Looking for updates? Subscribe to our newsletter

Getting Indie Authors Into Libraries - An Interview with Mitchell Davis of BiblioBoard

Posted in: Understanding Publishing on December 8, 2014 2 Comments đź’¬

Libraries

When you want to know where to sell your ebooks, availability is always king. Why do you want your book on the Kindle store? Because Kindles are everywhere. Why do you want to be on the iBook store? Because iBooks is is available on over 800 million iOS devices. So when BiblioBoard say they want to help indie authors reach a network of over 2500 participating libraries, every single indie author should be paying attention.

Part of their strategy for this comes back to two big ideas we’ve encountered across conversations with authors and entrepreneurs. First they offer curation that helps buyers, whether they’re readers or librarians, find the kind of books they’re looking for. Second, they’re helping to normalise independent publishing, giving indie authors an equal footing with traditionally published authors, and of course by getting their books into new spaces like public libraries.

Mitchell Davis is the founder and chief business officer of BiblioLabs, the creators of BiblioBoard. We spoke to Mitchell about why they started BiblioBoard, and how they’re going to help introduce the work of self-published authors to libraries across first America, and eventually the world.

image

Mitchell Davis is a publishing and media entrepreneur. He was a founder in 2000 of BookSurge the world’s first integrated global print-on-demand and publishing services company (sold to Amazon in 2005 and re-branded as CreateSpace and then KDP Print)   He is founder & chief business officer of BiblioLabs the creators of BiblioBoard. BiblioBoard is an award-winning App and web ecosystem that launched in March 2013 with the firm belief that if libraries can affordably create user-experiences that compete with those of consumer companies like Amazon and Apple, it will create a more lucrative institutional sales model for publishers and transform information access for society. Today they work with thousands of libraries, archives and publishers around the world in pursuit of that vision. www.biblioboard.com

 

REEDSY

BiblioBoard’s founding team is more or less also BookSurge’s, the company that sold to Amazon to later become CreateSpace. How has that experience driven you to build BiblioBoard? In a word, what’s the founder’s story?

MITCHELL DAVIS

We launched BookSurge in 2000 knowing very little about the publishing industry. Ironically, with all the change that was happening at the time this turned out to be a good thing. We had bootstrapped a great company when Amazon approached us in 2004, but we were also lucky they had a vision for the future that exceeded the publishers and distributors we were working with at the time. CreateSpace is now the largest self-publisher in the world and Amazon uses the Print On Demand technology to print millions of books in fulfillment centers all over the world. It feels really good to see that original entrepreneurial vision fulfilled.

Getting back together with the original founders of BookSurge was really the force behind wanting to try another startup at all for me. We have been working together for 15 years and have really good chemistry. We balance each other out and we have confidence in each other. I think so much of success is about these kinds of relationships (particularly in the unpredictable world of startups!).

BiblioLabs originally built a profitable business doing print-on-demand publishing. We were working to bring back previously unavailable historical and public domain books. The business was doing very well and when the iPad launched in 2011 we could not resist trying something.  Our digital business—BiblioBoard—was born from that process, so we have been working in the business while venture funding it from cash flow since then. We launched our BiblioBoard Library product in March of 2013.

We are now working with thousands of libraries and we have several hundred publishers with content on the platform—so this has become a real thing. We have grown from 8 employees in 2011 to 40 today. We are a software company that has rapid product development in our DNA. And we have some fantastically motivated people focused on simplifying the media user experience for library patrons. I think that culture will keep us ahead of our competitors in the library space in the years to come.

We have built a platform we think is going to change the way libraries interact with society in a profound way and because we are self-funded we don’t have the same external pressures on us. We can chart our own path into the future in many ways and that is very exciting.

REEDSY

I love the vision of the SELF-e project: allowing indie authors to get access to a huge network of libraries, while keeping the content curated. How was this project born, and what do BiblioBoard and Library Journal respectively bring to the table?

 

image

MITCHELL DAVIS

Libraries had talked to us quite a bit about knowing there were good self-published books out there, but not having the time, energy or resources to sift through them to figure out which ones they should make available to patrons. I think our background made us a natural fit for wanting to solve this problem.

We first visited Library Journal in early 2014 and they knew they wanted to do something with self-publishing, but felt the LJ brand was not right to sell reviews (other publications had started selling reviews to self-published authors). As we talked, it became clear that LJ and their network of librarian reviewers were the perfect “advisory” for self-published books. They could apply their expertise to helping librarians license the best self-published books by genre. By paying a subscription fee and trusting LJ’s review process the library could make self-published books available to their patrons for small cost and with no headaches or hassles.

