Category Archives: Public Libraries

A time to (finally) incorporate indie eBooks into library catalogs

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By Emilie Hancock


It’s no secret that technology has impacted reading. As eReading has become more prevalent, readers demand publications in both print and digital formats. Not only has that thirst for varied formats allowed greater freedom for how and when we read — devouring short serials on the bus or listening to audiobooks while running, for instance — it has also allowed more freedom in what, or who, we read. In addition to books available from big publishers, digital publishing has seemingly conjured scores of indie and self-published books out of the shadows. And judging by the success of Hugh Howey and CJ Lyons, among others, readers are happy to include indie books along with those from big-name presses.

However, while most libraries around the country meet patrons’ digital demands by lending eBooks, many have historically been  less than enthusiastic about the idea of adopting indie eBooks. That has been changing in major urban libraries and in the thought leadership of the library world, with good reason. By examining evidence around the consumer demand and affordability of indie eBooks versus eBooks from traditional publishers, we can demonstrate how incorporating indie eBooks into libraries’ catalogs can be good for both patrons and libraries.

The Rise of eReading in Libraries

Libraries have come a long way since the early days of limited archives etched into tablets — made of clay, not pixels and paper — shared with a select group of elite society. 18th-century France ushered in the truly democratized library as we know it today, with the Bibliothèque Nationale offering hundreds of thousands of printed books and manuscripts to the general public, regardless of financial means or education. Since then, libraries have strived to keep up with and serve public interests, including one of the more recent developments spawned by the digital age: eReading.

In addition to print books, patrons also read digitally. Not surprisingly, a rise in the number of devices that Americans own has corresponded to a rise in eReading. What’s more, while the number of people who use dedicated eReaders has stabilized, the number who read eBooks on multipurpose devices like tablets and cellphones has increased substantially, signaling greater diversity in people who read eBooks.

In response to the rising popularity of eReading, 90% of public libraries offer eBook lending services, a statistic that would make the folks behind the American Library Association’s Libraries Transform campaign smile proudly. Additionally, the outlook for eBook presence in libraries is positive. eBook circulation increased 12% from 2013 to 2014, and libraries expect circulation to continue to rise at a similar rate. Plus, readers of all ages are continuing to turn to libraries for eBooks, a fact demonstrated by the vast majority of libraries that are experiencing increased demand for adult, young adult and children’s eBooks in libraries.

Incorporating the Indie Book Movement

Despite libraries’ adoption of eReading, the gap between the number they circulate versus the number of eBooks that are procured via direct purchase is profound. U.S. eBook sales for Amazon alone are at over 1,000,000 units a day and growing, while a 2015 Library Journal (LJ) report shows that the average annual number of eBooks that all of the libraries in the United States lended in 2014 was only 75,600 per day. If librarians turn to patron demand to guide which materials to add and keep in circulation, it would come as no surprise that, historically, the eBooks that libraries choose to lend have often overlapped with those sold by big publishers. After all, purchases reflect readers’ demands.

However, eBook purchases also reflect big publishers’ agendas, which entail aggressive pushes to meet a bottom line that, ironically, conflicts with libraries’ missions to lend books at no cost to the public. On top of that, eBooks by big publishers often cost just as much as or more than their print counterparts and come with usage-based price inflations and restrictions — more irony, considering eBooks don’t experience physical wear and tear.

Luckily, eBooks don’t just facilitate reading. They also make publishing and author discovery easier, a truth to which scores of indie and self-published authors who use library-oriented programs like Pressbooks Public and SELF-e can attest. In fact, so many indie eBooks have now permeated the market that readers are no longer forced to rely on Big Five publishers to find books. Just as libraries democratized who could take advantage of their book lending services, indie and self-publishing have democratized the book market by expanding the selection of books available to consumers beyond big publishers.

Understandably, some readers have been skeptical about the quality of writing that comes with the ease of self-publishing. Less understandably, the same readers sometimes fail to apply that same cautious approach to traditionally published books — many of which are subpar in the eyes of librarians — based on the argument that indie books don’t have esteemed third-party approval. But what indie authors lack in publisher support, they often make up for in sheer reader support. The success of authors who started by self-publishing, like Hugh Howey, CJ Lyons and others, more than proves their worth for readers, and now their books are part of library catalogues across the nation.

