Libraries and Smashwords

I’m sure most of you are aware of this, but just in case, I thought I’d pass along Smashwords’ site for August 7, 2012 (  On our dashboards, we can now adjust the price for libraries that want our books.  In our channel manager, we can opt out of library distribution if we wish.

I’ve opted to make all of my books available for libraries free of charge.  My thinking is that it’ll help with exposure because more libraries will be likely to pick up a free book than one that they have to buy.  That’s not to say some libraries haven’t already bought my books.  I see in my dashboard that some have.  I just want to make it easier for them to say yes.

Another reason I opted for free to libraries is that I do get emails/blog comments/FB messages from readers who say they can’t afford my books.  Well, for anyone else having the same type of correspondence from readers, this offers a way to direct them to a legitimate way to read your books for free.  l already made the announcement about Smashwords and libraries on my blog dedicated to my readers, but I added that it’s up to them to contact their libraries about getting my books for them to lend.  My thinking on this is that libraries will be more likely to listen to their patrons when it comes to stocking their virtual bookshelves, so the readers need to take action in this area.  This also offers the ideal response for readers who are strapped for cash and can’t buy the books.  From now on, I can encourage them to contact their local library about getting my books in their system.

I’m not saying the system will be perfect.  No system is perfect because human beings aren’t perfect.  But I do see this as a step in the right direction to helping to make piracy less attractive to readers and to gain exposure.

Now, you don’t have to offer your books free for libraries.  That’s just an avenue I chose.   You can choose to give libraries a discount, charge the same price as retail or not allow distribution to libraries at all.  Every author will have to decide what option is best for them. I made this post because I wanted to know what other authors are thinking of doing with this new development.  I rarely participate in forums anymore (too time consuming), so I wanted to ask you guys on this blog about it.  😀

Will you have your books distributed to libraries?  Will you go free, discount the price, or go retail?  What do you think of Smashwords’ books being in libraries?

(As a side note: anyone being rude to anyone else will have their comment deleted.  I’d like to have a friendly discussion.  Remember, your opinion doesn’t mean it’s the right opinion for everyone.  :D)


  1. lornafaith says:

    Thanks for sharing Ruth:) Sounds like a great idea to pass on your books to as many places as possible…I’ll need to remember that:)

    1. You’re welcome. 😀 They say that the biggest problem authors face is not being known, so I figure this can’t hurt.

  2. I’d be more than happy to give free copies to libraries.

    1. Thanks for chiming in!

  3. Jill James says:

    Ruth, I think getting into libraries via Smashwords is awesome. I opted in. I think the more places we are seen the better.

    1. I agree. It can’t hurt to be in them. The worst that can happen in that no one will borrow it. (BTW, I love your covers. :D)

      1. Jill James says:

        Thanks. Hope you got my email thanking you for the PDF about book interiors for Createspace. OMG, it was so easy to follow your directions.

        1. Thanks for letting me know! I’m glad it worked for you. 😀

          1. Oh, I didn’t get the email. Stephannie’s in charge of that part. I didn’t want to mess with it because I’m swamped enough as it is. LOL

  4. KWhipkey says:

    This is a great post! I hadn’t even considered the possibility of supplying books to libraries, since most of my research has been with an eye on Ebooks and I don’t think many libraries lend those yet. But that’s definitely something to think about and potentially a reason to do a few print copies as well. I, for one, would probably follow your strategy and offer them to libraries for free. Partly because of the reasons you already cited, and partly because I love libraries and would feel good supporting them. 🙂

    1. Pauline Tilbe says:

      I’m a reader, not an author but I saw a link to this blog on FB (from an author I follow). I wanted to reply to this comment specifically to say that yes, libraries are lending ebooks. I live in western Massachusetts and borrow ebooks from my local network and also from the Boston Public Library. I’ve never even been in a Boston library, yet as a resident of the state, I can borrow books that aren’t available at my library.
      I’m not sure my library will participate in getting books from Smashwords but I’ll be volunteering to teach a Kindle class there and will be sure to mention it to the library leaders! I love to borrow books when I’m reading a new author (or getting it free). After I’ve established that I like the author, I’m willing to pay for future books!

      1. KWhipkey says:

        Thanks for clarifying that! I’ve always been around smaller libraries who were a bit behind the times. Now that I live in a slightly larger city, I’ll have to go see if they’ve got ebooks. I’ll admit that I’ve been a bit negligent in exploring my local library. Something I’ve been meaning to rectify. Now I have a reason.

