This week in Literature and Arts

We are pleased to introduce a  new column on No Shelf Required: This Week in Literature and Arts. The idea is simple: each week, writer Michael Rogers (with a long history of book reviewing and reporting) highlights what happened in the world of literature, publishing, and the arts that week. It’s a trip down memory lane of sorts, and it’s meant to both inform and entertain.

Since NSR is the portal that celebrates all things related to human creativity in digital format (and this includes books and various media) and since it’s also become an advocate for free access to all forms of human creativity online, it is only fitting that we embrace a column which celebrates literary and cultural accomplishments through the ages. It’s a great way for us all to refresh our memory and learn something new. And when Michael is writing, we are sure to learn. We are also sure to laugh. Enjoy this week’s compilation (and do follow Michael’s phenomenal ‘it happened today’ daily updates on Facebook).Ed


November 13, 1850 — Birthday wishes to novelist, poet, traveler, and musician Robert Louis Stevenson, born in Edinburgh, Scotland, this day in 1850. In addition to his literary endeavors, Stevenson was an accomplished musician, playing numerous instruments and composing more than 100 scores. Too brief a life; he died of a cerebral hemorrhage at 44 while living in Samoa.

If it’s been a few years since you read Stevenson, take a break from the cookie-cutter mysteries and NY Times bestseller-list crap and reread Kidnapped or Treasure Island. Read them aloud to your kids; you’ll have as much fun as they do.

stevenson

 


 

November 14, 1851 — Moby Dick is published in America after debuting in Britain several months earlier. The book mostly was panned by critics (like Ahab, they found the narrative didn’t have a leg to stand on—NyukX3!), but in the ensuing now 165 years, controversy has arisen over whether those who lambasted the work at the time actually had read it or simply cribbed from British reviews.

If the critics indeed based their opinions on previous criticisms without reading the book it’s all the more sad because Moby Dick‘s financial failure in large part lead to Melville’s demise as an author, forcing him to find employment as an inspector of ship cargoes at South Street and other locales around New York harbor.

Since the novel’s renaissance in the 1920s, oceans of ink have been spilled on it’s true meaning, blah, blah, blah, and while the symbolism is there, books like it and Ulysses tend to be so over-dissected that their intrinsic beauty becomes a casualty, and instead of being read with great joy, people become afraid and avoid them. Silly. Moby Dick is beautiful.

melville


November 17, 1942 — Happy birthday to New York’s own Martin Scorsese, born in Queens this day in 1942. His parents relocated to Manhattan’s Little Italy when Marty was a kid. I think everybody has a favorite Scorsese movie or two. Hopefully, he’ll get that last gangster picture with De Niro and Pesci up and running. Have a great one, Marty!

scorcese


November 17, 1919 — The great Sylvia Beach opens Shakespeare and Company at 12 Rue de l’Odéon in Paris. The combination bookstore and lending library was frequented by James Joyce, Ford Maddox Ford, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, Andre Gide, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Janet Flanner, Kay Boyle, and other artistic Olympians.

Beach adored Joyce and published Ulysses when no one else would touch it. Writer or not, she is a hero of 20th century literature.

beach


November 18, 1928 —  An empire is born as the fledgling Walt Disney Studios releases “Steamboat Willy,” the first synchronized sound cartoon (technically, the initial talkie toon) featuring early incarnations of Mickey and Minnie Mouse.

Decades later, Disney would be the invisible force behind the Copyright Term Extension Act, which added generations of time before copyrighted works entered the public domain. At the time, industry insiders referred to the legislation proposed by Utah Senator Orrin Hatch and signed into law by President Clinton as the “Steamboat Willy Law.”


Michael Rogers is a Jesse H. Neal Gold Award-winning freelance writer, editor, reviewer, and photographer. He was also Media Editor and audiobook reviewer at Library Journal.

Ebook sales continue to decline in 2016. That’s very good news (for those who advocate free reading).

read-876536

NSR is not big on sharing statistics and reports on its site, since numbers released in them are often used to promote and encourage the status quo as opposed to encourage publishers (and all who work with books) to transform and go beyond traditional sales and marketing methods; to take the lead as opposed to rely on reports to justify reinforcing old practices. This report, just released by the Association of American Publishers today, in and of itself isn’t all that surprising (or newsworthy), telling us that in the first half of 2016 book sales were down ‘slightly’ when compared to book sales in 2015. We do, however, want to draw  attention to one statistic in this document: that in the first half of 2016 vs. 2015, sales of ebooks were down 20 percent (to 579.5 million).

