BiblioBoard has announced a new program to offer bestselling independent and self-published e-books for library lending on a multi-user model. Dubbed the “Indie Rock Stars” module, the program will launch with the participation of some 50 authors, and will include at least 18 New York Times bestselling books and more than 30 award-winning novels. The module will officially launch at the ALA Mid-Winter Conference in Chicago, on January 30, 2015.
Among the authors included is Hugh Howey, the outspoken, bestselling author of Wool, who says the opportunity to reach new readers through libraries through BiblioBoard is attractive.
“The number one challenge any author has is building an audience,” Howey says in a release. “Librarians can be a powerful marketing force for authors.” Howey’s agent, Kristin Nelson, agrees. “Self-publishing authors didn’t have an easy way to reach this critical market, which is why Nelson Literary Agency Digital chose to partner with BiblioBoard.”
Barbara Freethy, said to be the all-time bestselling Amazon Kindle Direct author, is also part of the initial collection—and has even created book club guides to be used by patrons reading her books.
BiblioBoard in one of a handful of companies seeking to move away from the current “one copy, one user” digital lending model for libraries. With BiblioBoard, libraries buy annual subscription access to collections and then offer patrons unlimited, multi-user access. Titles are streamed to users via an app, and can also be pulled onto a user's digital shelf for offline reading.
BiblioBoard has been gaining traction, Mitchell Davis, BiblioBoard founder, says, and is now working with over 600 publishers, as well as partnering directly with libraries to power proprietary e-lending and self-publishing platforms. The “Indie Rock Stars” module is its boldest program yet, offering access to more mainstream, popular content. “There are 280 books in this collection that have sold [a combined] 17 million copies in the past few years,” Davis says.
While the company has yet to strike a deal with any of the Big Five publishers, that’s Okay, Davis says, noting that his primary concern for now is establishing a compelling, “elegant” library experience for e-books, something he says is sorely lacking in the current, frontlist-driven, e-lending space.
“There is nothing less elegant than one-user-at-a-time checkouts, waitlists, or asking patrons to race and finish a book before it disappears from their bookshelf,” Davis says, telling PW that the most popular library e-lending models today “mimic the print world to the point of absurdity.”
At a PW breakfast event this summer, Davis advocated that libraries reconsider their pursuit of expensive and often user-unfriendly frontlist titles from the major houses, and instead focus on creating an user experience more like what users today enjoy with Netflix. He has even dubbed his approach the “Breaking Bad Model,” after his experience with NetFlix.
While Davis concedes that the Netflix experience doesn’t map directly with libraries, he says that offering great, popular backlist content through a satisfying consumer experience will ultimately drive sales of new titles for publishers, and offer greater satisfaction for library users. But perhaps more to the point, he says the library e-book experience must keep pace with user expectations being set by these new streaming services, or risk losing relevance.
“Librarians are exhausted from being penalized for success,” Davis explains. "If they spread the word about a great book, but only one patron can read it at a time, it creates a traffic jam. We don’t want that. We want libraries to be on par with the other consumer experiences people interact with every day.”