Tag Archives: digital libraries

Digital Libraries – Our Best Bet For International Reach

BiBF2016

I’ve covered the value of OverDrive and like digital library suppliers many times here, but it’s worth revisiting once more in mind OverDrive’s presence at the Beijing Book Fair last week.

From the OverDrive blog: (LINK)

“Over the last several years, OverDrive has made a significant investment to increase the amount of global content available for our library and school partners. We now offer 35,000+ Chinese titles from over 500 publishers in our online catalog, Marketplace, both in the U.S. and internationally. Additionally, Marketplace now features hundreds of thousands of titles from publishers in 63 countries and we add new titles each month in both Simplified and Traditional Chinese as well as Japanese, German, Spanish, Polish and many more languages. Titles include bestselling eBooks and audiobooks written in the native language as well as titles translated from English.”

But it’s not just about selling Chinese content in China. it’s about selling Chinese and other foreign language content globally.
From the Over Drive blog again, taking Chinese titles as an example,

“Libraries have responded by creating curated collections of community language content. Toronto Public Library, Los Angeles Public Library and Seattle Public Library all provide examples of digital collections featuring thousands of Chinese titles.”

This is where the true value of digital libraries for foreign-language content lies for us internationalist indies: accessing ex-pat and immigrant communities around the world that still want to read in their home language. Continue reading

Smashwords Adds Tolino, Odilo and Yuzu To Its Distribution List. It’s Time To Start Taking Smashwords Seriously.

sw + tolino + Odilo + yuzu

 

Regulars here will know I’m dedicated to a diverse and healthy global ebook market, and for that reason alone I would continue to support stores like Smashwords even if they had very little to offer.

But Smashwords has lately shown, after a faltering step with the Flipkart debacle (which as it happens matters not, as Flipkart has now formally closed its ebook store) that it very much still in the game, and slowly but surely grasping the global nettle.

This past week Smashwords announced three new partners that, in Mark Coker’s own words,

“further expand the reach of the Smashwords ebook distribution network in the US, Europe and South America.” (LINK)

Actually, Mark, it does even better than that, encompassing S.E. Asia as well. More on that below.

But first, the bad news. Smashwords erotica authors need not apply. Yet again the Smashwords partner stores have followed the example of OverDrive, Flipkart and Gardners and said “No thanks” to Smashwords erotica, while all happily distributing erotica titles from other aggregators.

There’s a message there for you, Mark Coker.

But let’s stick with the good news.

How good? Well that depends on which other aggregators we use alongside Smashwords.

Let’s start with the Tolino deal.

The Tolino Alliance is, put simply a bunch of ebook stores centred in Germany (but active in neighbouring countries) that collectively packs a punch comparable to Amazon’s Kindle Germany store.

Depending on which stats you want to believe, Tolino is slightly bigger or slightly smaller than Kindle Germany.

ither way, it’s well worth making the effort for, and not only if we have German-language translations available. Germany is a major English-language market too.

If the only aggregator we use is Smashwords then this a great new addition, and will further our reach across western and central Europe.

But if we use Draft2Digital, StreetLib, PublishDrive or XinXii we’re probably already enjoying the benefits of distribution to Tolino. Smashwords is late to the game on this one.

No matter. It’s great to have even more indie titles flowing into the Tolino stores.

Let’s take a look at Yuzu next.

Those of us involved in the higher education sector in the USA may have heard of Yuzu, as the store is, in Mark Coker’s words,

“the digital education platform and retailer operated by Barnes & Noble College, which operates 743 college bookstores serving 5 million college students and faculty members.”

But it’s not all text books and academia.

“The agreement will make it easier for a wide range of Smashwords Premium Catalog books to be assigned for classroom use by educators,” says Coker, adding “Students can also purchase Smashwords titles for their own enjoyment outside of the classroom in the Yuzu eBook store.”

Well, we’ll have to see how that pans out.  Over at The Digital Reader Nate Hoffelder is not impressed, dismissing Yuzu as a “failed” store. Yuzu is

“still only half functional, making this a platform you should avoid if at all possible unless you want to cause more grief for students.”

Nate’s words. (LINK) Not mine. I’ve no familiarity with the store, so am diplomatically reserving judgment.

Besides, higher education is not a sector I have any plans to write towards, but never say never.

But while I’m mildly indifferent to the deal with Yuzu, I’m delighted to see the deal with Odilo.

As Mark Coker says,

“Odilo is a leading ebook supplier to over 2,100 public libraries in 43 countries across Europe (1,000 libraries), Latin America (1,000 libraries) and North America (100 libraries). In October, they announced a deal with the ministry of culture in Spain to provide ebook services to over 15 million library card holders in Spain. The company is also running preliminary pilots to expand into Australia and New Zealand.”

But it gets better. Mark Coker obviously hadn’t checked the Odilo news feed or he could have added 180 libraries in the Philippines to that list. (LINK)

The Philippines is one of my priority countries for 2016, so this deal is especially welcome.

