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eBook Authors: Is the Kindle Library Lending Program a New Opportunity for Self-Publishers?

As new ebook authors and self-publishers continue to try to get exposure in the digital world, several new events could present an expanded opportunity to reach the ebook reader.

1. Amazon’s new generation of Kindles plus the IPad rival ‘Kindle Fire’ will definitely expand the reading audience.
2. Amazon allowing Kindle ebooks to be included in the public library lending process will also expand the audience.

The problem is the same old players and the same old obstacles seem to be in the way.

Process Controlled by the Usual Suspects +

With the first review, it appears that the library lending process is being controlled by the usual players, plus the addition of the facilitator, Overdrive, and public library systems across the country.

1. Publishers Control

The traditional publishers are the first line of control. If they don’t want readers to be able to checkout an ebook, it doesn’t happen. Period. For example as of this post, MacMillan and Simon & Schuster have opted out of the lending program. That is two of the top six.

Another, HarperCollins, has set a limit of 26 checkouts before the library has to buy more access.

2. Amazon doesn’t miss a beat

You can’t checkout a Kindle ebook unless it is for sale on the Amazon website. Of course, Amazon doesn’t miss a beat in capturing your information as you checkout their ebooks from the library.

On a Kindle buy page, the section ‘More Items to Consider’(to buy) now lists library ebooks checked out and the section ‘Related to Items You’ve viewed’ now lists related ebooks to the library ebooks checked out.

The whole process is guided and controlled by Amazon, pointing you to their buy page as often as they can. For example, when you view your ebook library on your Kindle, (includes library and purchased ebooks) the borrowed library ebooks still appear after expiration. When you click on the cover, you are directed to the buy page for that title on Amazon.

3. Public Libraries, between a rock and a hard place

They all are faced with rising costs, space restrictions, changing customer needs and now the additional costs of maintaining a growing ebook collection. This has prompted library consortiums to try to train staff, control costs and handle the on-line nature of the ebook business.

Libraries have always been democratic in nature, developing a local collection to match their reader’s demands. These collections have always been controlled by the individual libraries. If it is written and they can buy it or get their hands on it, they will make it available to the public.

They are fighting a learning curve but the staff knowledge is light years ahead of where it was just two years ago. Back then they had to deal with old policies and traditions. They needed a change in their mindset and they have done that quite well.

Their responsibility has always been to provide a reading and learning experience to the community. With the introduction of the digital world, their mission has greatly expanded.

4. Overdrive is the new player on the block

They are the 800 pound gorilla in the room. With all the other players listed above and their control, nothing happens in the library lending catalog unless they say so. They control and manage the process.

You must remember this is a profit making venture. If they don’t make money on a title, it is not available. If they don’t control the publisher, it will not be available for your catalog. Libraries will continue to hear the pitch: reduce waiting lists, add more copies. It is all about sales and not giving the farm away.

I would be willing to bet that there is a very low percentage of ebook titles priced at less than two dollars in their book depository. Yet the dominate ebook price point is below $2.00.

Self-Publishing Opportunity

Of course if you are a self-publisher, good luck even showing on the radar. Library access for ebook authors should be a great opportunity for the authors to get exposure and build their brand. They rely so much on using word of mouth to get established, the library could be the perfect vehicle to get heard.

We know something is up when the top ebook authors are missing from the library catalogs: Amanda Hocking, John Locke, and Louise Voss, all top ebook authors. My library does offer some of J. A. Konrath’s titles. Probable because it is good stuff and they are available in hardcover.

The Checkout Process

Checkout is a simple process; Your Library to the Amazon site via Overdrive software. I thought I would give you a brief check list.

