Smashwords and Bookbaby have established relationships with Baker and Taylor for digital distribution to libraries. Both of these companies provide a small list of curated authors that assist the people in charge of acquisitions lives a bit easier. One of the downsides that these lists are small and do not have any pertinent sales data or metrics to find out how many copies actually sold and who is buying them. In order to assist libraries better in eBook discovery is the Reaching across Illinois Library System has pioneered an innovative concept known as “Soon to be Famous.”
600 libraries in Illinois share a group catalogue who belong to the RAILS consortium. The system serves more than 1300 private, public, school, and university library members, representing more than 4200 library facilities in a 27,000 square mile area.
The circulation managers who do the group buying recognized the worth of self-published and indie titles, since 23% of all Amazon best-sellers fall into this category. Indie titles often come with a fairly paltry price tag, but they loaning policed are often less convoluted than the big six.
In order to facilitate a better eBook discovery process, over one hundred three self-published fiction titles were nominated and more than 20 librarians across the state served as judges. After a series of eliminations, the top 3 authors were selected and most of their titles were purchased and sent to all of the libraries in the system.
Why did Soon to Be Famous work? Basically it put the power in every librarians hand to read indie titles they actually liked on a personal level and then their specific library would than nominate one title and the process was repeated. The editorial process worked because staff members actually read the eBooks and separated the wheat from the chafe.
I really like what RAILS is doing because they were not content in being spoon-fed small lists from the self-publishing companies and instead coordinated a massive effort. This program should be commended and emulated by others
Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past ten years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times.