, and they cannot read them for how much long as they would like, the borrow time is limited.

With unlimited borrows for any ebook all the time, you are destroying the mere idea of borrowing at a library.

Love is not the only explanation for our sales. I already said here that if there's still people buying at Amazon while there are so many illegal sites, it's because people are educated.

If they can legally borrow any ebook at any time for the time they want, and that it's convenient for them to do so, it's not any longer a borrow. If you do that, you educate them in thinking that ebooks should be free.

Please tell me that the "unlimited uses" will not be imposed on the authors. I hope that they can choose to keep the option at $7.99 with a limited use for their books.

I think that's it's already generous, for an author to offer her ebook for $7,99 knowing that the same ebook will perhaps be downloaded 1,000 times by different people, and they would get no more than $7,99.

I would be glad that the librarians use my permafree ebooks with unlimited uses, but it has to be my choice, or I wouldn't trust Ebooks Are Forever enough to upload my titles there.

Am I alone here to have that opinion?

Ripley King said...

What about those real-time sales stats? Address that.

Alan Spade said...

Ooops "and SHE would get no more than $7,99".

August Wainwright said...

Unlimited "borrows" means just that - borrows. The number of patrons who could access the ebook would potentially be unlimited, however, the loan period would still exist (usually a 2 week period). Same as with physical books in a library.

With unlimited, what we would be doing is attempting to remove an arbitrary, and unnecessary, queue system that currently exists for ebooks. It's a holdover from the print book setup - but why make patrons wait to checkout a book when the file is always there and always available?

It should be noted, though, that "unlimited" isn't available during the current beta period. When it's eventually tested and implemented, it would only become a reality if authors and publishers are fairly compensated. There are various ways in which we plan to do this, all of which, we hope, make things even better for both authors and libraries.

As for real time stats, yes, every author/publisher account comes with full sales data. We're also working to build in-depth reporting features that will bring authors closer to library patrons than ever before. Giving authors and publishers access to that data is important to us. It's our belief that library patrons may very well behave different than consumers, and thus different marketing strategies may work better or worse.

EAF is about building a marketplace between authors, libraries, and patrons. The needs, goals, and strategies in the library marketplace will continue to differ greatly from the consumer retail marketplace.

Anonymous said...

"What about those real-time sales stats? Address that."

What about the fact that you're a sad little attention-whore, Ripley? Address that.

Ripley King said...

Yep, that's me. Pointing out the flaws, and asking the hard questions. I'll just keep doing that if you don't mind.

Alan Spade said...

"With unlimited, what we would be doing is attempting to remove an arbitrary, and unnecessary, queue system that currently exists for ebooks. It's a holdover from the print book setup - but why make patrons wait to checkout a book when the file is always there and always available?"

I know it is arbitrary, but unnecessary? It's necessary for us authors to survive.

"the loan period would still exist (usually a 2 week period)"

If I follow your reasoning, why maintaining the loan period? It's arbitrary. It's a thing of the past.

If you look at it, even classic property is arbitrary. Why must Exxon's CEO own personally such a large part of the sales of petrol? Does he extract the petrol himself with his own muscles? Or does the machines that extract the petrol have been invented by others than him, who benefitted from public money?

So, the fact that Exxon's CEO earns so much money is a holdover from the notion of property as it was known in the past. It's no longer adapted to the modern world.

But of course, it's more easy to attack the notion of intellectual property, because the law is far less efficient when it comes to protecting intellectual property.

"When it's eventually tested and implemented, it would only become a reality if authors and publishers are fairly compensated."

That's the crucial point. How will the authors be compensated?

Because, as I see it, what you are proposing for the moment is a Kindle Unlimited thing without any dollar for the patrons to spend monthly, with a few authors indirectly subsidised by public money. Fairly subsidised? I would like to know more.

ccmackenzie.com said...

Love this idea, Joe. Email sent.

Corduroy King said...

Joe I have an audio book producer interested at ACX in producing my novel Pizza Man. Would eBooksareforever be involved in audio books as well as eBooks sales to libraries?

Joe Konrath said...

Pointing out the flaws, and asking the hard questions.

Pointing out flaws and asking hard questions would be helpful, Ripley.

Can you point to where you've done either?

Joe Konrath said...

It's necessary for us authors to survive.

No, it isn't.

I've had books in libraries for over a decade. My home town has one of the largest libraries in Illinois. It also supported three bookstores. They co-existed fine. If someone were willing to hop into their car to get a book, why did they go to the bookstores? Why not spend the same amount of money on gas to get free books at the library?

