With exciting new announcements like the one this week from Smashwords, who’s now partnered with OverDrive to add an additional 200,000 self-published titles to the 22,000 partner libraries’ ebook catalogs, one concern does come up: who will read and approve of all of those titles? While self-published books have always had a bad reputation for low quality, even the fact that OverDrive and Smashwords have partnered on this demonstrates that some of that content is high interest, high quality work that library patrons will enjoy. But how do librarians sift through the massive amount of material and makes purchasing decisions?
Library Journal and BiblioBoard have now announced the launch of Self-e, a site which will curate and vet this content so libraries can feel good about purchasing ebooks without spending hours of manpower on every single title. This free service will offer libraries a catalog of content to choose from that has been approved, and authors’ works can be included regardless of which platform they chose to self-publish.
“If selected via Library Journal’s SELF-e curation process, the author’s ebooks will become part of a unique discovery platform for participating public libraries across the United States that enables patrons to read ebooks on any device, at any time. This free service is available to all self-published authors, no matter which self-publishing service(s) they use. All that is required is an engaging story, and your ebook file.”
One of the more frustrating truths about self-publishing and libraries is that indie authors have had a hard time getting their books into their own local libraries, as budgets are small and the risk of insult when the book is of poor quality is high. Instead, libraries can simply tell local authors that their content must be vetted through Self-e as a standard policy; once that book is approved through the site, libraries can even promote the book to other libraries across their states.
“Additionally, the SELF-e platform will enable public libraries to take submissions from their local self-published authors and make those ebooks available to local patrons via participating public libraries throughout their state. Libraries can make these ebooks available with no checkouts or returns, and no multi-user limitations. The platform is easy to use and can accommodate any self-published author.”
The fact that LJ and BiblioBoard have decided that self-pubbed titles need a curation process is certainly going to raise some ire in the indie author community, but it shouldn’t be taken as a “prove yourself worthy” idea. Instead, the more insightful way to look at it is that at one point these books would have been barred from library access altogether. The fact that two major book industry organizations are making it possible for library patrons and self-published authors to come together at all means they recognize the worth of many indie titles.