        I still prefer holding a real book, being a sucker for that lovely book smell, but the convenience of an ereader is hard to pass up. 🙂

    2. I love libraries, too, even though I no longer own a library card. In the past when I was struggling to make it to the next paycheck, I was grateful I had a way to borrow books. I have a soft spot for others who are now in the place I used to be. 😀

      1. KWhipkey says:

        I must apologize. I missed your prior post where you specifically spoke about offering ebooks to libraries for free, and made the erroneous assumption that you were referring to print. Now that I feel rather lame, I’ll continue on with my day having set the record straight. 😉

        I look forward to more of your helpful insight (having officially followed you now) and have downloaded a couple of your novellas to try. 🙂

        1. I was recently at a small town library where they don’t have a system for borrowing ebooks yet. They want to, but they can’t afford it yet. I don’t know much about how the whole thing works because I haven’t checked out a library book in years. I used to use libraries when I was strapped for cash to determine which authors I liked enough to buy their paperback books (this was before ebooks took off). I like to keep books, but I also like the idea of sampling an author’s work (esp. a complete story). I still do it today. It’s not the money issue today, but since I don’t have much reading time, I like to get an idea of which authors I like enough to buy their books so I can read them in the free time I have. (Hope that makes sense.)

          So I think having books in a library could be a positive move for sales. Granted, some people won’t ever buy books, but I’d rather they read them through a library than on a pirated site. Either way, I hope it’ll lessen the need for people to pirate work.

  5. I’m still on the fence about pricing. I think it’s great to have our books available to those who can’t afford to buy them. But it’s the libraries, not the patrons, that are buying books through Smashwords. If my local library can build this gigantic building with a cafe inside, I figure they can afford to buy books. LOL. They have to buy the print versions, and the ebooks are so much less expensive. My books are priced very low to start with. I’m just playing the other side here to give a different point of view. I still haven’t decided how I really feel about it or what I’m going to do.

    1. Your library has a cafe? The ones in my area are bare bones–books and places to read or do internet research. So my view of them has been that they don’t have money. LOL Wow. How wrong I was.

      1. I’m sure it differs depending on the area. But I live in a fairly small town, so the huge library and cafe seems strange doesn’t it? 🙂

        1. That is strange. I live in the Omaha area and haven’t seen any fancy libraries, but then I haven’t been to the Omaha one. I’ve just been to surrounding ones. A cafe would be nice. 😀

      2. Most libraries I’ve ever been to, Ruth, are that way, too – small, bare bones – Bolivar’s doesn’t even have a separate room for the children’s section. It just suddenly turns into children’s books. Springfield, though, has a huge, really fancy one that’s all decorated with airplanes and things… It probably does depend on the town, the state, whether some super rich person has donated a lot of money, etc. LOL!

        1. The fanciest I’ve seen a library is a toy section for the kids. The one in my town (Springfield, south of Omaha) just expanded to two rooms, and the fanciest thing they have are a few board games and toys. There’s not even a desk for someone to write on. So the idea of a cafe boggles my mind. LOL

  6. Amber Polo says:

    Can libraries request titles through Overdrive?

    1. I have no idea. Maybe someone will chime in on this one.

  7. M T McGuire says:

    I must go and have a look. My books are only about $3 so I will have a look and see if any libraries have shown any interest. If they have then yes, I might cut the price, if none are interested I’ll leave it how it is.



    1. Interest would play a factor in it. There’s no sense in messing with something that isn’t gaining you anything.

  8. Thanks for posting on this initiative, Ruth!

    1. You’re welcome. 😀

  9. I think it is a great initiative and once my books are out of KDP Select, I will make them available for free to libraries.

    1. I’m interested to see how it plays out. I’ve taken note of the library column in my Smashwords dashboard and plan to see how much (or little) the libraries take my books.

  10. Here’s what I wrote just a moment ago at the Smashwords blog regarding the library opportunity:
    Thank you, Mark and Team, for the added pricing flexibility and increased access to libraries.

    How are “free” titles being distributed via the LibraryDirect program? Similarly, how will lowering our prices, via Pricing Manager, drive titles to libraries?

    I strongly believe authors should donate to libraries for the common good. I will price my ebooks at “free” also to libraries to grow my base.