Kobo gets our titles into the Philippines (National Book Store), and so does Google Play and eSentral, but neither Amazon nor Apple are there, so this new access point to Filipino readers is a great asset.

Coker notes,

“About 40% of Odilo’s ebook sales are books in English, 40% Spanish, 15% French and 5% German.”

40% Spanish sounds good to me! I’m already delighted with the way my Spanish translations are taking hold across Latin America, and Odilo will hopefully help find me a lot more readers both in Latin America and in Spain as the new deal with Spanish libraries takes effect.

Last year (2014-15) Smashwords reported ebook sales worth $25 million. By 2016-17 that figure could be much higher as these new stores start bringing in revenue for Smashwords and its authors.

As we begin the second half of this decade Smashwords is shaping up to be a truly global player in the aggregator field.

And just as the new globile (global mobile) reality is beginning to strike home.

Reading the industry blogs over the past six months it’s hard to find any credible commentators not now talking about the globile future. Even JK Rowling’s Pottermore is at it!

The future is globile!

# # #

For daily news and discussion about the global indie publishing scene join this lively Facebook Group.

 

 

The View From The Beach – Mark Williams At Large

Gunjur-Coastline-Gambia

EBUK blogger Mark Williams takes a personal look back over recent developments on the global ebook scene.

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Never mind audio-books. Say hello to smelly books. Smell-e-books, that is.

It had to happen. Ebooks that you can sniff.

A company called Vapor Communications has been testing smelly text messages for a while – no, seriously – and is now ready to apply the technology to ebooks. (LINK)

Not quite sure what they have in mind – food smells for your cookery books? Coffee smells for your series sponsored by Nescafe? Lots of opportunities to get boys reading with the smell-e-book version of Captain Underpants complete with fart smells and smelly skid-marks. As for bringing erotica ebooks to life with the pungent aroma of… No, let’s not even go there.

Or just maybe that wonderful bookstore smell you get when you first open a new print book. Now that would be a breakthrough.

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Romania has long been on my Ones-To-Watch list for Europe, and Publishing Perspectives had a report this past week on one of Romania’s biggest online bookstores, Okian, which saw a 30% increase in sales last year.

I haven’t worked out how to get into Okian yet (they sell both print and digital) but a quick perusal of the store  (LINK) shows the prominence Okian gives to English-language titles. In the Publishing Perspectives report Okian’s CEO Tudor Benga confirms English-language titles are a big growth area for Okian.

Does this mean we’ll all sell more books in Romania? Yes and no.

At risk of being slammed for being anti-Amazon again it has to be noted that Amazon are busily surcharging Romanian readers, so your $2.99 ebook will cost a reader in Bucharest $4.99 plus currency exchange fees. You’ll get paid just 35% of the $2.99 if you do get a sale.

Luckily you can reach Romanian readers through Google Play, Scribd and Apple. To see your books in the Apple iBooks Romania store just go to your Apple product page or preview page link and change the country code (US, GB, AU or whatever) to RO.

There are a good few local ebook stores too. Okian, obviously, and Elefant and Evobook are among the key players. Digital libraries are also doing well in Romania.  No easy access to Romanian ebook stores right now, but that will change. It’s early days. The global New Renaissance is still in first gear.

Romania, Hungary, Greece and Turkey are among the key players emerging in east and south-east Europe right now. These should be priorities for career-authors looking to partner with translators, partner with local publishers, or indeed to find a niche following in the English-language sector.

But the rest of Europe is proving very exciting too, with Poland a key player. Make sure you have your ebooks available in mobi as this format is very popular in Poland, where Poles are returning home from Germany and the UK with Kindle devices only to find they get surcharged by Amazon back home.

Germany of course is Europe’s sleeping giant for ebooks, and especially for English-language ebooks, along with the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark.

Not so hot for E-L titles but worth keeping an eye on for translation partnerships are Slovakia, Slovenia and the Czech Republic, and also the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Small populations, but embracing digital fast.

And since we’re on the subject of Europe a reminder that Kobo is now getting titles back into the UK’s WH Smith store, so Kobo is back on track as a player in the UK, as well as taking a keen interest in indies in western Europe.

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Staying with Europe and English-language in Europe, click on this link to see an infographic of the percentage of people in the EU who can hold a conversation in English. It may surprise you. (LINK)

Of course holding a conversation and reading a book are not quite the same thing, but the stats are indicative of the high-regard English is held in as the lingua franca of the world.

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Having mentioned Kobo and WH Smith above, romance writers may be interested to know Kobo is running a competition in conjunction with Mills & Boon, with first prize a Mills & Boon published novel, in both digital and print, with full promo from both Kobo and WH Smith. (LINK)

The deadline is July 14th.

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WhatsApp has hit 800 million active users, with 100 million of them just since January. (LINK)

We’ve covered the messenger services a few times here at EBUK, and it’s a subject we’ll be returning to in-depth later. Here just a few quick observations.