This is actually GOOD news. At least for those of us advocating free reading and free access to books online, regardless of geography, status, and membership. Why? Because numbers like this do not confirm that people don’t want to read and access content in digital format. Instead, they confirm that they simply do not want to pay for it. Readers are already used to consuming massive amounts of information for free online, and their expectations will gravitate in the direction of ‘free’ even when it comes to books (including fiction and all types of nonfiction).

It may sound odd, but it actually makes sense. If ebook sales continue to decline, it just may be the signal publishers need to consider opening books online for free consumption while still being able to gain from it (by relying on ebook models that support free reading through sponsorship, like Free Reading Zones, instead of opting for business models that require people or ebook services to purchase publishers’ ebooks in advance). Publishing industry has always been reactive to change, rather than proactive in its efforts to transform itself. Seeing ebook sales decline year after year will not make ebooks go away—their power to eliminate unequal (and unbalanced) access to knowledge (in all forms) is too real to be denied—but it may lead publishers to consider (and reconsider) other options. We look forward to that. Below full press release.—Ed.


Washington, DC; Nov. 16, 2016 – Publishers’ revenues (sales to bookstores, wholesalers, direct to consumer, online retailers, etc.) were down 3.4% for the first half of 2016 vs. the same period in 2015. The greatest percentage gains from the first half of the year came from Religious Presses, up 10.4%.

While revenue for Trade Books grew 6.7% in June, the gains were not enough to counter declines from earlier in the year, and the overall category declined 1.1% in the first half of 2016.

“After a tough first quarter — with trade sales down 7.4% from the prior year — second quarter sales have bounced back with 4.6% growth. Sales of adult, children’s and religious books all increased in the second quarter due to a mix of factors including movie tie-ins, a diversity of titles from small and midsize presses, and religious presses recovering from a tough 2015,” said Tom Allen President and CEO of AAP.

Overview

  • For the first half of the year, sales in all tracked categories were down 3.4% to $5.37 billion vs. the same six months in 2015. Tracked categories include: Trade – fiction/non-fiction/religious, PreK-12 Instructional Materials, Higher Education Course Materials, Professional Publishing, and University Presses.
    • Publishers’ book sales for June 2016 in all tracked categories were $1.46 billion, down 4.7% from June 2015.
  • In the first half of 2016, compared to the first half of 2015, trade sales were down 1.1% to $3.03 billion:
    • Adult Books had $2.11 billion in sales, down 2.8%
    • Childrens/YA Books had $689.3 million in sales, up 0.9%
    • Religious Presses had $222.4 million in sales, up by 10.4%

Trends for Trade by Format

  • In the first half of 2016 vs. 2015:
    • Paperback books grew 8.8% to $1.01 billion
    • Downloaded audio grew 32.3% to $126.7 million
    • Hardback books grew 0.9% $989.7 million
    • eBooks were down 20.0% to $579.5 million
  • Interesting trends in June:
    • June 2016 had an unusually high percentage of growth in religious presses’ Paperback Books, which are up 54.6% compared to June 2015; the whole category has grown 16.8% over the past half year vs. 2015.
    • June was also a month of incredible growth for downloaded audio, with 51.7% more revenue than June 2015.
    • In June eBooks had their slightest monthly decline in over a year, down only 9.7%.

Below is a chart that shows the market share of various Trade Book formats for the first half of the year from the past six years. Of note, eBooks have around the same percent of market share in 2016 as they did in 2011, while audiobooks doubled their share. The most consistent category has been hardback books, which has ranged from 33.0% to 36.4%.

20161115aappressreleasechart

Educational Materials and Professional Books

  • Educational Materials had a revenue loss of 2.1% for K-12 Instructional Materials and 5.9% for Higher Education Course Materials, in the first half of 2016 vs. 2015.
  • Professional Publishing was down 23.1% in the first half of 2016 vs. the first three months of 2015. These categories include business, medical, law, scientific and technical books. University presses were down 1.7% in the first half of 2016 vs. 2015.

 

Book of the Week: Hesterwine, Texas 1943 by Dot Ryan

No Shelf Required is an ardent supporter of independent authors around the world producing their work on their own terms and with their own resources. In an effort to draw attention to quality independent literature (fiction and nonfiction published by independent authors and indie publishers), and in agreement with BlueInk Review, NSR highlights reviews of a wide variety of titles published on BIR’s site each week. Enjoy this week’s pick.

