Friday, October 28, 2011

Library eBooks: Is the eBook Ecosystem affected by the Amazon Library Lending Process?

My usual blogging direction is toward the ebook author and the self-publishing world. With this blog I take a left turn and explore the Amazon Library Lending Process and how it affects the ebook ecosystem.

The Jungle

The Inhabitants

In the ebook jungle, the traditional publishers are indeed the king of beasts. They control the prices and the access to the ebooks. Even the authors who create the content have little say. If publishers don’t want you to borrow one of their titles, you can’t. If they want you to wait for a title, you wait.

The next level of control is Amazon. They play the leopard’s role in this habitat. No matter how you look at the lending program, all paths out lead to their sales pages. I don’t see them changing their spots, ever.

Then there is Overdrive. They are the facilitator in this process. They feed you directly into the lion’s den.

The hunters in this jungle are the readers. They get to borrow what is put on the table. It is not their choice what is available. The decisions are made by the control groups.

The Problems

For something that was highly sought, library ebook lending has some major problems. I guess we thought that the ebook library process would mirror the decades-old tradition of libraries and their lending practices. You know the days when the library purchased a book from any source and placed it on the shelf.

For sure, problems with the new process are swirling around the blogosphere like a down pour in the rain forest. Let’s check in on a couple of the more popular discussions.

Privacy of Information

There is a lot of discussion about Amazon using the library lending process to more accurately profile our wants and habits and using that information to sell more products. I think it is the penalty we have to pay to get a free copy to read. Amazon’s incentive is to get you to buy something but this concept is everywhere? If I am not going to buy a $14.99 ebook, all the marketing in the world is not going to change my mind. There are some great discussions on this topic and I see merit in both sides of the argument. (Check references listed below.)

Of all the bantering and opinions about how to solve the privacy problem, the most absurd is to just pirate the ebook file, put it on the Internet and let everybody share in the free copy. Didn’t this happen in the music business? I wonder if those folks are out of jail yet?

Or I could pay cash for a hardcover book and avoid security cameras.

All I know is when I go to the grocery store and start shopping, I have a list of needs but I am also looking for discounted items I can buy with my shopper’s card. Today I found some hotdogs on sale. Because I am a hotdog kind of guy, I purchased a couple extra packages.

Then I headed to the checkout. I have several alternatives. I can give the checker my shopper’s card, get my discount but give up my personal information and buying habits. Or I can have the checker process my order without my card, lose the discount and save my privacy.

And I have another alternative. I could use the pirates’ method and walk straight out the door, saving my privacy and getting my groceries free.

Checkout limits

This is an old business concept called a ‘click charge’. That is the payment for incremental usage of an item. In the Libraries’ version, the ‘clicks’ or checkouts are paid for in advance.

The ‘click charge’ concept in the digital world was tried in the 1990’s when businesses started converting their paper forms to electronic forms. Several software development companies created e-forms design software to assist companies in the conversion.

Once the process started and the software companies saw how popular digital forms were going to be and how much money businesses were saving on the e-forms, they decided they wanted more than just the money for the design software. They wanted a fee for each form designed. This was called a ‘click charge’. They sold a license for blocks of forms (usually 50 or 100 at a time). Once a company surpassed their block, they had to pay for a new batch.

Companies didn’t go for this very long. They looked for other alternatives. Eventually application software companies added e-forms to their systems. Now e-forms design software, with no extra fee, is everywhere.

By the way, the original e-form design companies are no longer in business. New ideas and competition drove them somewhere else.

Expansion of the Audience

With the low price point of the new Kindles there is a potential of three times as many patrons demanding to checkout ebooks. And it will get worse. In November, there will be a ‘Kindle Fire’ in the jungle. Because of the expanded audience and the way copy access is handled, Nook will take a direct hit on this one. Once free to roam the collections, Nook users will now compete with the Kindle users. This should deeply impact the library budgets, their collections and availability.

A quick look at my libraries’ James Patterson’s collection shows 718 access copies with only 36 copies available or 5 percent. Only one title is available that was published since 2009. With these stats many people move on to something else. They either select something else in the library catalog or because they have their Kindle in their hands, they just buy it. Amazon’s motive, I am sure.


As long as we have unlimited checkouts, the library must encourage early RETURNS.

