A few of the major US publishers might not have much interest in selling ebooks to libraries, and as frustrating as that may be for ebook lovers it does leave the market open to everyone else. That includes the 58,800 authors and publishers distributed by Smashwords.
Late last week the Colorado-based Douglas County Libraries announced that they had acquired 10,000 ebook titles from Smashwords, nearly doubling their total number of ebook files owned to 21,000.
This sale was worth around $40,000 in total. It is the single largest sale which Smashwords has made via their Library Direct program, which launched back in August. DCL was one of the initial launch partners, along with Califa and the Open Library.
When it comes to ebooks, DCL is something of an oddity. They're well-known for being the champions of a new library ebook model where the libraries actually buy the ebooks and own them, rather than pay a monthly fee to service providers like OverDrive, Axis 360, or 3m Cloud Library. DCL set up their own servers to support their ebook collection, a project which they started in Fall 2011.
As you can tell from the paltry size of their collection, DCL has not had much interest from legacy publishers, though that could be due to the greater hassle for the publisher having to deal directly with the library rather than via an ebook distributor.
Smashwords is slowly building support for Library Direct, and before this deal they had sold around a thousand titles via Library Direct. That's not a bad figure for such a short period of time; remember, the DCL deal took 4 months to execute o clearly these things take time.
In any case, today's news is a win all around. Smashwords' authors find new readers, and DCL gets a much better price than can be found from Penguin or Random House. “We’re eager to connect our readers to fresh streams of digital content,” said Jamie LaRue, director of Douglas County Libraries. “Smashword’s average price per title [about $4] allows us to do that more readily than we could from the big publishers [now charging as much as $84 per e-book]. This looks like the beginning of a wonderful friendship.”