This was originally just a short post to update the numbers of books available through our library ebook service here in Ontario. Then it grew a bit.
The last (approximately) six months have shown another big increase in the ebook fiction and non-fiction categories, with both nearly doubling.
|Audio fiction||Audio non-fiction||Ebook fiction||Ebook non-fiction||Total|
I’d be really interested to see some usage statistics on how many patrons are actually downloading books from these electronic library services. I imagine they’d show a similar steady increase.
UPDATE: Sometimes it’s useful to be friendly with a librarian. I chatted with the CEO of one of my local libraries about ebooks and Overdrive yesterday. This is a library in a small town, serving a population of only 1,800 people. The librarian was happy to share some of the statistics for use of OverDrive materials with me.
The results are interesting. I was expecting to see a steady growth in take-up by patrons of the OverDrive option for checking out books over the course of 2011. The figures don’t really support that expectation.
There’s the expected post-Christmas spike in January and December, but the graph doesn’t reflect a rapid take-up of ebook borrowing in this particular library. 28 new readers in total.
The usage of OverDrive shows the sort of growth I would have expected:
But the numbers involved are still very low: a total of only 249 items for the whole of 2011.
It’s very hard to measure the value of access to OverDrive for a small library. It costs around 10% of the library’s acquisition budget to provide patrons with access to the service. But with only around 30 active borrowers, it seems only to be being used by less than 2% of the library’s potential user population. For people like me who don’t live close to a library and who have the tools and skills to use it, the ability to download books from service is greatly appreciated. But with budgets getting increasingly tight for libraries, the cost is not all that easy to justify. It doesn’t help that there is no alternative to the OverDrive system: there isn’t any competing service which might help to drive down the price.
The other aspect which I found interesting from our library’s statistics was the demand for items in OverDrive. The graph below shows the number of unique individuals who borrowed items from that one library in each month of 2011. It ranges from two to nine people.
Compare that graph with the one below, which shows how many unique individuals were waiting for items in each month. This never dropped below four and got as high as 13 in January 2011. The access the library pays for is not unique access to materials for our library: we are sharing that access with other libraries all over Southern Ontario. Consequently, users of each of the libraries in this system are competing with each other for library materials in a way which would be much less likely to happen in real libraries. More than once, I’ve discovered that a popular item in OverDrive has 68 people waiting for it, while the physical copy is there in my local library, on the shelf.
So now I’m torn. As a tech-savvy user of libraries, I adore being able to get hold of ebooks (relatively) easily. But I know that many other library users find the process of downloading books through OverDrive to be too complicated to attempt. Librarians are rightly worried about the effect of providing this access on their book budgets and on their services in general.
I think what I’d like to see is the ability for small libraries to build their own ebook collections, rather than having to use a centralised service like OverDrive. I’d also like to see those collections contain items of local interest and by local authors: materials that are never going to be picked up by the big publishers but which are significant to the library’s immediate community. It bothers me that the librarians’ skills of selecting, curating and sharing materials are being bypassed by centralised, standardised services which don’t allow for any variation and which don’t necessarily provide the best service for the public (those waiting times for ematerials are only going to grow as more people use the service).
…turns out to be quite considerable. A glacier-slow drip of sales at Amazon became a torrent of downloads when the book was made free instead of 99 cents/70 pence.
Downloads at the UK Amazon site passed the 1,000 mark this morning, while over at the US site, the figure is close to 3,000.
It really brings home the scale of Amazon’s market share. The book has been freely available online since late 2009, via Scribd, Smashwords (and the various sites to which Smashwords ships books), Feedbooks and Manybooks. It took eight months to reach 4,000 downloads on Smashwords, while on Amazon that number has been reached in less than two weeks. It’s exciting, but a little bit frightening, too.
For the first time, I put a few posts on the Amazon Kindle forums to promote The Roman and the Runaway in the last week. Maybe four, in different, appropriate-seeming places (‘Kindle books for 99 cents’, that kind of thing). I’ve got a (probably very British) horror of self-promotion and certainly don’t want to put people’s backs up with anything that smacks of desperation or (even worse) spam.