The Principle of Maximizing Library Returns states that in the library lending process, returning one book earlier than the  loan expiration date, while keeping the titles available constant and with no checkout limit, will at some point yield a monetary return to the library.

Of course, all ebooks will never be checked out at one time but popular ebook titles will almost always create a waiting list. On hold, if you will.

So does the library buy access to more copies of the popular title or do they let their patrons wait for the title to be available? Trust me the wait can be very long.

So what happens when the reader is done with the title and returns it early? The next reader in the hold line has the opportunity to check the ebook out. If this happens often enough, the need for the library to purchase access to another copy of the ebook diminishes.

Let’s take a quick look at one title to illustrate the point.

Don’t Blink x James Patterson
There are Only 4 ebook access copies in my library’s collection.

There are 71 patrons on the waiting list. At the rate of a full 14 day checkout, it will take 248.5 days to meet the demand. If the ebook was returned early, let’s say 5 days, the wait decreases to 88.75 days. (Still a three month wait.)

A better scenario would be to purchase 6 more copies (about $60.00) and encourage early returns. A 5 day return would bring the demand down to a 35 day wait.                                                       

Click Charge Strategy

If the publishers elect to impose a checkout limit, then the libraries must modify their strategy. In a way it makes the process simpler. Just buy short and adjust up.

Maybe you could test this now with HarperCollins. Only buy one copy of a title. If you see a hold list developing, buy another. With this strategy at least you won’t get caught holding 10 copies of a title with no activity.

Managing your digital collection will be the key to handling ‘click charges’ and reordering.

I wouldn’t boycott but I would not embrace the limit system either. Just adjust your buying model and limit the bad apples. Libraries do have the final say on which ebooks they purchase access too.

Living in Harmony

So what does this mean to the ebook ecosystem? I do know the natives are getting restless. As new technology and software enter the ecosystem, the pressure on libraries to keep up will grow dramatically.

I believe that ‘Returns’ are a key for libraries to maximize their investment in their collections. The less days an ebook is on loan, the greater the opportunity for the library to not buy access to an additional copy. The patrons need an incentive to return the ebooks early.

In the end we need a new animal in the ecosystem. Competition could solve some of the problems. Whether it comes from Google or 3M or another player we need more choices. Maybe we are looking at Smashwords entering the lending business or Amazon themselves. They have access to the content and their selection should be much greater.

Library access to a source of self-published authors and their works at discounted pricing could help patrons get exposure to new writers and relieve some of the pressure from the Overdrive lending system we are seeing currently.

What are your thoughts?

What can we do to encourage patrons to return ebooks early?
Will libraries have to change the way they manage their collections?
Is the ebook lending privacy issue a major problem or our current way of life?
Will libraries ever be able to purchase a copy of an ebook, place it on their server and have unlimited distribution to their patrons, like they do hardcovers?


A Helping Hand

I need to thank Brenda Brown from the Chandler, Arizona Public Library. She helped me to be able to ‘see the forest for the trees’. Sometimes I get involved in the details and I don’t see the whole picture.

View my website: HBSystems Publications
Specializing in the ebook experience

Or EMAIL at:

LinkedIn Profile: James Moushon

Author: Call Off The Dogs, a rendered eBook

CIA Agent Jonathon Stone
discovers another shooter in
the Kennedy Assassination

Friday, October 21, 2011

eBook Marketing: What Goes Around Comes Around

To eBook authors, marketing can be a daunting task. Whether you’re an indie publisher or you are using a traditional publisher, the marketing is usually left up to you.

It is a digital world now and self-publishers are not tied to bookstores with limited shelf space and a revolving inventory. In fact it will be on sale for a very long time. With the longevity of your eBook’s life, you have the ability to try several different marketing avenues until you find one that works.

So where do you start with this marketing thing?

Your marketing goal should be to fill the sales pipe with quality content and give your readers as many entry points to your buy pages as you can.


One of the phenomenons in the ebook marketing world is the momentum that is created when an author catches on. Every week it seems we are hearing about an author reaching the ebook million unit sales plateau. Their secret is they know how to market and brand themselves. Yes they are in all the right places. The speed of the Internet and the reach it offers to the ebook marketer is breathtaking.

So how do they do it? Besides great content and hard work, how do they reach that prize status?

Entry Points

One of the marketing strategies they use is the creation of as many entry points as they can to get to their sales page. They never miss an opportunity to put that ebook product in front of their prospective readers. Here are some of the entry points.