Hesterwine, Texas 1943

About Author

dot-ryanDot Ryan is a fifth generation Texan. Her first novel, Corrigans’ Pool, was named a finalist in the prestigious Indie Book Awards, The International Book Awards and was the winner of Foreword Review’s 2011 Book of the Year,  judged by the American Library Association.

 


About BlueInk Review

BlueInk Review was founded by Patti Thorn, former books editor of the Rocky Mountain News, and Patricia Moosbrugger, literary agent and subsidiary rights specialist. It offers serious, unbiased reviews of self-published books. Reviews are penned largely by writers drawn from major mainstream publications, such as The New York Times and Washington Post, and editors of respected traditional publishing houses. Select reviews appear in Booklist magazine.

 

Just Listen [Part 2 of NSR’s ‘Reading by Ear’ series]

headphones-968781_1280

This is the second post in NSR’s series by librarian Francisca Goldsmith discussing audiobooks as a medium through which contemporary readers are invited to explore literary culture, performance arts, and multimodal literacy capacity building. The first post, Who’s the Model Reader?, discussed why and how audiobook listening expands, rather than derails, our access to literature. Here Goldsmith takes on the issue of prescribing audiobooks as a ‘print reading’ support versus listening to audiobooks as a way to build information and aesthetic experiences and critical thinking about auditory experiences in their own right. As Goldsmith wrote previously, it’s time for educators and all who promote and enable literacy to discuss “the richness audiobooks can deliver to the literary experience.” We thank Goldsmith for her invaluable contribution to the NSR dialog.


Just Listen

By Francisca Goldsmith

Almost all of us know a kid whom we recognize as an inveterate reader, and some of us were that kid or grew up to be litaholics as adults. When you think of such a person, regardless of age, is your image limited to that someone who reads silently, eyes focused on text strewn pages?

A variety of expert groups now are on board with audiobooks both as “acceptable” for supporting literacy attainment efforts.  That has placed them in a kind of literacy medicine cabinet, where the format is simply means to an end that must be in a different format, the silently consumed text on paper page.

Listening well can help us understand concepts and feelings—and thus our world and the others in it, as well as ourselves—that escape our notice when we listen poorly or apply only our own interpretation to a printed page’s text. Audiobooks aren’t a booster chair to get kids to the table of text literacy; they are a rich means of offering the opportunity to build a skill just as valuable and necessary as that: the skill of feeling at home in a world where others are just as real as we are.

Fluency with the medium of language and the capacity to reflect critically comprise the true goal of literacy attainment. Listening is at base no easier a skill to grow well than is looking. Both senses can collect nuances and symbols; it’s what happens once sounds or sights become the stuff of thought and feeling that they can impart usefulness, power, and pleasure for us. The best way to develop either of these senses—or our other three as well—is through exposure to stimuli that engages us thoroughly enough to want us to perfect our connection with it. With listening, this means catching the meaning of every aspect of a particular performance: the meanings of the words in themselves, the meanings of the passages they create, the meanings of the tones of voice and voices with which the words and passages are delivered, and the pacing of the delivery.

One of the most striking remarks I recently heard from an audiobook narrator explores this from the other end, that of the performer. They described how different the audiobook performance experience is from other acting. Intimacy with the listener stands at the opposite end of the field from projecting and acting to the back of the house. And it is that intimacy that makes the audiobook medium just as much about literacy as the print text book: the anticipation that the audience is fully engaged only with this—text or recording—which has been made for that connection specifically with this individual and that individual and that other pair over there who, though they may listen together, remain individual sets of ears attending only to this audiobook.

As a culture, we are much more comfortable creating our own interpretations and speaking our own opinions than we are with doing the work to understand other possibilities. Listening to audiobooks isn’t medicine for would-be text readers. It’s a skill to engage and develop in its own right, toward the end of improving our abilities to hear another’s voice and reflect on the possibilities it proposes. Audiobook listening can build a critical component in everyone’s literacy capacity.

See also: Reading by Ear (Why audiobook listening expands, rather than derails, our access to literature)


Francisca Goldsmith, a librarian and reviewer for over 30 years, has handled audiobook advisory and staff development training in many venues since 1997. Among her current work roles, she serves as a Contributing Editor at AudioFile Magazine and works with the Audio Publishers Association’s Sound Learning initiative.