What we bring to the table is the technology, product development and sales. Libraries have a huge untapped potential as a book discovery platform, but they have never had an eBook distribution platform that would let them do this successfully. LJ did a patron profile survey a couple of years ago that showed 50% of people who discover an author in the library go on to buy a book by that author. This partnership unlocks the potential of that statistic to the benefit of self-published authors.

Authors selected for SELF-e get a “badge” for their book and marketing materials, exposure via Library Journal and inclusion in a service that will reach millions of potential readers. This is a marketing exercise for them to have their writing discovered.

Since our platform allows unlimited multi-user access to books (most library lending systems force books to be loaned out one at a time) librarians do not have to be terrified that if a book becomes popular it will cost them more money or create long waiting lists. Librarians can now be allies with self-published authors to help them build readership.

Once an author has built an audience, they can start trying to build a writing career if that is their desire (by selling other books or selling print books). And, of course, there are plenty of self-published authors who aren’t writing for the money. So for them this is about getting people to discover and read their writing or ensure their library can have an eBook available to the local community. Whatever an author’s motivations for self-publishing, we think SELF-e can help them achieve their objectives.

REEDSY

Curation seems to be the #1 word in any book distribution business nowadays. How will you curate the content for SELF-e?

MITCHELL DAVIS

The Library Journal has developed a process to manage the workflow. The books are being assessed for ease of reading, pacing, editing and other common issues seen with self-published books. Publishers do this for books—but librarians have done this for decades as well. This gives librarians a chance to get on the front end of the process. I wrote an interesting article called “How Libraries and Patrons Can Beat Publishers at Publishing” that dives into this a bit more. The title is a bit tongue in cheek, but the points are valid.

REEDSY

Another great feature of BiblioBoard/SELF-e is the “local library” approach. You can make your book available to your local library (something many indies are already trying to do on their own). How does this work exactly, and how does your platform make it easier?

MITCHELL DAVIS

Libraries have been struggling to solve this problem since self-published eBooks began. Libraries get a branded submission form from their own website. It takes about 5 minutes for the author to submit their eBook. We accept ePubs and PDFs (meaning, that even if an author has not yet converted their book to ePub, they can still make their book available). The author can then opt to make the book available through any public library in the state that subscribes to BiblioBoard. It is a very simple process for both the author and the library.

REEDSY

How big is your network of local libraries? Is it U.S.-only or do you cover other countries?

MITCHELL DAVIS

Currently we reach over 2500 libraries in the U.S. We have customers in the U.K. and continental Europe, but these are mostly academic and national libraries so they are not really involved in SELF-e yet.

REEDSY

Now to the good old startup question: the business model. Authors hate to pay, and libraries provide “free content”, so it’s even more difficult to take money from their side… so, where do you make money?

MITCHELL DAVIS

SELF-e is free to authors, but we also do not pay royalties. It is common for authors to pay commercial services like BookBub to give books away for free in order to promote themselves. We thought there was a better business model around this activity than charging the authors.

We sell a platform to libraries— BiblioBoard—and we also sell content that libraries can make available to patrons on the same platform. The platform pricing is based on the size and budget of the library (larger libraries with more patrons pay more, smaller libraries pay less). The SELF-e submission system is part of the core BiblioBoard platform.

The modules that will be curated by Library Journal (by genre) are an additional product sold as a subscription service to the libraries. There is a compelling value proposition to the library in the work of selecting and making available hundreds of great self-published books on an elegant platform. New titles will come in every quarter and the subscription will grow its content offering over time. The first products will come out next year and our intent is to price them inexpensively to encourage as many libraries as possible to participate.

REEDSY

I see that some of the biggest names in the indie author community (Barbara Freethy, CJ Lyons, Hugh Howey) actively endorse you guys. So I guess they are themselves using SELF-e to have their book distributed to your network of libraries, right?

MITCHELL DAVIS

These authors see the value in what we are doing because doing these kinds of promotions and building readership launched their own careers. And they endorse what we are doing because they believe in the power of libraries to help authors. But these authors are not part of SELF-e. We have created a different model for the distribution of books by self-published authors who are already successful.

We just announced a new product called Indie Rock Stars where Hugh, Barbara, CJ and around 30 other successful self-published author’s books will be available for reasonably priced, multi-user access on BiblioBoard. We do see ways SELF-e and Indie Rock Stars can work together as things move forward. As authors start to take off within SELF-e we believe some of them will break out and become Indie Rock Stars.

REEDSY

I discussed this question with Libiro (an indie-only eBook store) a few weeks ago, and it’d be interesting to have your view on it from an indie-only distribution-to-libraries platform perspective. Can you envision a future where readers, libraries and bookstores don’t care how the book has been published? If yes, how far away is this future?