Some people prefer to own books. Some don't have library cards. Both of these examples will likely always exist.

But let's play out your scenario. EAF becomes so wildly successful that every library in the US buys our catalog, and every reader in the US stops using Amazon, iTunes, B&N, Kobo, SW, Scribd, Oyster, Google, and every other ebook store, and instead attains their ebooks via their local library.

Will that cap authors' incomes?

If all 9000 public libraries buy your $7.99 ebook, you've made $50,000. Not counting the one-time lump some you'd make selling your entire backlist to libraries, if you can write two books are year, you're making $100k.

It stands to reason that the only authors who need to worry about losing sales are those who currently make over $100k per year.

I make much more than that. And yet, I'm not concerned. I know libraries are a subsidiary market. I know I'm widely pirated, and it hasn't hurt sales. I know US public libraries are the tip of a much bigger iceberg; there are school libraries, military libraries, academic libraries, prison libraries, and global libraries. I cannot envision ever fully saturating the market. It's too large.

I also know EAF's longterm plan for libraries, and it doesn't involve capping author earning potential.

But if this concerns you, EAF is an opt-in service. You don't have to opt-in.

Joe Konrath said...

why maintaining the loan period? It's arbitrary. It's a thing of the past.

It's all about who owns the ebook license.

But kudos to you for thinking outside the box.

August and I have been thinking outside the box for two years. Before we can fully reveal and implement what we've learned, we need to launch and begin generating revenue. To do that, we need a vetted catalog of great ebooks of various genres, and we need to get that catalog into libraries, library systems, and consortia.

How will the authors be compensated?

If EAF became the only way for the world to acquire ebooks, it would make you rich even if you only had a handful of titles.

But we have plans beyond that. I know that sounds cryptic, but until we've established ourselves as a player in this market, we're not going to reveal longterm strategies. We have competition. Letting them know our business plan serves no purpose.

If you're concerned, don't opt-in until you feel comfortable with our process.

Right now, the library ebook market is new territory for most indie authors. Sales above and beyond what indies are currently making.

If your worry is this new market will eliminate the old market, can you point to some other instance where a government program funded by tax dollars overtook capitalist earnings?

The library market has never accounted for more sales than the consumer market. Worrying that it might happen may seem logical on the surface. But without precedent and examples to prove it, without data and figures, without trying it, your concerns amount to unfounded paranoia.

There's nothing wrong with being cautious. I have many close friends who are risk-adverse.

I am not.

Alan Spade said...

"If all 9000 public libraries buy your $7.99 ebook, you've made $50,000. Not counting the one-time lump some you'd make selling your entire backlist to libraries, if you can write two books are year, you're making $100k."

Except... except that it's not really brick and mortar libraries we are speaking about. We are speaking about ebooks that can be borrowed on the libraries' websites.

My fear is that one or two of those websites becomes as much successful as Amazon: then all the borrows will go to these libraries. Then the other libaries won't receive so much money, and won't buy my ebooks.

So your logic, while seductive, is fallacious, in my opinion, because it doesn't involve the X Factor: the risks inherent to life.

" I know libraries are a subsidiary market. I know I'm widely pirated, and it hasn't hurt sales."

Libraries are another thing entirely: this is were the kids learn the things of life.

"You don't have to opt-in."

I won't, in these conditions. Not if there's unlimited uses.

It's a pity, because I would have opted in if there hadn't been unlimited uses.

Anonymous said...

It's been stated more than once that "unlimited uses" isn't the current model.

Joe Konrath said...

because it doesn't involve the X Factor: the risks inherent to life.

Nothing wrong with mitigating risks.

Just understand that you also mitigate rewards.

I shudder to think about where humanity would be if everyone feared the X factor and didn't forge ahead.

Not if there's unlimited uses.

Currently, libraries have limited uses. They buy one ebook, and it can only go out to one patron.

Soon they'll have the option to spend more, and get unlimited uses.

Reason it out. Let's say you sell a title to a library, and it is popular enough that there is always a queue for it. Meaning when one patron has it, another is waiting for it.

This could encourage the library to buy a second copy. But libraries know how many requests are needed before a second copy is purchased, and they know demand goes down as books age.

So let's say, with a very popular book, a library has 50 requests, and buys 10 copies. Three months later, they're stuck with 9 copies that don't ever get borrowed.

I don't see that as fair.