    Having made this commitment, however, doesn’t seem to mean that my titles will get to library patrons any differently than what occurs within a library’s legacy process.

    For example, whether via LibraryDirect or aggragators, the distribution model is still a “pull” strategy – where libraries cherry pick titles, catagories, and/or best-seller lists. This is a departure from Smashwords’ base model, which “pushes” the entire Smashwords catalog to retailers.

    As such, what does it matter what I price my ebooks at if my titles aren’t selected by libraries and aggregators! What is the process for distributing “free” ebooks to libraries via Smashwords?

    My concern is for those of us who don’t have titles in the Top 100 (or whatever). The sorting and selection criteria, from what I’ve read, allows libraries & aggregators to cull from pre-defined sorts. Is “free” one of them? What does less-than-retail pricing (the library-pricing field) do for authors/publishers?

    It’s a no-brainer for libraries to accept free books as they don’t impact a library’s budget. As such, unless there’s a prestige factor at play, libraries should gobble up the free titles.

    You see the problem here – my titles may never reach library patrons unless pushed to libraries.

    I eagerly await clarification from the Smashwords team.

    Take care,
    LC Cooper

    1. I think part of it would also depend on pressure from the people borrowing books. If you had fans from an author who request their libraries get the books, I think the libraries would be more willing to include them into their catalogue. I’m in the process of encouraging my readers (esp. those who keep telling me they love my work but can’t afford to buy it) to go to their librarians and tell them Smashwords is open to working with libraries. It’s not a perfect idea, but it can’t hurt and it’s finally a good response to the emails from people who want a free book.

  11. I’ve also set mine free for the library channel. As LC commented above me, I’m not sure my books will ever SEE a library, but what the heck. It doesn’t cost me anything. 🙂

    1. All I can think of is to encourage readers to ask for them at their libraries. I figure as an author, I have no influence, but the readers might. But as you said, it doesn’t cost us anything. All we have to lose is the time it takes to determine what we want to price our books at for libraries to purchase. 😀

  12. I may be way out of date, here, but I wonder if offering books to libraries at no cost actually makes it harder for the library. A librarian once told me (years ago) that her branch could not accept free books for their own shelves because of accounting, or something. They could take the books and sell them, they could accept cash donations, but they could not put book donations in the lending library.

    Another question: I read in Quill and Quire a while ago that ebooks placed in lending libraries had a limited lifespan (imposed by the publisher?). The understanding was that a paper book would also have a limited lifespan, and must be replaced by the library, so the ebook shoulld also be replaced. Personally, I was aghast. Is this so? And do you know if it is applied across the board if it’s applied at all?

    Wish I had answers instead of questions, but there you go.

    1. I was able to give a couple of my paperbacks to my local library for free in 2008. A friend of mine has given copies of her paperback books to surrounding libraries over the past few years. So I don’t know why the issue would be a problem unless the rules vary from state to state.

      My knowledge of the inner workings of a library are moot. I’ve never been a librarian, and I don’t have any librarian friends who can clue me into what’s going on. I don’t think Smashwords would allow ebooks to be given for free to libraries if it was a problem. My free ebooks are already in libraries. In fact, I have a higher number of my free ebooks that are in the libraries than the ones that aren’t free, and this happened before Smashwords’ announcement and pricing flexibility with libraries.

      It’s possible that most libraries won’t want to take self-published books, so they might give a list of reasons why they can’t (in other words, lie in order to not look bad). It’s possible that different libraries have a set of rules they have to go by, so some libraries have more flexibility to obtain ebooks (self-published or not) than others.

      I don’t know anything about the lifespan of a book or ebook at a library. I’m sure if the book was a popular one, it would remain there indefinitely. If it never got borrowed, it could be up for ditching from the catalogue. That’s speculation. Publishers might impose a lifespan that has to do with the rights going back to the author after a certain number of years. I know some traditionally published authors are getting their rights back from the publisher and self-publishing those books. That could very well limit the lifespan of a book at a library.

      All of the above that I mentioned is speculation on my part. Maybe someone who is in the library business or knows someone who is will be kind of enough to set the record straight. 😀

      1. Here I am chiming in again. LOL. I’m surprised that libraries wouldn’t take free books. Our library actually has a section especially for local authors who donate their books. I bet it really is different from state to state.

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