MITCHELL DAVIS

I don’t think readers really care much today. I think librarians care to the extent that the publishers make their jobs easier in selecting books. One big problem that publishers solve for librarians is they give a degree of confidence that the books they purchase will not embarrass them.

What we are doing with SELF-e solves that problem also, but much further upstream and with libraries actively engaged in the process. Library Journal (and eventually librarians themselves) can sit on this wellspring of self-published content and start having a formative voice in how books reach readers. It is not outlandish to think that if we create the right user-experience that in five years a massive number of people (think: Amazon or Instagram type numbers) will think of the local library first when they want to discover a new author digitally.

REEDSY

Reedsy is all about providing author publishers with the same level of quality they’d get through a big 5 publisher, and, in a way, raising the standard of self-publishing. So we are definitely chasing this future. How do you see both our startups integrating or collaborating in the next few years?

MITCHELL DAVIS

I think our partnership will help authors get the help they need to go from being writers to being authors. If an author has already published their book, then that is pretty straightforward, but we are working with library writers programs and many other library-connected services that will generate first time manuscripts. Reedsy can provide a place for them to find the professional services they need to succeed. I am excited to see what develops between us as time goes forward.

REEDSY

An easy one to finish: what’s the next big thing/milestone for Biblioboard?

MITCHELL DAVIS

Our “next big thing” is a new user interface that will roll out in mid 2015. We have learned a lot over the past two years from library patrons and library partners; and, of course, technology stacks improve over a two-year period.

Individual libraries will be branded on the new interface and we have incorporated a more visual and social way for libraries to “desk curate” the experience for their own patrons in a super simple way. We have added a whole set of tools for patrons to build their own lists and boards to help them easily organize books, videos, images, historical documents, audio—anything their library makes available to them digitally—in one simple place.

BiblioBoard will ultimately succeed by word-of-mouth and return users. We know this is what it takes for platforms to succeed today—just look at Uber, AirBnB and Evernote. Libraries live in the same world as these companies, and to be digitally relevant they have to deliver equally compelling user experiences.

REEDSY

Thanks for your time Mitchell.

What do you think about this innovative way of getting indie authors into libraries? We (Reedsy and Biblioboard) would love to hear your comments, so do join the conversation below!

2
Leave a Reply

2 Comment threads
0 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
2 Comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Ann Vogel

I like the idea, but I have a self published book. Where does it fall in this idea ?

Jeanne Lowery Meeks

Sounds good for publicity, but does giving your books to Biblioboard and libraries for free run afoul of Amazon's and KDP's pricing policies? I believe we agreed not to sell our books for any less than they are listed with Amazon and KDP.

Continue reading

Recommended posts from the Reedsy Blog

What is Line Editing, and What Can It Do For Your Book? (With Examples!)

What is Line Editing, and What Can It Do For Your Book? (With Examples!)

Whether you're dashing off a note to a colleague or listing your bike for sale on Craigslist, your writing could always use a second pair of eyes. But what is line editing specifically? A tool …

Read article
How to Write a Query Letter in 7 Steps

How to Write a Query Letter in 7 Steps

A starving writer stands in front of a mailbox, clutching a hefty brown envelope addressed to a publishing company. They say a prayer, push their manuscript in, and begin the long wait for a reply …

Read article
The Complete Guide to Ebook Distribution

The Complete Guide to Ebook Distribution

[Last updated: 05/14/2019]At Reedsy, our goal has always been to help authors through every stage of the publishing process, from the actual writing down to the marketing and promotion. However, if there's one thing our …

Read article
What is Proofreading? And Can You Do It Yourself?

What is Proofreading? And Can You Do It Yourself?

Whether you’re a student, a mechanic, a doctor, or a professional writer, you’ve probably come across proofreading in some form or another — though you might not be aware of it. So much of the …

Read article
IngramSpark Review: Don't Use Until You Read This + PROMO CODE!

IngramSpark Review: Don't Use Until You Read This + PROMO CODE!

IngramSpark, KDP Print, Lulu, BookBaby — there is no shortage of companies out there promising to help you publish and sell your print books and ebooks. Luckily, if you’re struggling over which platform to use, …

Read article
CreateSpace is DEAD. Here's what you need to know.

CreateSpace is DEAD. Here's what you need to know.

As all writers know, the process of self-publishing a book is ever-fluctuating and evolving. Case in point: CreateSpace, one of the premier print-on-demand (POD) services for self-published authors, recently merged with Amazon’s KDP Print in …

Read article
Ă—
Meet your new publishing partners