WhatsApp is owned by Facebook but is a very different user experience from Facebook, and one largely ignored by indie authors. But these messenger services – along with the likes of Viber and Line, etc, etc, can, and are/will be key parts of our future promo scene. Ignore them at your peril.

With 800 million active users just on What’s App (equivalent to twice the population of the USA and UK combined) that’s a lot of people.

Re the mini-post above on English-speakers in the EU, chiming in at 90% was the Netherlands. It’s only very recently Amazon opened a Kindle NL store, and being so late to the party most indies are seeing little action, but Kobo now gets you into the biggest-by-far Dutch ebook store Bol.com, and the Tolino Alliance also distribute to the Netherlands, as do Txtr, Apple and of course Google Play.

According to this report (LINK) 8.7 million Dutch smartphone users have downloaded the WhatsApp app, and 90% of all female smartphone users in the Netherlands have downloaded WhatsApp.

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As we explored in a post here at EBUK back in September (LINK), we will all have noticed that we don’t get inundated by tweets and FB posts from people in the Netherlands, or Indonesia or Outer Mongolia, and with good reason. But it works both ways. Our tweets and FB posts, even if promoting ebooks aimed at these markets, simple don’t get seen by most of the world, or even most of our regular contacts.

The only realistic way to connect with the global readership is to reach out and make connections on the social media and messenger services where they are, not where you are.

Not easy, and outside our comfort zone, of course. To make matters worse, messenger services do not work in the same way as the “traditional” (or should we say legacy?) social media we are used to, so there’s a learning curve involved.

But don’t tune out just yet, or you may find yourself standing at the station when this train departs.

You only have to look at the way Rakuten is gearing up to use Viber as an e-commerce sales vehicle – with a strong focus on selling Kobo ebooks! – to understand that it can be done and is being done. More on Rakuten’s plans in a full post very shortly.

Meantime why not trying connecting with WhatsApp users in the Netherlands, where 90% will at least understand your English, and a good percentage may be interested in reading your English books and ebooks? From little acorns…

As ever we indies can move with the times, or stay safe and cozy in our indie boxes partying like its 2009.

Our choice. Our prospective loss. But nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Oh, and for those wondering what the top ten messenger apps are right now… (LINK)

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Indonesia Alert!

Facebook’s internet.org has just gone live in Indonesia. (LINK)

For those unfamiliar, internet.org is a free curated internet service featuring a couple of dozen key sites like Wikipedia, Wattpad, local government sites, health and employment sites, and of course Facebook.

The initiative is aimed at the net-disenfranchised who may have a smartphone but still cannot afford, or do not have the means to pay for, actual internet access. The internet.org connection is free.

Regulars here will know Indonesia is high on our watch-list as a big prospect for indie authors. Those using Wattpad might want to think about directing messages at Indonesian readers (20% of FB traffic in Indonesia is conducted in English!) to get yourselves known for when Indonesia moves to the next level. Today’s free-readers on Wattpad (accessible through internet.org) may be tomorrow’s paying customers that make you a best-selling author in Indonesia.

And while neither Apple nor Amazon sell ebooks in Indonesia, both Google Play and Scribd do.

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For those who speak/read German the long-awaited Tolino self-pub portal is now up and running. (LINK)

I’m both disappointed and surprised there is no English-language option on the site, given the pan-European nature of Tolino and that is it, apparently, open to all EU members to use direct (presumably a payments and tax issue).

Germany’s Xin-Xii and Italy’s Narcissus both understand the value of the “international” language that is English. Hopefully an E-L option for the Tolino site will follow soon.

Meantime, for those like me who are linguistically challenged Tolino is easily accessible via Draft2Digital and Xin-Xii.

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Rakuten wrapped up its buy-out of OverDrive this past week.

I’m a big fan of OverDrive and delighted Rakuten have taken over the operation. OverDrive are best known as the world’s largest library distributor, and I’ve been enjoying global library traffic through OverDrive for many years.

But OverDrive also supply a number of retail outlets, including key players like Waterstone’s in the UK and Kalahari in South Africa.

Rakuten have intimated there are no immediate plans to make changes at OverDrive, so business as usual for now, but it will be interesting to see what Rakuten has in mind longer-term.

With the Rakuten CEO’s plans to make Kobo ebooks a central part of the Rakuten Viber e-commerce venture it’s very clear ebooks and digital media in general is going to play a big part in Rakuten’s future.

Forward-thinking indies would do well to be fully engaged with both of Rakuten’s current ebook outlets. You can go direct to Kobo via Kobo Writing Life. OverDrive sn’t so easy to access, but the British aggregator Ebook Partnership will get your titles into both the OverDrive libraries and the OverDrive retailers.

For non-erotica indies you can get your titles into the overdrive libraries via Smashwords. The much-screamed-about “indie ghetto” at OverDrive is history, but it’s still a tortuous process gong via Smashwords.