1.      Ebook-links. Don’t miss the opportunity to add links in your ebook to the other titles that you have for sale. You should also link to your author’s website and blog and other reference points so readers can find their way back to you. Use the power of links.

Traditional publishers are missing this one on a regular basis. They are so anxious to make a copy of the paper version and get it online; they don’t render the buy links to the other titles in your ebook.

2.      Websites. Have multiple websites. I recommend one for each ebook plus an author site that encourages reader communication. Make sure you reference your other titles on the individual sites. There are many free opportunities to setup multiple sites and blogs. Have giveaways and conduct contests. Anything that keeps your readers coming back to your website. Having your readers help with the title of your next book or the design of your next cover is a powerful tool to use.

3.      Blog. Toss in a blog with interesting reader information and an interaction component. Don’t forget to include a blog list on your site. You know. Related blogs you like to read. They in turn will link back to your blog, creating more entry points. Encourage the cross-linking. It is win-win for both parties.

4.      Tags and Metadata. One of the most important components that must be addressed every time you do something online is the path readers will take through search engines to get to your information. Search Engines Optimization (SEO) is the key to readers finding your ebook online. Spend some time analyzing what types of tags and categories you want to include in your messages. You may want to start with Google Keywords. Then look at your competition and see what they are doing.

5.      Email Signature Line. Use your email signature line to sell your ebook. Show a thumbnail of your cover with a link to your buy page. Then start emailing a lot. Sometimes emails work better than commenting on forums and other blogs to create activity.

6.      Guest Blogs and Interviews. Try to get involved in your genre community. A guest blog or an interview is a great opportunity to get your name and your ebook in front of another audience of readers and buyers.

7.      Helpers. Connect with your helpers with links to their sites. Your helpers include your copy editor, your cover designer and your book designer. Linking to them can create a turnaround with a link back to your site.

Reader Interaction

You must develop an interaction with your reader. Here are some ideas.

1.      Direct contact to your audience through social networking is very time consuming but it can be very rewarding. Facebook and Twitter along with Linkedin and Mobileread are good venues for starters.

2.      As you go through your marketing activity, you must give your reader ‘that expert feeling’ about you and your book. Nothing turns them off more than marketing copy with typos. Talk the talk and walk the walk.

3.      Your thumbnail cover could be the difference in the buy decision. You must keep in mind an ebook cover is looked at differently than the traditional cover. The prospective reader can’t see the brilliant colors or feel the raised print. If you can’t read the thumbnail, neither can the prospective buyer. You may have two covers. One for the paper version and one for the ebook version.

4.      Amazon Public notes could be another opportunity to interact with your reader base and create synergy. If you can get them involved, your next ebook will be an easier sell.

End Game

So where are we going with this? Activity is a good thing. The more interaction you have with readers, the bigger opportunity you have for continued ebook sales. Here are several takeaways.

1.      Motivate the buyer at each entry point. Make it easy to buy your ebook.

2.      Get readers to read your first two chapters.

3.      Develop synergy between each entry point with reader interaction.

If the Amazon or Barnes and Noble sites are the only place readers can find out about your ebook, I advise you to go fishing and dream about what could have been.

How will they find you and your ebook? Should you seek a mentor to help you market your ebook? You will find out that there is not enough time in the day to do everything yourself.

View my website: HBSystems Publications
Or EMAIL at:
Author: Call Off The Dogs, a rendered eBook
LinkedIn Profile: James Moushon

This blog first was posted at the ‘Marketing Tips for Authors’ site by Tony Eldridge.

Tony is the author of the action/adventure book, The Samson Effect, that Clive Cussler calls a "first rate thriller brimming with intrigue and adventure" and the Twitter marketing book, Conducting Effective Twitter Contests which helps people find targeted Twitter followers.
His blog is frequently listed as one of the top ebook marketing blogs in the industry.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

eBook Authors: Is the New 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 usually 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

Overdrive is 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 the ‘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: 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 from 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

by Henry Baum 9/21/2011

by Brier Dudley's Blog 9/26/2011

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

View my website: HBSystems Publications
Or EMAIL at:
LinkedIn Profile: James Moushon

Author: Call Off The Dogs, a rendered eBook


CIA Agent Jonathon Stone
discovers another shooter in
the Kennedy Assassination