Libraries have long provided an essential community service by making books and other information products freely available and accessible to local community patrons. Libraries play a critical role in promoting literacy, a culture of books and the joys of reading.
With the rise of ebooks, public libraries are at a crossroads. Some large traditional publishers, which fear digital lending might cannibalize retail sales of both print books and ebooks, have been hesitant to supply ebooks to libraries at the very time that library patrons are clamoring for access to such products.
On March 21, I gave a three-part presentation at the Midwest Collaborative for Library Services symposium held in Lansing, Michigan. I outlined the opportunity for libraries to expand their community role by developing programs that promote a culture of authorship.
I've embedded the presentation below.
Libraries are uniquely qualified to orchestrate community resources and talent to help local writers become professional self-publishers. By holding seminars and classes, and by bringing local authors together face to face with readers and aspiring authors, libraries can help unleash the talent locked inside the minds and fingertips of their local community's writers. They can also help ensure a steady future supply of library-friendly authors who will want to supply their ebooks to libraries.
Smashwords stands ready to support public libraries around the world that have a desire to develop such community publishing initiatives.
Here in Los Gatos over the last six months, in partnership with the Los Gatos Public Library, Smashwords has been conducting a community publishing pilot program. I'd like to thank Henry Bankhead and the entire staff at LGPL and the Town of Los Gatos for their support and encouragement.
The elements of the program are simple, and can easily be replicated and expanded-upon by other libraries.
We recognized that in order to e-publish, writers needed three important tools:
- The knowledge to professionally publish
- Access to an ebook printing press
- Access to retail and library distribution
We focused first on step one, the educational component.
We created three, one-hour seminars to educate patrons, aspiring authors and library staff about ebooks, and ebook publishing best practices. The three workshops included:
- An introduction to ebooks - Provided library patrons and library staff a general overview of ebooks, ebook market trends, and ebooks at libraries. Attached to the presentation, Henry Bankhead of LGPL provided a tutorial on how readers can check out ebooks from LGPL.
- An introduction to ebook self-publishing - Provided aspiring authors an introductory primer on how to prepare, create, self-publish and distribute an ebook. The presentation provided a detailed checklist of the most important steps necessary to publish an ebook.
- Ebook publishing best-practices - This session focused on the best practices of the most commercially successful indie ebook authors, drawing upon the 29 best practices I outline in my free ebook, The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success.
At Smashwords, we're happy to share the Powerpoints of these and other workshops with any library who requests them. The embedded presentation above contains updated versions of two of the tree LGPL presentations (#2 and #3).
Libraries could develop other workshops as well. A couple of the librarians from Michigan last week suggested to me that they could leverage their new media labs to bring together local graphic artists who could help local authors design ebook covers. What a great idea! And it's only the tip of the iceberg once libraries start considering how to marshal local talent toward the common objective of helping local writers produce quality books. How about classes on writing, or editing, or cover design? How about connecting local authors with library patrons who'd like to serve as beta readers or proof-readers?
Following the completion of the first three parts of the seminar series, Smashwords and LGPL worked on providing the last two pieces - the access to the ebook printing press, and the access to retail and library distribution.
Luckily, these latter two pieces were already built at Smashwords. The new thing we created for LGPL - which we can now offer to other public libraries - was a co-branded publishing portal.
At the LGPL website, they offer a link titled, eBook Self-Publishing Partnership. If a local author clicks the link, they're led to a co-branded version of the Smashwords web site, where the author can sign up for a free account and begin accessing the breadth of our publishing and distribution tools. The signup-confirmation email they receive can be customized by the library. We set this up for the library at no charge.
The co-branded publishing portal is based upon the same technology we use to power the co-branded publishing portals for Sony and Diesel.
LGPL offers ebooks to its patrons by using an ebook aggregator which operates LGPL's ebook checkout systems. Soon, our books will be available through most of the leading ebook aggregators. This means that soon, local Los Gatos authors will be able to "Publish to the Library." Libraries have the opportunity to encourage local authors to publish locally and distribute globally though our partnerships.
As a Smashwords author or publisher, you have an opportunity to assist your local library. Contact your local library and offer to do a talk about your own e-publishing adventure. Or join with local indies and do a panel discussion. Download the presentation above and customize it for your own library workshops about ebook self-publishing. You have an opportunity to mentor your community's next generation of indie authors!
Encourage your local library to sign on with one of the many leading ebook aggregation services, such as Baker & Taylor Axis 360, 3M's Cloud Library, or Overdrive. Our books are available through Baker & Taylor today, and should be available through the other two in the weeks and months ahead.
If they're deploying their own ebook checkout systems following the Douglas County Model, tell them about Smashwords Library Direct.
Good luck, and have fun!