Over 100 million ebooks were loaned out by OverDrive last year, along with 32 million audio-books.
Next time you read about ebooks sales slumping, ebook gluts, and other nonsense, bear in mind what we’ve long been saying: that market fragmentation is accelerating and the handful of big retailers indies have focused on are just one part of the picture. Readers have plenty of other places to obtain ebooks from.
Yes, digital libraries are eating into mainstream retailer market share, but that needn’t be bad news for authors. Just the opposite! Just like with subscription services, digital libraries are a great way for us indies to reach new readers and develop new fan-bases. And yes, authors do get paid for ebooks loaned through libraries.
Until last year getting into digital libraries wasn’t at all easy for indie authors, but the few that did reaped the rewards. Some indies have been with OverDrive for years, and have seen global downloads not just in the UK and US but notably from libraries in Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Now, thanks to Smashwords, getting into the world’s biggest library distributor, Overdrive, is relatively straight-forward for most genres. (Note, erotica authors will need to try a different route – OverDrive draws the line at Smashwords erotica for obvious reasons, but OverDrive does NOT have a no-erotica policy).
It’s worth noting that all the Big 5 have ebooks with OverDrive libraries. If it’s good enough for them…
Lots of individual libraries across Canada and the USA saw over one million downloads in 2014, with some clearing two million.
Los Angeles Public Library saw its OverDrive circulation expand by 56 percent. The New York Public Library and the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County each saw 42 percent growth to top the one million loan mark. And the Seattle Public Library, Hennepin County Library (MN), Cleveland Public Library, Calgary Public Library (AB), and Cuyahoga County Public Library (OH) each increased OverDrive checkouts between 25 and 35 percent to exceed one million loans.
The shift from PC-based downloads to mobile devices has been critical in this increase, and we can expect these numbers to be much bigger by the end of 2015.
We haven’t seen figures for other library distributors yet but safe to presume it’s similar story for them, albeit on a smaller scale. Again, library-distributors are not always easy-access, but it can be done. More on the various options soon.
Those not yet in the library distribution arena really need to think again. Or miss out. Because digital libraries are still in their infancy. This is just the tip of the ice-berg,
Digital libraries are an easy way to reach readers and boost your income even as the mainstream retail sector becomes harder and harder to navigate.
Yes, there is a glut out there. A glut of badly written, badly formatted and badly written ebooks that are cluttering the cyber-shelves and making discovery more difficult for serious authors trying to reach readers. And a glut of free ebooks and ten and twenty volume box sets sold for 0.99. If we swamp our readers with free and ultra-cheap titles by the million it’s hardly surprising readers are sitting back and waiting for the next freebie from indies rather than pay full price.
But as subscription service reports and library reports show clearly, ebook reading is on the up and up. And print is firmly refusing to keel over despite the repeated assurances of the indie fundamentalists over the last five years that trad pub was in terminal decline.
If some of our sales are tanking right now, maybe it’s because some of us aren’t focused enough on being where the readers are, and aren’t focussed enough on making our works available in formats the readers want it in.
Make no mistake. We are witness to, and participants in, a New Renaissance quite unparalleled in human history. We have global reach and global opportunity the like of which authors even a decade ago could only dream of.
Trad pub understands this, no matter how many times the Indie Old Guard trot out the heads in sand / deckchairs on the Titanic spiel.
Yet many of us indies are still partying like its 2009. Many of us are so over-awed by being able to publish at all that we are losing sight of the fact that there is more than one way to publish, and more than one or two retailers to publish with.
Digital libraries are just one option to diversify in 2015.
How diversified will you be by the end of this year? Or will you still be partying like its 2009 in 2016?