 

This week in Literature and Arts

We are pleased to introduce a  new column on No Shelf Required: This Week in Literature and Arts. The idea is simple: each week, writer Michael Rogers (with a long history of book reviewing and reporting) highlights what happened in the world of literature, publishing, and the arts that week. It’s a trip down memory lane of sorts, and it’s meant to both inform and entertain.

Since NSR is the portal that celebrates all things related to human creativity in digital format (and this includes books and various media) and since it’s also become an advocate for free access to all forms of human expression online, it is only fitting that we embrace a column which celebrates literary and cultural accomplishments through the ages. It’s a great way for us all to refresh our memory and learn something new. And when Michael is writing, we are sure to learn. Enjoy this week’s compilation (and do follow Michael’s phenomenal ‘it happened today’ daily updates on Facebook). Ed.


November 6, 1860 — Amid a deep unrest encumbering the nation and dividing the Democratic party into factions, Abraham Lincoln becomes the first Republican president, winning 180 electoral votes, while Southern Democrat candidate John Breckinridge placed second with 72, John Bell of the Constitutional Union Party earned 39, and Northern Democrat Stephen Douglas landed dead last with a mere 12. Within a little more than 100 days, seven states would secede from the union to form the confederacy.

lincoln


November 7, 1980 — “King of Cool” Steve McQueen dies at 50. Horribly, doctors now believe that the asbestos-laden fire-proof suits he wore pursuing his passion for racing were the catalyst for the mesothelioma that killed him. How awful. McQueen probably is best remembered now for the action roles in “Nevada Smith,” “The Sand Pebbles,” “The Great Escape” (if I’m flipping stations and come across TGE I’m doomed), “Bullitt,” etc., all enjoyable films, but for me he delivers his best performance in “Papillon.”

mcqueen


Happy 74th birthday to Johnny Rivers, born John Ramistella in New York City this day (November 7) in 1942. His family moved to Louisiana when Johnny was small, and when he was pursuing a career in music, no one less than Alan Freed advised him to change his name to Rivers after the Mississippi. Anyone who was a kid in the early 60s will remember this one.


Birthday greetings to Bram Stoker, theater manager, critic, and author, born in Dublin’s north side November 8, 1847. stoker


Happy birthday to Claude Rains, born in London’s Camberwell section November 9, 1889. As a lad he had a heavy cockney accent but groomed that marvelous speaking voice through numerous elocution lessons. He taught at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts where his students included Lawrence Olivier and John Gielgud. Along with “The Invisible Man” and “The Wolf Man” (he and Lon Chaney, Jr. as father/son has to be one of Hollywood’s strangest casting decisions), Rains played pivotal roles in such films as “The Adventures of Robin Hood” and “The Sea Hawk,” and “Now, Voyager” through “Lawrence of Arabia,” but, of course, is best remembered as uber-charming womanizer Captain Renault in “Casablanca.”

casablanca


Alright, Jawsasauruses, give it up for birthday boy Roy Scheider, born in Orange, NJ, November 10, 1932! If you only know Roy from Brody, track down “All That Jazz,” “The French Connection,” “The Seven Ups,” “Klute,” and, especially, “Sorcerer,” one of the great lost films of the ’80s. He’s terrific in all of them.

scheider


Happy birthday to Kurt Vonnegut, born in Indianapolis, IN, November 11, 1922. His simple yet all-encompassing “so it goes” might be the most poignant commentary on current events.

vonnegut


Happy birthday to Fyodor Dostoyevsky, born in Moscow November 11, 1821. A journalist and magazine editor who went beyond. He always was a tough read for me. I think this is him…or one of the Smith Brothers. Not sure.

dostoyevski


Michael Rogers is a Jesse H. Neal Gold Award-winning freelance writer, editor, reviewer, and photographer. He is also former Media Editor and audiobook reviewer at Library Journal.

Free mobile reading and writing platform for all to use? Yes, please. And thank you, Sweek.

sweek-post

Have you heard of the free mobile reading and writing platform Sweek? I didn’t know anything about it myself until I discovered it at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair. As I learned from a recent press release, it is a global platform for free reading, writing and sharing stories already present in over 75 countries. It is available on all relevant platforms (including iOS and Android) and new stories from authors from around the world are uploaded daily. The idea is to give established and aspiring writers a creative outlet where they can share their stories for free, while also being able to promote their work. What a wonderful idea. Very aligned with No Shelf Required’s mission to support projects that unleash the written word for all to enjoy. The future of books and reading is ‘free’ in all shapes and sizes. Projects like this bring us closer to that future.–Ed.