Conversely, as an author, I don't want readers to EVER have to wait to read me. If a library has a copy of one of my titles, and a reader wants to read it, I want them to do so immediately. I want them to read me, and like me, and become a fan. I want them to visit my website, and read my other books, and anxiously await my next release.

You don't get fans by restricting readership. Ever.

I just looked you up on Amazon, Alan. You have a free ebook.

http://www.amazon.com/Vagabond-French-Alan-Spade-ebook/dp/B00F7VRX8Y

I find it interesting that you're okay with free ebooks, which earn you zero, but are against unlimited licenses, which will earn you $$$. In both cases, readers can read as many copies as possible, for free. But with EAF, you get paid.

Alan Spade said...

"If a library has a copy of one of my titles, and a reader wants to read it, I want them to do so immediately. I want them to read me, and like me, and become a fan."

Not if it owns me nothing, Joe. We are in a capitalist word. I need to make a living.

People, and kids, have to learn frustration. It's because of the frustration that we have an economy: we cannot have everything for free and maintain the economy as we know it.

Look at how the authors' profit diminished with Kindle Unlimited.

"I just looked you up on Amazon, Alan. You have a free ebook."

This is a short story, Joe. I use permafree for short stories, and in the case I would have opted-in EAF, I wouldn't have minded that my permafree have unlimited use.

The thing is, I keep my freedom with my permafree books on the retailers site.

If i want to withdraw them, I can.

But with ebooks on ulimited use on EAF, I'm screwed. Once they are in the system, they'll stay there.

Yes, I could opt-in for my permafree shorts. And I probably will.

Anon said : "It's been stated more than once that "unlimited uses" isn't the current model."

I get it. But when it will be the model, will authors have something to say? If their ebooks are in the system, they'll stay there.

Joe said: "You don't get fans by restricting readership. Ever."

Untrue. You do it all the time, Joe: at each hour of the day, you have books and ebooks available for a price. You restrict readership at every hour of the day.

You don't get fans by ALWAYS restricting readership. I can agree with that.

I understand the past experiences of you and other pioneers like Cory Doctorow. They are very valuable. I'd like to know the opinion of Cory about EAF. For me, you are crossing a line.

Our society has a tendancy to reject frustration. We push the frontier farther and farther. Kindle Unlimited is a good example, and I think KU is a good thing for readers. But as we say, "passées les bornes, y a plus de limites". Too much is too much.

I don't want the youth to think that ebooks means free. I want them to handle their frustration. And I want adults to handle their frustration too. As long as we have an economy, I want them to know that the work of the artists should be rewarded with money. I want the kids to learn to spend wisely their money.

I want them to discover free books, but not only free books. I want them to have points of reference.

Alan Spade said...

Besides, readers are not so much restricted by limited use: if they don't find the free ebook on the website of one library, they still have 8,999 other websites were they can search your ebook.

And very soon, you'll find someone devising an app to sort through all those websites in 30 seconds and find the ebook.

Joe Konrath said...

We are in a capitalist word. I need to make a living.

True. But the world doesn't owe anyone a living.

EAF is extra money above and beyond what authors are currently earning, because it is an untapped market. Stating it will poach your sales like Kindle Unlimited does remains to be seen. Especially since it remains unclear if Kindle Unlimited poaches sales.

If i want to withdraw them, I can.

You cannot take back ebooks you've given away for free. You can opt out of EAF anytime, but you cannot take back ebooks you've sold.

To fear that selling unlimited uses of a title to a library will poach your future sales is speculative. I haven't found that free books, piracy, used books, or library sales, have poached my sales. The jury is still out on Kindle Unlimited. But, overall, demand for my work has remained steady, and I've been able to monetize demand.

I don't want the youth to think that ebooks means free

Betting against what consumers want can only work by controlling supply and demand.

Ebooks don't conform to the rules of supply and demand. They can be copied and delivered for free, and copyright laws can't do a thing to curtail technology, or the thirst people have for information and media, much of it free. Putting an artificial restriction of something that has no real restrictions means people will find ways around the restrictions.

Amazon can charge a premium for their ebook services because they have the infrastructure in place. Low cost, convenience, selection, simplicity, all make it a desirable platform, which users are willing to pay for.

Library patrons, by their very nature, are viewing IP without paying. Revenue comes from the library, not the consumer.

Asking libraries to "handle their frustration" is a one-way ticket to losing them as customers once a company comes along who alleviates their frustration.

EAF wants to be that company.

As I said, my business decisions aren't fear-based, nor are they ideological.