A few days ago it was announced one of OverDrive’s library competitors, Ingram’s MyiLibrary, was being acquired by Proquest. I’d been trying to dig up some background on this without much success when, Nate at Ink, Bits & Pixels (formerly The Digital Reader) usurped my plan and ran a post this morning on this very subject. (LINK)

It’s well worth reading Nate’s post for some speculation on Proquest’s future plans.

Meantime I’m left wondering how indies will be able to get content into MyiLibrary now it is separate from Ingram.

Hopefully a savvy operator like Draft2Digital will step in. D2D have recently signed up with Tolino, and as aggregators go they show a lot of promise, but with neither Smashwords nor D2D yet to secure a deal with Google Play (both Italy’s Narcissus and Germany’s Xin-Xii have, as has Britain’s Ebook Partnership) it may well be that one of the European aggregators takes the lead here too.

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Back in 2013 here on the EBUK blog we speculated that ebooks would soon come with a QR code on breakfast cereal packets and ketchup bottles. Well, we’re still waiting to see ebooks on ketchup bottles, but the innovative British ebook retailer and supermarket chain Sainsbury had ebooks on its own-brand cereal packets just a few months later, and in April 2015 Simon & Schuster joined the cereal club with a deal to promote ebooks on Cheerios packets. (LINK)

By no means the only example of Europe being literally years ahead of America with digital. Just think ebooks on planes, trains and buses, or indeed subscription services.

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Not for everybody, but for those who write about finances, money and business, this new report from K-lytics is very useful reading. (LINK)

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I’m often asked which blogs and such I’d recommend to keep ahead of the ebook game and spot the trends before they become the next overcrowded bandwagon to jump on.

In fact it’s a broad mixture of publishing-industry blogs, tech blogs and finance blogs that collectively give the bigger picture.

So over the coming weeks I’ll take a look at a few must-read sites and discuss their good and bad points. Starting today with GalleyCat.

GalleyCat gets singled out for being one of the most irritating of the industry blogs.

Not that it’s all bad, of course. If you want the latest trad pub news then GalleyCat is as good as any, but GalleyCat also purports to be on top of the indie scene. Yet it rarely shows it is anything of the sort.

Take the weekly best-selling self-published titles report they reel out. (LINK)

This is a great idea in principle, but guys, first you need to understand what the key self-publishing sales platforms are, and clearly you don’t.

In GaleyCat’s own words, “To help GalleyCat readers discover self-published authors, we compile weekly lists of the top eBooks in three major marketplaces for self-published digital books: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.”

Er, guys, I hate to break this to you but Smashwords is a major self-published authors’ distributor. An aggregator. That it happens to sell ebooks as a sideline service does not in any way, shape or form make it “a major marketplace” for indie ebooks. Most non-writer readers have never heard of Smashwords.

If you want to produce a meaningful list try comparing the top indie titles across Amazon, Nook, Apple, Scribd, Oyster, Kobo and Google Play.

To see just how meaningless the current list is, just take a look at the top three self-published bestsellers from Amazon and Smashwords. I leave you to decide which store is which. Somehow I doubt you’ll have brain-hernia working it out.

Store 1:

  1. The Mistake (Off Campus Book 2)by Elle Kennedy
  2. Chanceby Deborah Bladon
  3. The Mad Tatterby J.M. Darhower

Store 2:

  1. Cognitive Activity Design: Designing Creative Activities and Art-Based Projects That Promote Brain Health and FlourishingBy Michael C. Patterson
  2. Negotiating for Success: Essential Strategies and SkillsBy George J. Siedel
  3. Strong Brains, Sharp Minds: The Definitive Guide to the MINDRAMP Method For Brain Health & Mental DevelopmentBy Michael C. Patterson & Roger Anunsen

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While the indie world is obsessing about Amazon’s drone programme, Jeff Bezos is quietly getting on with something far more exciting – a space programme. This isn’t part of Amazon, but one of Bezos’s many private ventures.

His private space company Blue Origin successfully launched its first space rocket at the end of April, taking the world a step closer to passenger space travel. (LINK)

Bezos is no stranger to space. Two years ago his private exploration operation recovered the Saturn 5 rocket engines that launched Apollo 11. (LINK)

I often get slammed for being “anti-Amazon” for suggesting that everything Jeff Bezos does at Amazon is not in fact done for the sole benefit of indie authors. But as a child of the Apollo programme, when it comes to Uncle Jeff’s space endeavours I love them all!

Ebook Bargains UK

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OverDrive Digital Library Ebook Loans Rose By A Third In 2014.

 

DiversifyIn2015

Over 100 million ebooks were loaned out by OverDrive last year, along with 32 million audio-books.

Next time you read about ebooks sales slumping, ebook gluts, and other nonsense, bear in mind what we’ve long been saying: that market fragmentation is accelerating and the handful of big retailers indies have focused on are just one part of the picture. Readers have plenty of other places to obtain ebooks from.

