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Digital self-publishing site Smashwords has launched a new service, Library Direct, that lets some libraries acquire large collections of Smashwords ebooks.
To start, the three library systems using the program are Colorado’s Douglas County libraries, California-based library network Califa and Internet Archive’s free online library Open Library. In order to work with Library Direct, the libraries have to operate their own ebook lending systems. (Smashwords works separately with digital library distributors Baker & Taylor and 3M Cloud.)
On its blog, Smashwords explains how Library Direct works:
Previously, most libraries relied upon published reviews to guide their acquisition decisions. Under the Smashwords model, the curation is crowdsourced based on aggregated retail sales data drawn from across the Smashwords distribution network which includes the Apple (s AAPL) iBookstore, Barnes & Noble (s BKS), Sony (s SNE), Kobo, the Diesel eBookstore and others.
Qualifying libraries can select from the top 10,000, 20,000 or any other large number of titles, and can custom-filter the titles by category and price range.
Douglas County, Califa and Open Library will each acquire “some variation” of Smashwords’ top-10,000 bestselling titles, with the three deals totaling around $100,000.
About 45,000 authors and indie publishers work with Smashwords. They can opt out of Library Direct, but they won’t know if their book has been included in the program until it shows up in their Sales and Payment report. “We don’t reveal sales rank on the site, though I suppose now might be a good time to reconsider that,” Smashwords founder and CEO Mark Coker acknowledged in the comments.
Separately, Smashwords officially launched a pricing tool that lets authors set custom pricing for libraries. (Coker told me this feature was coming at BEA.) Of 150 Smashwords authors who completed a survey, over half said they would make their books available to libraries either for free or for a price lower than retail.