Truth be told, readers have been eagerly devouring indie eBooks with increasing enthusiasm, while traditionally published eBook sales are declining. The most recent Author Earnings report, which measures the health of the book market based on profits made by authors rather than publishers, shows that the number of indie eBooks sold has increased by about 15 percentage points in just over two years. During the same time period, the number of eBooks sold that was published by the Big Five has plummeted about 20 percentage points. It’s no mystery why libraries would want to purchase bestsellers for their patrons, but adding indie eBooks to their virtual shelves would please both their patrons and their purses. Not only are they growing in popularity among readers, but they also come at a fraction of the cost of traditionally-published books and are typically free of baggage like restricted usage policies and outrageous price inflations.

The call for libraries to offer more indie eBooks by no means signals an either/or stance on whether to offer traditionally published or self-published eBooks. Just as libraries have adapted to patrons’ desires to read digitally by lending both eBooks and print books, they can respond to patrons’ demands for eBooks by indie authors by adding them to their circulation mix. Considering that readers are the ones to dictate an indie author’s success, libraries have much to gain by challenging themselves to base more acquisitions on a perspective that considers an author’s success among readers.


Emilie Hancock is Content and Media Editor at BiblioLabs, the creators of BiblioBoard. She is the founder of Books Unbound, a literacy program for incarcerated teens in South Carolina. She lives with her husband and their two bossy dogs, and is a patron of the Charleston County Public Library.

Congrats Topeka & Shawnee PL for Library of the Year Award (and extensive econtent collection)

13394142_10156931554445654_1260705143126542099_n[1]Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library (TSCPL) in Kansas has been named the 2016 Library of the Year by Gale, a part of Cengage Learning, and Library Journal. The press release (below) and other news stories about the award point to the library’s exemplary engagement with its community. The library is to receive $10,000 at an ALA reception in Orlando, FL,  on June 26th.

Glancing at the library homepage makes it clear that TSCPL engages in all sorts of activities, including filling prescriptions for patrons.

Relevant to NSR readers and advocates for digital literacy: the library offers ebooks and digital content, too, including a large collection of audiobooks.  According to its web site, TSCPL provides access to thousands of ebooks and audiobooks through OverDrive, Hoopla Digital, BookFlix, and TumbleBooks for Kids.  Its econtent offerings also include videos, music, and magazines.

The library’s top 10 research databases include:

  • Auto Repair Reference Center
  • Consumer Reports
  • Academic Search Premier
  • American Obituaries
  • Business Search Premier
  • Health Source
  • Mango for Libraries
  • Masterfile Premier
  • Novelist
  • Ancestry Library Edition

Continue reading Congrats Topeka & Shawnee PL for Library of the Year Award (and extensive econtent collection)

Gale launches American Fiction Archive, affirms its position as literary content leader

American Fiction GaleAn interesting new electronic resource has just been released by Gale: American Fiction, 1774-1920. This “new digital archive” in Gale Primary Sources program comprises over 17,500 works of literature, including novels, short stories, travel accounts, and sketches (“many of which have never before been available online”), all brought together to support research in U.S. history and literature.

Gale is no stranger to literature resources. Its other products include Literature Criticism Online, Literature Resource Center, and the well-known Dictionary of Literary Biography. Given the interdisciplinary nature of today’s research as well as the capabilities of today’s technologies, one can’t help but wish that at some point, in the-not-so-distant future all this wealth (and breadth) of literary content will eventually blend into one mega resource on all things American literature.

Pre-register for a trial here. Full press release below. Continue reading Gale launches American Fiction Archive, affirms its position as literary content leader

Boopsie’s case study with DC Public Library shows patrons prefer mobile access

Boopsie DCPLBoopsie, Inc. has released a case study that explores its collaboration with the District of Columbia Public Library (DCPL). The two worked together to develop a customized app that provides access to the library’s services for the system’s users.

From the study: “Since its launch in June 2015, the Library’s customized app has been downloaded over 10,000 times with an average of over 1,000 unique users each month. Feedback provided to librarians indicates that DC Public’s patrons have a preference for leveraging the user-friendly mobile app to connect with their Library.”

Case study may be downloaded here. Full press release below. Continue reading Boopsie’s case study with DC Public Library shows patrons prefer mobile access

Digital Book Clubs — the next chapter in the evolution of Book Clubs

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OverDrive has just announced its plans to support public libraries in their efforts to cultivate more reading (and take advantage of the flexibility of the digital format) through Digital Book Clubs. Participating institutions include public libraries in cities like New York and London, among others.

