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Self-Published eBooks are Coming Soon to a Library Near You

Hot on thesmashwords overdrive heels of yesterday’s news about txtr, Smashwords announced  a new partnership with Overdrive today. At long last, authors and publishers can now use Smashwords to distribute their titles to the king of the library ebook market.

Smashwords has long had contracts with OD’s smaller competitors Axis 360 and 3M Cloud Library (and Smashwords has signed deals with individual digital libraries like The Open Library and Douglas County Public Library System), but OverDrive, with its network of 28,000 libraries and schools worldwide, towers over the competition.

Overdrive’s library partners will soon have the option of buying from Smashwords’s catalog of about 200,000 titles from 88,000 publishers and authors.

The ebooks will be loaned on a one copy/one user model, with no limit on the number of loans or an expiration date, and patrons will be able to read the ebooks on OverDrive’s apps for Android, iOS, ebook readers, and even the Kindle. Library patrons will also have the option of buying Smashwords titles through their library via OverDrive’s "Buy it Now" program, earning the library a commission and getting a DRM-free ebook for their troubles.

200,000 is quite a catalog to get lost in, so OverDrive and Smashwords have taken steps to streamline collection development. Smashwords has assembled curated lists of best sellers and popular genres. Libraries will soon have the option to purchase a buy-lists consisting of, for example, the top 1,000 best selling Smashwords romance titles, or the top 1,000 best selling mysteries and thrillers. Smashwords is also putting together buy-lists made up of the complete catalog of the top 100, 500 or 1,000 bestselling Smashwords authors.

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Michael May 20, 2014 um 12:28 pm

Interesting. Apart from the one copy/one user model, which has never made sense to me to impose on ebooks, sounds like a pretty good deal. At least there are no maximum lends or expiration.

A bit unexpected though after Mark wrote this in 2011:

"In addition to recalcitrant publishers, the leading library aggregator, Overdrive, has a near monopoly on library ebook distribution. They’re fleecing libraries, many of which have to pay $25,000 or more up front for the privilege of using Overdrive’s system, and this is before they’ve spent a penny on a single book. The primary purpose of Overdrive’s platform is to satisfy the paranoid publisher desires for DRM and lending limits."

I guess the deal sort of addresses the lending limits complaint, but has the general fleecing ended? Maybe Smashwords sees participation as helping to ease the pain, since many indies are willing to distribute their books to libraries for free, at a discounted rate, or in many cases their books are just more affordable to begin with than other publishers' books.

However it came about, I know it’ll be happy news for many authors, libraries, and library patrons. I’m pleased that the Buy It Now option will provide patrons a DRM-free book.

Nate Hoffelder May 20, 2014 um 9:44 pm

Over Drive had already partnered with everyone else in the library ebook space, so an OD deal was the next step.

And as for the change of heart, Smashwords is a business.Their choice was to either do business with a scoundrel or make less money. They chose the former.

carmen webster buxton May 21, 2014 um 12:43 pm

This may well drive publishers to be more reasonable about selling ebooks to libraries. As a self publisher author, I hope it takes them a while to realize that if library have large collections of self-published work available, this could push readers to try new authors.

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