If the only necessary people in the publishing process are the writer and reader, shouldn’t libraries serve both?

self-publishingThe concept of a public library as self-publishing platform for aspiring writers isn’t new and libraries across North America are steadily warming up to it, increasingly becoming the go-to places for aspiring local writers to produce, publish and share their work in their community and nationally. In recent years there has been an explosion of self-publishing platforms available to writers all over the Internet and several are used in libraries in the United States and Canada. The three that stand out include Biblioboard, Pressbooks, and Self-E (by Library Journal).

Stratford Public Library (SPL), Ontario, Canada, provides access to all three of these resources for its card holders who may use them through the library’s website. Clearly, the library is trying to position itself as the place where local residents don’t just get free books but also create them from scratch for free.

Just underneath the “Self Publishing Resources” heading on SPL’s website, one notices this quote by Guy Kawaski: “The only really necessary people in the publishing process now are the writer and reader.” Public libraries such as SPL are certainly making the necessary steps to stand as examples of institutions that serve the needs of their patrons in an age that transcends traditional publishing channels and recognize that emerging digital technologies are democratizing the written word like we’ve never seen before. They are making it possible for writers in their community who would normally not be able to get exposure to share their writing and possibly realize their greatest dreams and ambitions.

But before they can share their writing, aspiring writers need help producing their work. Providing writing tools and publishing platforms to patrons free of charge (with the library card) not only helps libraries morph into self-publishing community forums, it allows them to come full circle in their mission to serve their diverse community of patrons, which may include only readers (those who use the library only to check out books), only writers (those who will only use it from now on to publish their work), or some combination of the two.

If the only really necessary people in the publishing process are indeed the writer and reader (and not an entire army of qualified middlemen standing in the way), then libraries taking the steps to serve the writers (not only readers) in this way attests to their awakening to the idea that digital content cannot (and shouldn’t be) ‘contained’ or restricted to the narrow channels of the traditional publishing industry (with which libraries have strong and unbreakable ties).

Instead, conditions need to be created that allow the written word to be nurtured through alternative channels so that it may grow in the direction it wants to grow, even if it is never printed and placed on a physical shelf. Some curation is still necessary and is taking place (see below), but libraries that fully incorporate self-publishing services into their offering are showing maturity and embracing the future that doesn’t leave them justifying their existence but instead opens them to exciting new opportunities to be of service.

Ultimately it’s about facing what most book professionals still grapple with: when we allow the written word to flourish organically in digital format, and this means welcoming the explosion of self-publishing platforms and services, quality isn’t compromised. If anything, more opportunities are created for all in the publishing ecosystem. Best of all, that which is written has a significantly higher chance of being read. And for the first time in human history, we have a way of knowing if what we work so hard to produce, distribute, and curate is actually read (not just bought or borrowed).—MR

More about Biblioboard, Pressbooks, and Self-E (as described on SPL’s web site and used in the context of SPL):


Biblioboard logoUse Biblioboard to access self-published ebooks from your community authors, as well as authors from across North America.

BiblioBoard includes access to:  documents, images, and media files from libraries around the world (BiblioBoard Access); historic and contemporary documents, images, and media files (BiblioBoard Core); independently published titles from Canadian authors (Indie Canada); and independently published titles from Canadian and U.S. authors selected by Library Journal (LJ Self-e Select)


Pressbooks logoInterested in getting your novel, memoir, poetry collection, children’s book and more in eBook and print-ready formats? Pressbooks is an easy-to-use online tool that allows you to create professional quality versions of your book in ePUB, MOBI, PDF and more.

With Pressbooks, you can write, edit and format your book in Pressbooks with no coding or graphic design knowledge. Pressbooks offers over 50 different free themes, each carefully and professionally designed, that are ready for you choose from. Pressbooks also allows you to easily add footnotes, images, front matter, back matter, table of contents and more, all with no experience necessary.


Self-e Self Publishing LogoSelf-E helps connect indie books, libraries, and readers by giving local writing community a place to do digital self-publishing.

Submit your indie-published eBook for possible inclusion in Library Journal‘s curated modules. Even if your book is not selected by Library Journal, you can share it with readers from your library and elsewhere.