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Ebooks And Publishers And Libraries Oh My

I love libraries. Most people who love to read and to write do as well. For many of us, the library (or the Bookmobile in my case) saved us early in our lives. Where I grew up, the closest library was in the county seat, a good thirty minute car ride away – and that is IF you had access to a car.

This morning I finished reading The Book of Lost Friends by Lisa Wingate. I devoured the book in less than two days. I don’t write book reviews, but I would wholeheartedly recommend this work of historical fiction. But this post is not about the book, but about how I was able to read it.

I checked the ebook out of my library using an app called Libby. Not all books are ebooks, and not all ebooks make it into the library. And if they do, their presence there is governed by contract rather than copyright. Confused yet? This means it is possible the book will be available to the library for a finite period or a finite number of checkouts.

I stumbled on this after my curiosity was piqued. I wanted to check out the book The Ballad of Tom Dooley by Sharon McCrumb. It was not available even though a number of her books were. I thought, well, maybe I could pay and donate that book to the library since it is a well known legend in this part of the country.

What I learned is that when a library acquires an ebook, the cost is much higher than an individual purchase of the same ebook. Now this made sense to me because the book can be checked out and read several times so the publisher (and the author) would want to be compensated accordingly. Understood. But, once the contract expires, the ebook would need to be repurchased again.

Ebooks for libraries are funneled through Overdrive. Overdrive was sold in 2020 to a private investment firm, KKR, from Japanese online retail giant Rakuten. Looking at the money involved (estimated $700+ million) in the sale, this is big business.

If you are an Indie author, there are platforms that deal with Overdrive to help Indie authors get their ebooks into libraries.

Let me just say I still purchase more books than those I read from the library, which may be the somewhat clandestine outcome desired. After all, who benefits when the consumer is frustrated with the library system and chooses to purchase the ebook instead? I will let you answer that for yourselves.

It is a very complex world between author, publisher, sales platforms and libraries.

I am interested in your thoughts.

  1. Do you read ebooks?
  2. From the library or purchase only?
  3. Do you read more books Vs. ebooks
  4. If you are a published author
    1. do you feel compensated fairly?
    2. are your ebooks in libraries?

I am curiouser and curiouser….