I also joined a few of the ‘you tag me and I’ll tag you’ forums – one on Amazon itself and the others on the Kindleboards site. With these, you add Amazon tags to other authors’ books in return for them tagging yours with your preferred categories. So for my book, for the US site, those are:
young adult, contemporary fiction, fathers and sons, boarding school, runaways, family relationships, kindle, 99 cents
Some people put a huge amount of time into tagging other books with these tags and getting more on their own in return. I’m not sure how much of a difference the tags make, but I have sold one book on Amazon.com and my first ever* on Amazon.co.uk since doing this small quantity of self-promotion last weekend, so perhaps it does have an effect!
I still don’t think I’m going to dedicate my life to it, though…
I’ve been diligently adding the books I’ve read since I’ve been living in Canada to LibraryThing and (more recently) Goodreads. I should probably just plump for one or the other, but each has features that the other lacks. I find LibraryThing more intuitive to navigate and Goodreads has some cool elements such as the ability to display statistics on your reading habits.
My Goodreads stats for 2010 and 2011 tell an interesting story. I’ve read the same number of books in two months of this year as I read in the whole of 2010. A large percentage of them have been ebooks, read on the ereader I got for Christmas, although there are a fair few library books in there, too. With the exception of the two Percy Jackson books, which I bought as a gift for my daughter, I haven’t paid for any of them: I’ve either downloaded them from free ebook sites, used coupons from Smashwords authors or borrowed the books in audio or ebook form from the public library’s OverDrive site. I was dismissive of audio books in an earlier post, but I’ve listened to three since then, mainly because they weren’t available in any other format through OverDrive. Listening to an audio book has turned out to be a pleasant way of making a usually private activity into a more social one: my husband and I are enjoying listening to a book together in the evenings.
More books have become available through OverDrive since I first posted about it at the end of December. The figures are now:
|Audio fiction||Audio non-fiction||Ebook fiction||Ebook non-fiction||Total|
An increase in availability of all content of 143%, then, and a particularly big rise for the ebooks, with a 278% rise in available fiction titles. No wonder I’m reading so much…
One day I might stop tinkering with the cover of The Roman and the Runaway. Probably when I finish The Viking and the Vendetta and have a new toy to play with. No time soon, then…
The book is in so many different places now, that it becomes a major task to update the cover in all of them, which means it isn’t something to be taken on lightly. Top marks to Feedbooks, who make the change instantaneously. Smashwords comes a creditable second, with a very quick approval process. Amazon is slower and won’t let you make more than one change at a time, so I still have to go back to them and submit the final version, as my first wasn’t quite up to the job. For sites which are more heavily mediated (ManyBooks, for example), I have to send an email to make changes. As you might imagine, the version of the book on those sites doesn’t get updated very often!
I’ve uploaded a copy of the book to Goodreads now too. This involved using Calibre to convert my Word document into an epub file. Sounds easy, but turned out to be a bit of a nightmare. Not Calibre’s fault for the most part, but Word’s. For some reason, the navigation had gone screwy, even though I’d diligently labelled all the chapters as ‘Heading 3’ and all the parts as ‘Heading 2’. When I saved the file as HTML before importing it into Calibre, this meant that the table of contents was messed up, too. I must have done that conversion six or seven times before I was finally happy with the epub. I could just have downloaded the Feedbooks version, I suppose and used that (Goodreads does suggest doing this), but I wanted to see what the conversion process entailed (and wanted to use my chapter numbers, instead of the ones Feedbooks insists upon). In this respect, Smashwords is less obliging – they won’t let you use the files that they create from your Word document, in other places. I recommend Calibre generally, as a management tool for ebooks.
It’s all very complicated, I must say. Makes you quite nostalgic for the days of print…
Hm, that title doesn’t roll off the tongue too well, does it?
One of the wonderful things about getting an ereader is the availability of out-of-print classic books. Project Gutenberg is a good source, but you can also find them at places like Feedbooks, Open Library, the Mobileread site and ManyBooks. It’s a chance to catch up on reading all those books that you feel you really should have read, but haven’t.
This month, I’ve read two books from Project Gutenberg which, on the face of it, might be thought of as quite similar. Tom Brown’s Schooldays, by Thomas Hughes, was published in 1857 and tells of the experiences of a Rubgy School student. David Copperfield was first published as a book in 1850 and follows the life of a young author, including his days at school in Canterbury. In both books, the character of the boys’ headmaster is an important one.