Yes, digital libraries are eating into mainstream retailer market share, but that needn’t be bad news for authors. Just the opposite! Just like with subscription services, digital libraries are a great way for us indies to reach new readers and develop new fan-bases. And yes, authors do get paid for ebooks loaned through libraries.

Until last year getting into digital libraries wasn’t at all easy for indie authors, but the few that did reaped the rewards. Some indies have been with OverDrive for years, and have seen global downloads not just in the UK and US but notably from libraries in Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Now, thanks to Smashwords, getting into the world’s biggest library distributor, Overdrive, is relatively straight-forward for most genres. (Note, erotica authors will need to try a different route – OverDrive draws the line at Smashwords erotica for obvious reasons, but OverDrive does NOT have a no-erotica policy).

It’s worth noting that all the Big 5 have ebooks with OverDrive libraries. If it’s good enough for them…

Lots of individual libraries across Canada and the USA saw over one million downloads in 2014, with some clearing two million.

Los Angeles Public Library saw its OverDrive circulation expand by 56 percent. The New York Public Library and the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County each saw 42 percent growth to top the one million loan mark. And the Seattle Public Library, Hennepin County Library (MN), Cleveland Public Library, Calgary Public Library (AB), and Cuyahoga County Public Library (OH) each increased OverDrive checkouts between 25 and 35 percent to exceed one million loans.

The shift from PC-based downloads to mobile devices has been critical in this increase, and we can expect these numbers to be much bigger by the end of 2015.

We haven’t seen figures for other library distributors yet but safe to presume it’s similar story for them, albeit on a smaller scale. Again, library-distributors are not always easy-access, but it can be done. More on the various options soon.

Those not yet in the library distribution arena really need to think again. Or miss out. Because digital libraries are still in their infancy. This is just the tip of the ice-berg,

Digital libraries are an easy way to reach readers and boost your income even as the mainstream retail sector becomes harder and harder to navigate.

Yes, there is a glut out there. A glut of badly written, badly formatted and badly written ebooks that are cluttering the cyber-shelves and making discovery more difficult for serious authors trying to reach readers. And a glut of free ebooks and ten and twenty volume box sets sold for 0.99. If we swamp our readers with free and ultra-cheap titles by the million it’s hardly surprising readers are sitting back and waiting for the next freebie from indies rather than pay full price.

But as subscription service reports and library reports show clearly, ebook reading is on the up and up. And print is firmly refusing to keel over despite the repeated assurances of the indie fundamentalists over the last five years that trad pub was in terminal decline.

If some of our sales are tanking right now, maybe it’s because some of us aren’t focused enough on being where the readers are, and aren’t focussed enough on making our works available in formats the readers want it in.

Make no mistake. We are witness to, and participants in, a New Renaissance quite unparalleled in human history. We have global reach and global opportunity the like of which authors even a decade ago could only dream of.

Trad pub understands this, no matter how many times the Indie Old Guard trot out the heads in sand / deckchairs on the Titanic spiel.

Yet many of us indies are still partying like its 2009. Many of us are so over-awed by being able to publish at all that we are losing sight of the fact that there is more than one way to publish, and more than one or two retailers to publish with.

Digital libraries are just one option to diversify in 2015.

How diversified will you be by the end of this year? Or will you still be partying like its 2009 in 2016?

 

Ebook Bargains UK

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800,000 Ebooks Downloaded From Digital Libraries In New Zealand in 2013. How Many Were Yours?

Go Global In 2014

When we said back in January that digital libraries an subscription services were the new black and we should all be climbing on board, the suggestion fell on largely deaf ears.

Hey, don’t worry. We’re used to it!

And while the news that US and Canadian libraries had seen 100 million digital downloads through OverDrive was met with surprise, most indies didn’t see it as relevant to their lives, because most indies were not in OverDrive.

That changed this year when Smashwords fixed a deal to get indie titles into OverDrive’s library catalogue. True, there were more than few problems along the way not least when OverDrive appeared to shunt all Smashwords titles into a ghetto zone only viewable by librarians – there are today over 150,000 indie titles showing in the OverDrive public catalogue through Smashwords.

Along with a good many through forward-thinking aggregators like Ebook Partnership, who have been supplying OverDrive much longer.

New Zealand, a small country with a small population (less than 5m) saw 800,000 ebooks loaned from its digital libraries in 2013, through OverDrive and the local library distributor Wheelers. (LINK)

That was before Smashwords got indie books in, but even before that many indies had been seeing increased library traffic year on year from digital libraries, including those Australia and New Zealand, for several years.

Safe to say the 2014 figures for digital libraries in New Zealand and everywhere else will be significantly higher. And for 2015…

As we said back in January, digital libraries and subscription services are the new black. (LINK)

KU aside, that remains true.

But just like in any other outlet, while being there is half the battle, getting discovered is in large part down to you.