Here’s more from the press release:

Frankfurt Book Fair

Sweek has been launched on all three platforms – iOS, Android and web – with full reading and writing functionality at the Frankfurt Book Fair 2016. During consumer days, hundreds of readers and writers downloaded the app and were introduced to the #sweekgalaxy competition for short stories. Until November 15th, writers can upload their short story of less than 2,000 words on Sweek using #sweekgalaxy to win a Samsung Galaxy S7. Veronika Kartovenko, cofounder and business development manager at Sweek: ‘Of course, we also talked with a lot of publishers during the book fair to discuss incorporating mobile publishing into their strategy. We definitely expect more top authors to join Sweek in the upcoming months.’

Reading and writing become social and mobile

Sweek serves a broad audience of readers and writers, but the ‘Smartphone generation’ is joining Sweek on a larger scale. ‘These people still read a lot, but in a different way, with the social component playing a crucial role in the reading experience, especially for the youngsters. Interestingly, even more ‘traditional’ readers start reading more on their smartphones, something which has been confirmed again and again by recent research,’ says Peter Paul van Bekkum, CEO of Mybestseller and Sweek. ‘Our most active markets, Turkey and Latin America, support this idea of changing reading behavior, as we see users being very smartphone focused, starting their own Facebook groups about Sweek, and caring a lot about the community and interaction.’ Readers can follow and like stories, and share them via different social media channels. Veronika Kartovenko: ‘Sweek creates a link between the author and the reader. Compared to the current situation, in which reading is a solitary activity and the author doesn’t know who his readers are, this changes the nature of reading and writing.

Reaching the Netflix generation

Authors are currently using Sweek to publish all types of content, in all genres and languages. ‘Sweek is there for – amongst others – short stories, blog posts, books and serialized writing,’ states Sabine van der Plas, co-founder and marketing manager at Sweek. ‘We currently see a lot of short stories on the platform, but also some traditional, chapter driven books, which users upload in one go. We’re curious to see how serialized and ‘never-ending stories’ will evolve. We believe that they can build up the interest of readers, who are by now used to shorter, cliffhanger based content, and have the potential to gain a massive amount of followers.’

Marketing tool for authors

The smartphone generation barely visits the bookstore anymore, while the publishing industry is still using mainly traditional marketing techniques to promote books. Recent changes in reading behavior ask for changes in publishers’ strategy, if they want to remain profitable. Currently, very few authors have a strong presence on social media, which we believe directly threatens their future sales. Sabine van der Plas: ‘Sweek is the ideal marketing tool for top authors and traditional publishers. By sharing exciting content – for free – on Sweek, authors reconnect with their readers, create a loyal fanbase, including digital natives, and reach a new audience. The author can immediately reach those followers when a new traditionally published books is released, thereby increasing book sales.’

About Sweek

Sweek is a mobile platform which allows anyone to read, write and share stories. All over the world. In an instant. For free. On Sweek you can find stories of both upcoming writers and established top authors, in all genres, to be read online and offline. Readers can follow, like and share stories, and readers and writers are directly connected. Sweek is free for all users, and is available in 12 languages for Android, iOS and web users.

About Mybestseller

Mybestseller gives any author the opportunity to easily publish their book (print and e-book) and sell it via all relevant sales channels, such as Amazon, but also directly via social media using BookLink. Next to operating its own brands as mijnbestseller.nl and mijnmanagementboek.nl, Mybestseller offers third parties a full service white label solution. This way, any publisher, bookseller or content party can immediately integrate self-publishing in their strategy, for instance bravenewbooks.nl and bookmundo.de. Mybestseller is active in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, the United Kingdom, France and Turkey.

Book of the Week: A Curious Host by Nanette L. Avery

No Shelf Required is an ardent supporter of independent authors around the world producing their work on their own terms and with their own resources. In an effort to draw attention to quality independent literature (fiction and nonfiction published by independent authors and indie publishers), and in agreement with BlueInk Review, NSR highlights reviews of a wide variety of titles published on BIR’s site each week. Enjoy this week’s pick, a novel by a Nashville-based writer, educator, and researcher.