What is required:

1. Valid Library Card and a PIN number
2. Instructions on how to access your library site and it’s ebook lending program
3. An Amazon Account (It is Free to sign up. If you already purchase through Amazon you have one.)
4. A Kindle device and/or a Kindle software app registered at Amazon

The Process

1. Sign In to Your Account.
2. Search your library catalog for an ebook of your choose that is available in the Kindle format.
3. Select an ebook and click on ‘Add to Book Bag’ link.
4. Click on the ‘Proceed to Checkout’ link when you’re done.
5. Select the lending period and click the ‘Confirm Check Out’ link.
6. Click the ‘Get for Kindle’ button. you are transferred to Amazon website.
7. Click ‘Get library book’ button
8. Amazon will present a ‘Thanks’ page with instructions to proceed

At this point you have two options:

Delivering the ebook to a WIFI device or your computer
OR download and transfer the ebook via USB (3G devices)

9. WIFI delivery

a. Click on the ‘Manage Your Kindle’ link on the ‘Thanks’ page.
b. Find the ebook you are downloading and click on the ‘Action’ button.
c. Click on the ‘Deliver to my…’ option – the ebook title page will appear.
d. Before delivering, make sure the ‘Deliver to:’ device in the dropdown is correct.
e. Click on the ‘Deliver’ button – your ebook should now appear in the device or software library

10. 3G devices – Download and Transfer

a. The ‘Thanks’ message will inform you the device selected is not WIFI compatible and you must transfer the file via USB cable (Kindle power cable without wall plug.)
b. Click on the ‘Download now’ button on the ‘Thanks’ page.
c. You will be prompted to ‘Open’ or ‘Save’.
d. Click on ‘Save’. (Use ‘Save As’ if you want to put the ebook in a different folder)
e. Find the ebook you are transferring via USB in its folder and depress CTRL-C to copy the file to clipboard
f. Locate the Kindle device folder in the computer file directory and its sub folder ‘Documents’
g. Paste (CTRL-P) the ebook into the sub folder and you should be good to go.

This process can also be accomplished my using the Action ‘download & transfer via USB’ in the Manage your Kindle section on Amazon.

Click here to view the KINDLE LIBRARY CHECKOUT AND RETURN PROCESS, a COMPLETE list of steps (with tips and examples) for delivering a borrowed Kindle ebook to your Kindle device or ebook reading app and returning the ebook.

Also you can email us: checkoutprocess@hbspub.com and we will send you a MS-Word copy (DOC) OR a PDF copy of the instructions. Please instruct us on which version you want.

Where is Amazon going with this?

They are driving potential customers to their website to check out an ebook. And they don’t miss a beat on offering the reader the opportunity to buy that title and others. But usually there are other reasons for Amazon to give something away.

Currently you search for a title on your library site, pick one and then the system transfers you to Amazon to download it to your Kindle. Unfortunately most of the information you need to make the decision is seen after you check the ebook out.

Actually the best practice is to browse the Amazon site and review the information on a title and then return to your library site and check out the ebook of the library.

I feel Amazon could actually provide the public libraries with better services and a much larger ebook selection than Overdrive because of the wealth of information and reviews it has on each title. All the library would have to do is add a link to the ‘new Amazon library’ site rather than going through Overdrive.

More questions than answers

Right now the Library Lending Process is a one way street. I have so many questions that I didn’t have enough space in this blog to ask them all.

The future can be quite hard to predict. When I started compiling this list of questions, I felt like a weatherman in the mid-west.

Will self-publishers and individual ebook authors be able to take advantage if this new exposure opportunity?

Is there a way for the independents to get involved in the lending process?

Will ebook-only authors (no hardcover) have a chance to get into a library collection?

How about self-publishers? Will they be shutout of this opportunity?

Can libraries use the Overdrive advertised option of ‘Library Individual Collection’ to add local talent to their collection?

Could Amazon break the hold on Overdrive?

Will a competitor enter the library lending arena and steal the show?

Credit where credit is due

I want to take this opportunity to thank Dorothy Stewart, a librarian at the Tempe Az. Public Library for her help. Her insight was invaluable.

Please comment and add to the list of questions. I could go on and on with this one.

Related Blogs and Information
‘Overdrive Tour of the Lending Process’

‘Kindle Books Now in Libraries via Overdrive’
by Henry Baum 9/21/2011

‘Kindle Library Lending: Good Deal for Everyone?’
by Brier Dudley’s Blog 9/26/2011

‘Video Tutorial – How to borrow books from the Library with the Amazon Kindle’
by Markus Reily 10/05/2011

View my website: HBSystems Publications
Or EMAIL at: jrm@hbspub.com
Or go to my blog: The eBook Author’s Corner

LinkedIn Profile: James Moushon
Author: Call Off The Dogs, a rendered eBook

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