Find your links in OverDrive (LINK) and let people know. Tweet and FB to readers in Australia, New Zealand, etc, etc, that they can borrow your books from their local library.

We are the luckiest generation of authors ever to have lived. We have opportunities to reach global audiences quite unimaginable ten… even five… years ago.

A report just out values the global ebook market at $14.5 billion. (LINK)

OverDrive is one such portal to the world. Thanks to Smashwords it’s easier than ever to be there, and at no up-front cost.

Make no mistake, digital libraries ARE the new black, and OverDrive is the single biggest supplier of global digital content.

And there are plenty of other ways for indies to access the that $14.5bn global ebook market.

Not there? Your loss, because the readers are.

Ebook Bargains UK

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Smashwords OverDrive Saga Updated – It's Looking More Promising By The Day.

Go Global In 2014It’s only a couple of days since we carried the news that Smashwords titles had finally been liberated from the Self-Published Ghetto (a section of OverDrive accessible only by librarians) and were finally appearing in the public OverDrive catalogue. (LINK)

Since then another 2,000 Smashwords titles have materialized in the public catalogue and we are optimistic, if by no means yet certain, that all the Smashwords titles will eventually filter through.

Eventually being a key word here.

Smashwords sent some 200,000 (now 215,000) titles to OverDrive, but as we reported back in July, many were not even reaching the indie ghetto, let alone the public OverDrive store. (LINK)

It transpires many of those 200,000 titles still have yet to reach OverDrive.

The Digital Reader expanded on the story and Mark Coker stepped in to explain that while 215,000 titles have been sent, OverDrive have so far only ingested 132,000 of them, so some 80,000 Smashwords titles have yet to reach OverDrive at all, let alone the public catalogue. (LINK)

Interestingly Coker says,

“OverDrive’s website is designed to be public-facing for patrons of a particular library, but not public facing for a view into their entire catalog. This means you can’t easily determine which books are in their catalog.”

This is at variance with what I see, which is the full OverDrive catalogue with an option then to search whether a given title is available in a particular library. The logic being if OverDrive have it then any OverDrive partner library can order it.

Coker makes clear the indie ghetto is not going anywhere any time soon:

“OverDrive tells me they’ve received positive feedback from libraries regarding the segregation. This means the “ghetto” is unlikely to be abolished any time soon unless libraries (OverDrive’s customers) voice their opposition to it. Our position, which we have shared on numerous occasions with our friends at OverDrive, is that such segregation is a disservice to libraries and their patrons, not to mention it’s insulting to the indie authors and publishers we represent.”

Coker concluded,

“Despite the delays and segregation, I remain excited about the OverDrive relationship, and I’m optimistic it will become an increasingly important channel for Smashwords authors and publishers in the years ahead.”

We concur entirely.

The Smashwords-OverDrive partnership may have got off to a bad start, and yes, all Smashwords erotica titles are still excluded. See the EBUK post on Smashwords’ dark side to understand why. (LINK)

But for those that have had titles sent to OverDrive it looks increasingly likely – not guaranteed yet, but likely – that you will all, eventually, get a chance to be discovered by OverDrive-partner library users.

What should you do now?

First, keep an eye on the OverDrive catalogue. (LINK)

Check back every week and see if maybe some of your titles have been pulled through.

If they have, do a spontaneous happy dance (best not to check on your smartphone while in the supermarket queue). and break open the champagne (best to pay for it first if still in said supermarket). And then promote!

How?

Mark Coker has some suggestions on the Smashwords site for partnering with your local library. (LINK)

Most importantly, simply let people know your ebooks are available from libraries, and make sure the OverDrive links to the titles are on your website.

Include the OverDrive links in tweets and FB promotions, etc.

Then get in touch with your local libraries and let them know your ebooks are available.

Most local libraries love to promote local authors. For indies that’s been a hard sell with many librarians not too keen on the idea of self-publishing. But when your books are there alongside the big names in the OverDrive public catalogue that changes everything.

Make the most of it.

Above all, promote the very fact that libraries have ebooks available. Far too many readers are still unaware of this.

These past few years suggestions that indies target libraries have been largely met with derision. Libraries, like book stores, were all dinosaurs and all going to close. Only a handful of libraries sold digital, the story went, so why bother.

Perceptions began to change when OverDrive reported its 2013 stats – OverDrive libraries had seen 100 million digital downloads in 2013.

We’ve no idea what the 2014 number will be but safe to say it will be much, much higher.

What’s important to understand is that, at risk of stating the obvious, library users use libraries. They may also buy from book stores, but every borrow they make from a library is a sale not made by a bookstore.

No, there’s no guarantee anyone will borrow your book from the library. But there is an absolute 100% guarantee they will not if you are not there.

Print borrows account for substantial portions of print book revenue for trad-pubbed authors and publishers. The same goes for ebook borrows.

Trad pub has been raking it in while we looked on enviously, or more likely looked the other way.

Which was fair enough. Then.