A Curious Host

 

About Author

Nnanette-averyanette L. Avery lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where she is a writer, educator, and researcher. Her first novel, Orphans in America, was named a “Best Indie Book” by Kirkus and “A Reviewer’s Choice Indie Book” by Foreword Reviews.

 

 

 


About BlueInk Review

BlueInk Review was founded by Patti Thorn, former books editor of the Rocky Mountain News, and Patricia Moosbrugger, literary agent and subsidiary rights specialist. It offers serious, unbiased reviews of self-published books. Reviews are penned largely by writers drawn from major mainstream publications, such as The New York Times and Washington Post, and editors of respected traditional publishing houses. Select reviews appear in Booklist magazine.

This week in Literature & Arts

We are pleased to introduce a  new column on No Shelf Required: This Week in Literature and Arts. The idea is simple: each week, writer Michael Rogers (with a long history of book reviewing and reporting) highlights what happened in the world of literature, publishing, and the arts that week. It’s a trip down memory lane of sorts, and it’s meant to both inform and entertain.

Since NSR is the portal that celebrates all things related to human creativity in digital format (and this includes books and various media) and since it’s also become an advocate for free access to all forms of human expression online, it is only fitting that we embrace a column which celebrates literary and cultural accomplishments through the ages. It’s a great way for us all to refresh our memory and learn something new. And when Michael is writing, we are sure to learn. Enjoy this week’s compilation (and do follow Michael’s phenomenal ‘it happened today’ daily updates on Facebook). Ed.


October 30, 1938

Orson Welles and the Mercury Theatre’s presentation of Howard Koch’s radio dramatization of H.W. Wells’s “The War of the Worlds” sends the nation—already on edge with the European war—into a panic with countless armed citizens coast-to-coast barricading themselves in their homes or taking to the roads in hopes of outrunning the invading Martian machines. Simply amazing, and more than 75 years later the original broadcast holds up marvelously. Wonderfully entertaining and effective still.

orson-welles


A young doctor’s meager practice providing the time to scratch a creative itch leads to the world’s first consulting detective and his friend and Boswell whose singular exploits are collected in “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” published this day in 1892. The significance of the Baker Street ménage cannot be overestimated. Bravo, Arthur.

sherlock-holmes


November 1, 1940

Bud Abbot and Lou Costello jump from radio to the big screen with the release of “A Night in the Tropics,” a romantic-comedy-musical starring Allan Jones, Robert Cummings, and Nancy Kelly. Bud and Lou sported minor roles but generated enough laughs to convince Universal to spotlight them in their own films; three months later “Buck Privates” hit theaters.

one-night-in-the-tropics


Happy birthday to poet, novelist, journalist, and Jersey boy Stephen Crane, born in Newark this day in 1871. If you haven’t read him in awhile, treat yourself to “The Open Boat” or one of his other fine stories. It always shocks that he wrote “The Red Badge of Courage,” which catapulted his career, without ever having served in the army much less fought in combat. A good bullshiter!

stephen-crane


Bad breath and worse manners climbed to new heights this day in 1954 with the release of “Godzilla.” While the film was screened in certain Japanese-heavy areas of the U.S., additional footage starring Raymond Burr was shot for a broader American release two years later. Happy anniversary, big guy!

godzilla


Michael Rogers is a Jesse H. Neal Gold Award-winning freelance writer, editor, reviewer, and photographer. He is also former Media Editor and audiobook reviewer at Library Journal.

 

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

hanckock-opinion-piece

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.

Open Access Week: Knowledge Unlatched launches institutional usage reports and will partner with Language Science Press

Great news during this Open Access Week – Knowledge Unlatched will partner with Language Science Press .  The full press release is below.  Additionally, KU announced today the launch of its institutional usage reports.  More on this feature can be found on the KU press release.  From the PR:  “The reports are based on institutional IP addresses using COUNTER-compliant data provided by one of KU’s official hosting platforms, OAPEN. Until now, KU has been publishing aggregated reports for the Pilot Collection only.” Continue reading Open Access Week: Knowledge Unlatched launches institutional usage reports and will partner with Language Science Press

Portal on all things ebooks and digital content and for all reading, writing, publishing, curating, and distributing the written word and other content in digital format, including publishers, librarians, writers, editors, content developers, distributors, and educators. Managed and edited by Mirela Roncevic, with contributions from professionals and thought leaders in the United States and around the world.