As the worlds of publishing, digital publishing, and self-publishing continue to evolve, there are some unfortunate sources of stagnation. The education sector, for example, is still waiting for the long-promised digital textbook revolution that was going to not only dramatically reduce the costs associated with book purchasing, but also increase student engagement and success through embedded videos, hyperlinks, and featured content.
Even more upsetting due to its reach and impact was the early state of library ebook lending. Digital editions were a hotly contested topic among traditional publishers at the beginning, and bizarre rules were imposed that limited patron use and ensured a profit for publishers and authors. Once ebook lending became a more streamlined concept, the practical process of borrowing ebooks still wasn’t fully seamless.
But what’s truly a sore point for all parties involved is the disconnect that still exists when it comes to indie published books. Libraries have made some strides in welcoming self-published titles to the shelves, and platforms like Self-e and the distribution agreement between Smashwords and OverDrive–the frustration of connecting one by one by one with each and every library has been very discouraging for authors.
At the same time, self-published authors are continuing to fall into the same trap that has haunted them since large-scale book distribution became a reality: “You want me to give my book away?” Indie authors are lucky if their donated copies of their books ever see the circulation desk (rather than the 50cent paperback bin), yet the reluctance to let libraries have their content means an entire demographic of would-be readers never materializes.
There is no easy fix, of course, considering the publishing industry is hundreds of years old and now changing at lightning speed. But until all parties involved work together for the much-needed library patrons, the revolution we were promised just might stall.