The war on drugs is idealogical. So is the war on piracy, the war on gambling, the war on prostitution, the war on pornography.

Not any of these wars are winnable. People like drugs, gambling, sex, and piracy, and no amount of laws, education, or "passées les bornes, y a plus de limites" will prevent people from getting what they want. If they can't get it legally, they will get it illegally.

Betting against that seems unwise.

I think a better business plan is giving people the opportunity to get exactly what they want--such as free ebooks at libraries--and giving libraries exactly what they want--good content at reasonable prices that they own.

Alan Spade said...

"If they can't get it legally, they will get it illegally."

I don't want to prevent them from getting the ebooks illegally. It would be a war lost by advance, and a waste of time.

I just want them to know that they get the files illegally.

Call me Jiminy Cricket. ;)

adan said...

This was posted by a librarian yesterday on the SW blog, and I think, goes to the point about some sort of quality control being needed by librarians :

"I do the e-book purchasing for my library and I'm currently spending about $500 a month on Smashwords titles... HOWEVER:...

"1. There are a LOT of missing covers. I don't buy titles with missing covers because patrons won't check them out (or do so at a MUCH lower rate than ones with). This really stinks when there is a series and one (or more) of the titles in the series has missing covers...

"2. In series, often it is the first book in the series that is missing, which is an automatic no buy for me...

"3. Some of the titles I've bought without covers are now listed as "not for sale" which means they never will or, if they get listed again later, I'll have to buy them again. Unacceptable...

"Honestly, I'd love to buy more than I am but I'm fighting an upstream battle."

http://blog.smashwords.com/2014/05/smashwords-and-overdrive-to-bring.html

Alan Spade said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alan Spade said...

Excerpt from the Smashwords press release Adan just mentionned (
http://blog.smashwords.com/2014/05/smashwords-and-overdrive-to-bring.html ) :

"Per our agreement with OverDrive, libraries will lend purchased ebooks under the one copy/one user model, meaning each copy they purchase can be checked to only one reader at a time."

Maybe it's old-fashioned. Maybe it's a holdover from the print book setup as August said. But my vote is on Mark Coker because of that sentence I quoted.

I would have liked that not to be an either/or question. EAF is not exclusive, and neither is Overdrive via Smashwords. But the two models of purchase will differ too much in the future.

I prefer the 70% EAF offers to the authors over the 45% of Overdrive. Unfortunately, the unlimited uses planned in the future makes EAF suitable only for my permafree short stories.

August Wainwright said...

@ Alan Spade

I would have liked that not to be an either/or question.

Right, and what's great about you bringing this up is that we're actually delivering on this exact plan. We agree - it shouldn't be either/or.

As it's been stated numerous times in these comments, unlimited use is a potential solution to specific problems within the library marketplace, but only if it can be initiated and provide fair compensation to authors and publishers.

During the current beta testing phase, and until it's fully tested, unlimited use won't be an option. Currently, we offer libraries the ability to buy as many copies as their patrons demand, at fair prices, and they own a perpetual license to that title - meaning they never have to re-purchase in the future.

When unlimited use becomes lucrative for authors and publishers, which we believe it will, then both purchasing options will be available.

Alan Spade said...

@ August: "When unlimited use becomes lucrative for authors and publishers, which we believe it will, then both purchasing options will be available."

Smashwords allows a little bit of control to authors. For example, if authors want to lower their prices in favor of librarians, they are able to.

Will author have a say in the purchasing options of their ebooks or only the librarians? Maybe I'm the only indie to be a control freak, but I don't believe so.

Anonymous said...

"Joe Konrath said...
Before we can fully reveal and implement what we've learned, we need to launch and begin generating revenue."


Snake oil much?


"Joe Konrath said...
To do that, we need a vetted catalog of great ebooks of various genres"


Say hi to the other gatekeepers for us.

Anonymous said...

> An author selling one title
> to 5000 libraries earns $28k

This reminds me of a little educational animated film I made in 1977. I did the math on it: One sale to each school in the city (100+) and then to each school in the province etc. etc. I was up to a million bucks pretty quickly! I sold one. Two decades later, my niece, living in a different city, told me she saw a film in class that had my name on it. Indeed. It was my single sale, still being circulated from school to school all those years later. Well, 40 years after that big sale, perhaps my ePublishing dreams will be more profitable. (Especially since I just retired to do it full time!)

Good idea about libraries, though. Untouched market for eBooks, for sure.