Until now it’s not been easy for indies to gain access to this lucrative income steam.

Going direct to OverDrive is not a simple process and the only other easy route – Ebook Partnership – involves upfront costs. That said, Ebook Partnership also get you into the OverDrive retail stores like Waterstone’s and kalahari which the Smashwords deal does not.

But be in no doubt that, if all goes well and the Smashwords indie titles now being delivered eventually feed through to the OverDrive public catalogue, then this is a major breakthrough for Smashwords, and major opportunity for Smashwords authors to reach new readers.

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OverDrive Gets Better & Better – But Is Smashwords Delivering On Its Promises?

Go Global In 2014First a reminder. OverDrive saw over one hundred million digital downloads in 2013. Most of these happened at OverDrive-partnered digital libraries worldwide, but also at partner retail stores, which include Waterstone’s here in the UK, and stores like Kalahari and Exclus1ves in South Africa, among many others.

OverDrive have recently upped their game yet again with the addition of embedded samples, a feature aimed at the library catalogues but which can easily be used by indie authors on their blog or website, or even in social media.

Embedded samples? Essentially when the reader clicks on the sample link, instead of just being taken to the product page in the OverDrive store the first pages of the book will open up right there in your browser to start reading. Then if interested you can be redirected to your local digital library to download the full book.

OverDrive also has another great feature with the embedded samples. Bing users who search for your title will see in the right-hand sidebar (where Google puts its ads) an embedded sample link to the OverDrive ebook version. See an example here at the OverDrive library blog

All great stuff by OverDrive – the most forward-thinking and innovative of the wholesale distributors – but back to our headline.

Two months back Smashwords made big news with the partnership with OverDrive whereby 200,000 non-erotica titles were going to be available in the OverDrive store.

Wonderful! Except to Michael Kozlowski over at Good Ereader, who ran with the headline OverDrive inundates libraries with 200,000 horrendous indie ebooks.

Don’t be shy, Michael. Tell us what you really think.

Eight weeks on, the big question is, has OverDrive been inundated with 200,000 Smashwords indie ebooks, horrendous or otherwise?

If you are a Smashwords author and did not opt out of this distribution then, two months on, you ought to be there by now, right? After all, two months is plenty of time, and the default Smashwords position is that you get distributed to new partners unless you specifically opt-out.

So why is it all the indie authors we have contacted, who are with Smashwords and did not opt out of OverDrive, are seeing a big blank when they search for their title or author name in the OverDrive store?

 ~ ~ ~

Back in mid June Nate Hoffelder over at The Digital Reader broke the news that OverDrive, apparently, was shunting self-published titles into an indie ghetto.

We say “apparently” as we’ve not been able to locate this ghetto, but the quote Nate has from OverDrive concurs with his headline. OverDrive do indeed have a separate section – somewhere –  for “self-published” titles.

Well, it’s their company and they can do what they like. If OverDrive has some objection to self-published titles then it has every right to close the door to them.

But that’s the point. It didn’t.

The team at OverDrive are not stupid. They did not blindly sign a deal with Mark Coker, oblivious to the fact that Smashwords are the biggest distributor of self-published titles on the planet, bar none.

The deal OverDrive signed with Coker specifically excluded erotica titles. That’s a telling point. Because if you go to the OverDrive catalogue you will find any number of erotica titles. OverDrive has no problem with erotica per se.

Try this for size: https://www.overdrive.com/media/465867/letters-to-penthouse-xxxx

In fact the OverDrive catalogue is showing some 13,000 erotica titles. So when OverDrive specifically excluded Smashwords erotica titles they did so for a reason. Because Smashwords’ reputation precedes itself as a free-for-all where anything technically legal in the US is acceptable.

Let’s be clear. OverDrive accept erotica titles. They just don’t accept Smashwords erotica titles, because they know the only quality control at Smashwords is the formatting guidelines.

And our guess is they take much the same position on Smashwords self-published authors. Because it seems Smashwords self-published authors are being shunted into a ghetto, not all indies.

Indie authors who have enough titles to warrant setting up a direct account at OverDrive have no problem. Indie authors using an aggregator like Ebook Partnership have no problem. Their titles are readily available in the OverDrive catalogue, both for libraries and for retailers, and we can confirm from personal experience (one of our team has been with OverDrive and Ebook Partnership for many years) that they are seeing great sales from stores like Waterstone’s, and library borrows across the globe.

But let’s get back to Smashwords.

The day after Nate ran his piece the story was picked up by The Passive Voice and Mark Coker responded.  The comments section is worth wading through, but here’s some key premarks by Coker.

On June 19 Coker said, “I’m investigating”, before assuring us “everything will work out in the end.”

Well that’s nice to know, Mark, but that was a while ago ago and your silence on this since has been deafening.

Back to what Mark Coker said over at The Passive Voice on June 19.

