Smashwords announces Library Direct

Smashwords today announced Library Direct, a new service that allows libraries and library networks to acquire and establish large opening collections of ebooks, direct from Smashwords.

Library Direct is available to libraries that host and manage their own ebook checkout systems, typically using Adobe Content Server, and that are capable of acquiring a large opening collection.

We have already received purchase commitments from three library systems, each of which will acquire some variation of our top 10,000 best-selling titles.  The purchase commitments approach $100,000 in total.

The first delivery is on schedule to occur next week to Douglas County Libraries in Colorado, which will purchase an opening collection drawn from the top 10,000 best-selling titles at Smashwords.  Douglas Country, under the leadership of director Jamie LaRue, has been an outspoken proponent of what is becoming known as the “Douglas County Model.”  The Douglas Country Model aims to replicate for ebooks the process by which libraries have traditionally acquired print books.  The library acquires the book, owns the book, and manages the checkout systems where they limit the checkout to one copy at a time for each title they own.  Douglas Country monitors the number of “holds” on each book (the number of people waiting to check it out), and if the hold count exceeds a certain number of patrons, the library purchases additional copies.

The other two library systems expected to acquire similar-sized collections include Califa and The Internet Archive.

Califa is a California-based network of 220 libraries in California, with participating members in other states.  Califa is creating its own library aggregation service to provide ebooks to participating Califa members.  Our relationship with Califa was first reported by Library Journal.

The third, and perhaps largest expected purchase will come from The Internet Archive, which operates Open Library, a free online library which in the last 28 days have been visited nearly 2 million times.

Previously, most libraries relied upon published reviews to guide their acquisition decisions.  Under the Smashwords model, the curation is crowdsourced based on aggregated retail sales data drawn from across the Smashwords distribution network with includes the Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo, the Diesel eBookstore and others.

Qualifying libraries can select from the top 10,000, 20,000 or any other large number of titles, and can custom-filter the titles by category and price range.

Like all new Smashwords distribution channels, authors and publishers have the option to opt out of Library Direct, if they choose, from the Smashwords Channel Manager.  Later today we’ll notify all 45,000 Smashwords authors and publishers of this new channel.

Library Direct complements our existing distribution relationships with leading library aggregators such as Baker & Taylor, 3M Cloud Library, and others in the works.  The true sales potential of Smashwords Direct will be indirect, because the analytic tools we’re creating to support Smashwords Direct, such as the sales-curated recommendation lists, will also be provided to our library aggregator partners in the months ahead. This will allow them to offer up myriad recommendation lists their sales teams can then present to the library clients.  Do they want a recommendation list of the top 200 bestselling indie romance ebooks?  No problem.  How about the top 100 fantasy or sci-fi titles?  Our library aggregator partners will be able to do that as well, and they’ll be able to accommodate smaller order sizes than Library Direct, for which we’ll require much larger minimum orders.

The launch of Library Direct is enabled by our other announcement today, the launch of our new Pricing Manager tool, accessible from the Smashwords Dashboard.  Pricing Manager allows authors and publishers to establish custom library pricing for their titles.  Based on our survey, we expect Smashwords authors and publishers will provide their books to libraries at lower-than-retail prices.  Click here to read our Pricing Manager announcement, and learn why it’s a foundational element of the Smashwords library distribution strategy, and why we think it’s exciting news for authors, publishers, libraries and library patrons alike.