If I had not looked up the dates of publication, I would have said that the Hughes book was much older than the Dickens one. Its style and content is more formal, more didactic, more moralistic and much less enjoyable to read. Then I thought perhaps it was a difference in the age of the authors, but no: they were both in their thirties when their respective books were published. I’m not at all surprised that Dickens was so popular during his lifetime, and continues to be so today, while Hughes remains relatively unknown. It seems that Hughes was well aware of my concerns with his book, as he said (according to Wikipedia):
Several persons, for whose judgment I have the highest respect, while saying very kind things about this book, have added, that the great fault of it is ‘too much preaching’; but they hope I shall amend in this matter should I ever write again. Now this I most distinctly decline to do. Why, my whole object in writing at all was to get the chance of preaching! When a man comes to my time of life and has his bread to make, and very little time to spare, is it likely that he will spend almost the whole of his yearly vacation in writing a story just to amuse people? I think not. At any rate, I wouldn’t do so myself.
I think Hughes missed an opportunity here. If he’d made his book more enjoyable to read, then he could have got his message across to many more people without the necessity of preaching. As it is, I certainly can’t recommend Tom Brown’s Schooldays.
David Copperfield, on the other hand, is gripping, entertaining and often funny. At over 700 pages, it is a long read, but a satisfying one. My suspicion (as always) is that I’m the only person in the world who hasn’t read this particular classic, but just in case that’s not true, this one is a worthy addition to anyone’s free ereading library.
The covers on this page were taken from Open Library. The images are links to the Project Gutenberg versions of the book.
When I first looked at using Amazon to publish The Roman and the Runaway, which I suppose was about a year ago, it seemed very complicated. I got a long way through the process before realising that I couldn’t complete it, as I didn’t live in the US. It also wasn’t possible to make the book available for free, as it is on Smashwords, so I gave up on Amazon at that point, thinking that eventually my book would get there through the Smashwords distribution system.
It was only recently that I found out that publishing on Amazon is now possible for non-US residents and that it is significantly easier to do so. Two days ago, I uploaded the book and set the price at $0.99. And this morning it’s on Amazon’s US and UK sites (it’s 71 pence in the UK).
The whole process was a lot easier than I expected it to be, after my initial experiments last year. Now I’m kicking myself for not doing it sooner!
The books I’ve reviewed here so far have all been available from Smashwords. This is the first Authonomy book I’ve reviewed. As the books on Authonomy are not really published, but are on the way to publication, I’m not sure of the etiquette around this. But in the hope that I’m not breaking some unwritten rule, I’ll go ahead and review it anyway. One of the main disadvantages is that you can’t download it onto an ereader, but if that doesn’t bother you, read on.Misery’s Fire is about 19 year-old Grant Williams, who wakes up in Hell after avenging the death of his sister in a fatal fire. Nothing that the demons of Hell throw at him is capable of causing him greater suffering than the loss of his sister, Misery, so they decide to send him back to earth to endure an alternative Hell: High School.
The descriptions of Hell and its activities drew me into the book straight away – I love the idea of the denizens of Hell being responsible for earthquakes, volcanoes and, er, potholes. Once back on Earth, Grant has to cope with a new body, four years younger than his old one, and find a way of surviving with no home, no money and no family.
I read the book at one sitting – I really wanted to know how Grant would manage to escape the clutches of Hell. The book is an enjoyable read and I’m sure there will be plenty of other fans of YA books out there who would also find it engaging.
I’ve talked about Feedbooks here before. Design-wise, I think it’s one of the best-looking ebook sites, it’s easy to upload and update books on, and I do like their reporting on where ebooks are being downloaded from. The other part of the site that I enjoy is the ability to see users’ bookshelves. There’s something deeply satisfying for an ‘indie’ author in seeing their work on a virtual shelf alongside more established writers. This screenshot has my book on a user’s shelf near to works by D. H. Lawrence, E. M. Forster and John Buchan (Jerome K. Jerome was just off the screen, too).
It’s a small pleasure, but a profound one. 😉