According to recent numbers (from BookBrowse), 22 percent of readers belong to at least one digital Book Club with friends and family.  Efforts by libraries and companies that support libraries to cultivate reading by taking advantage of all that the digital format has to offer are commendable on every level. They are, of course, especially impressive when they involve places and institutions other than the world’s most affluent cities and countries. If the below press release is any indication, our industry is well on its way to reaching (and creating) more readers regardless of their zip code. Continue reading Digital Book Clubs — the next chapter in the evolution of Book Clubs

Total Boox and the Tocker Foundation Bring Ebooks to Rural Communities in Texas

April 5, 2016  — Total Boox, a revolutionary ebook service seeking to break all barriers between readers and ebooks, and the Tocker Foundation (TF), a non-profit supporting public libraries in rural Texas, are pleased to announce a groundbreaking partnership, which will make Total Boox’s collection of nearly 100,000 quality ebooks initially available to 20 rural public libraries in the state.

“We are honored that in its first effort to fund an ebook initiative, the TF chose our service over all other available services,” said Yoav Lorch, CEO of Total Boox. “A small selection of books has always been the main impediment for the ability of small libraries to serve their patrons. With Total Boox, any small library can have the exact same selection as a large urban library. This immediately increases the library’s ability to effectively serve its community, and the TF was quick to recognize this.” Continue reading Total Boox and the Tocker Foundation Bring Ebooks to Rural Communities in Texas

94% of public libraries offer ebooks says the 2015 LJ/SLJ report

Library Journal/School Library Journal conducted the 6th annual survey of public libraries regarding ebooks.  The 2015 report is available for download here.  The report is made available courtesy of Freading.  Registration is required.

From the executive summary:  ” If  it  appears  from  the  current  survey  (based  on  317  U.S.  public  libraries  responding)  that  much  of  the  enthusiasm  for  ebooks  has  cooled,  it  is  only  because  they  have  become  less  of  a  novelty  and  more  mainstream.”

“Ebook pricing is too high” is the most common complaint from public librarians about ebooks.

Here’s a page snip showing the number of public libraries offering ebooks over the last 6 reports:

The number of Public Libraries offering ebooks from the 6 LJ/SLJ surveys from 2010 - 2015.
The number of Public Libraries offering ebooks from the 6 LJ/SLJ surveys from 2010 – 2015.

How public libraries are evolving digitally – new report

From the OverDrive blog:

OverDrive conducted an end user survey from June 26-July 15, 2015. Administered via library websites, the survey collected input from 16,756 respondents.  Their full report examines the positive effect the shift to digital content has had on the role of libraries in their communities by helping attract new readers, serve existing patrons better and reach beyond their physical walls.

There is a nice infographic on the original OverDrive blog post.

Click here to see the full report and survey.

Gale launches Miss Humblebee’s Academy, an early literacy product for children ages 3 – 6

Farmington Hills, Mich., April 23, 2015 — Supporting public libraries’ life-long learning initiatives, Gale, a part of Cengage Learning, is pleased to announce Miss Humblebee’s Academy, a new early literacy product that will assist the library’s youngest learners in building foundational literacy skills. Partnering with Miss Humblebee LLC., Gale has co-developed a robust product tailored specifically to the public library user, which includes the assessment tools libraries need to measure their impact on early literacy development in their communities. Studies show that participating in quality early learning can boost children’s educational attainment and earnings later in life, underscoring the importance for public libraries to provide resources that serve this young audience.

Continue reading Gale launches Miss Humblebee’s Academy, an early literacy product for children ages 3 – 6

Boopsie’s mobile app now integrated with Baker & Taylor’s Axis 360

Sunnyvale, CA – February 26, 2015 – Boopsie, the leading mobile platform-as-a-service provider for libraries worldwide, and Baker & Taylor, the premier worldwide distributor of digital and print books and entertainment products, have integrated the Boopsie Mobile App with Baker & Taylor’s Axis 360 digital media library. The partnership will drive circulation and usage of Axis 360 and meet patrons’ expectations for easy access to the library’s digital information and entertainment materials.

Continue reading Boopsie’s mobile app now integrated with Baker & Taylor’s Axis 360