 “The deal with OverDrive happened because so many librarians demanded it, because so many patrons wanted these books, and because OverDrive is committed to serving libraries and their patrons.”

So why have they put Smashwords titles in a separate category that can only be found from a drop-down menu that almost no-one knows exists, including librarians who use the OverDrive portal every day?

Coker noted that some 100,000 titles had already been “ingested” by OverDrive when the official announcement was made, and that it would take 4-8 weeks to complete the process. Tons of indies saw that, according to the Smashwords dashboard, their titles had shipped to OverDrive.

We’ve held off those two months before raising this, but the simple fact now is that even if only those original 100,000 titles from Smashwords were ingested, still none are showing up in the OverDrive store.

Are they in the indie ghetto? We don’t know, because neither we nor anyone else knows how to access this ghetto. If even librarians cannot find it, let alone readers, what point the Smashwords-OverDrive deal in the first place?

In theory the Smashwords partnership with OverDrive (even though only for libraries, not for OverDrive retail outlets) should be up there alongside the Scribd and Oyster deals as tributes to Mark Coker’s commitment to the cause of indie distribution.

But all the evidence so far suggests we’ve been sold a pup. There is very little evidence Smashwords is delivering on its promises on this occasion.

~ ~ ~

And it would seem that Smashwords still does not know what’s going on. We heard from two authors on June 22, over a month after Coker said “I’ am investigating”.

One contacted Mark Coker direct and Coker confirmed he is working on this matter. Other than saying it was OverDrive calling the shots there was no further explanation.

That same day we heard from an author who emailed the Smashwords Sevices Team asking why his titles were not in the OverDrive catalogue.

Smashwords Services Team member Raylene B told the author, “We’re currently shipping out titles to OverDrive in batches. It can take multiple weeks for implementation!”, adding “You can periodically check for your titles at OverDrive by using the link: https://www.overdrive.com/search?q=XXXX where “XXXX” would include the book title’s ISBN #.”

No mention to this author that, actually, you won’t be able to find your titles there regardless, because if they are actually getting to OverDrive at all they will be in a secretive ghetto no-one knows how to find, but which most definitely is not via the link provided.

So are Smashwords titles available from OverDrive or not?

In the comments at The Passive Voice Coker was very clear:

“They (OverDrive) just invited 200,000+ Smashwords titles into their catalog. They’re going to merchandise our buylists. We’re going to work together to try to sell a lot of patron-pleasing books and gain our authors and publishers a lot of new readers.”

On the Smashwords bloghttp://blog.smashwords.com/2014/05/smashwords-and-overdrive-to-bring.html – a few weeks earlier Coker had been even more specific:

 “This agreement marks a watershed moment for indie authors, libraries and library patrons around the world.

It’s also a big deal for thousands of small independent presses around the globe who now have a convenient onramp into the OverDrive network.
Millions of library patrons will now have access to the amazing diversity and quality of the Smashwords catalog.”

Really?

Further down on this same blog Coker says:

 “The full Smashwords Premium Catalog of non-erotica titles is eligible for the distribution to OverDrive.”

Eligible? “Eligible” does NOT mean “will be distributed to”. In fact, it doesn’t mean much at all when you take into account Raylene B’s reply that Smashwords is sending batches of ebooks to OverDrive. Especially when you look at what Coker has to say about batches on that same Smashwords blog (this, remember, two months ago).

 “To help librarians streamline collection development, in the weeks ahead OverDrive and Smashwords will create curated buy-lists lists libraries can use to purchase the most popular indie authors and titles. Libraries will soon have the option, for example, to purchase the top 100 YA fantasy novels (approximate price: ~$400), or the top 1,000 most popular contemporary romances (~$4,000) or top 200 complete series across multiple categories (~$2,000), or the top 200 thrillers, mysteries, epic fantasies or memoirs.  With most of our bestsellers priced priced at or under $4.00, you can do the math to appreciate how incredibly affordable these collections will be.  We’re going to have fun slicing and dicing.”

Let’s run that last sentence again.

 “We’re going to have fun slicing and dicing.”

This suggests Coker and co. are going to cherry-pick established Smashwords best-sellers on Apple, B&N and Scribd (the main Smashwords outlets) and parcel them out to OverDrive as potentially available to purchase.

So, the lucky few who get “curated” may, possibly, be bought as part of a package, always supposing anyone knows where the indie ghetto is and can be bothered to look there.

The rest of us? Nobody knows. Including, it seems, Mark Coker.

~ ~ ~

 Note for those indies who want to be in the actual OverDrive store, not just the ghetto:

To get to OverDrive direct you need a minimum of ten titles. By all accounts the process is not a walk in the park.

For those who meet their requirements, you can also access OverDrive through Ebook Partnership, IPG or Perseus. If anyone is aware of other roads in, do let us know.

And if any Smashwords authors have actually seen their titles available in the OverDrive catalogue courtesy of Smashwords, we’d be delighted to be proven wrong on this.

 

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Far more than just the UK.