The Name of the Game is Access or is Money ?

As part of the book world one of the conversations that we often have is about Libraries vs Kindle Unlimited.

*Caveat* For this conversation we are talking solely about Indie Authors as Publishing Houses control placement of the titles the Publish. I am not saying Amazon is perfect or that they are the best solution for all Indie Authors. But I will say I don’t think we would have the indie authors we have without Amazon. I think that programs like KDP- Kindle Direct Publishing, have made publishing accessible for so many that would not have been able to get their start.  The purpose of this post is talk about libraries and how we need to think about what we are saying.  *

Indies authors must make the choice as to what platform their eBooks will be available. A “wide author” is an author that is going to distribute their eBook across multiple retailers such as Barnes and Noble, Apple Books, Kobo and Amazon. An “Kindle Unlimited” author is an author who has made to publisher their eBook on amazon and enroll the book in the Kindle Unlimited Program. 

There is many benefit for authors to go either of these routes.  One of the biggest problems many authors have issues with is that to be enrolled in the Kindle Unlimited Program you must be exclusive. The eBook is not able to be published on any other eBook platform.  If an author has a large international reach this can cause issues because not all countries have Kindle Unlimited available to them but also not all Countries have library systems.  

Many Indie Authors find huge success as a “wide” author, just as many authors find huge success participating in Kindle Unlimited.  I will say that KU however does favor the reader over the author. If you are a voracious reader KU can be a game changer for you. The benefits for Readers are huge in KU. 

But there are also reasons to be a “Wide” author, many will say because they can then have their books in Libraries. (Kindle Unlimited only effects eBooks, so KU authors can have their Paperbacks purchased and placed in libraries, it just involves more step and cost to the author.) When a wide Indie author is asked why they choose to publisher their books across multiple platform the retort that is often given is that they want their books in Libraries.  

My purpose with this post is the challenge this concept and to encourage authors to come up with a better response. 

As I have been producing and hosting the Buzzing about Romance Podcast for the last 2.5 years one of the things that has quickly become apparent is that not all libraries are created equally.  Not all countries have access to libraries as we think of them in the US.  For authors to make statements like, “I want my books in Libraries” it is a very privileged US centric statement.

It is also important to remember currently in the US many libraries are under attack by the moral conservatives.  Books are being banned at a high rate than ever before. Communities are defunding Libraires. Just recently a library in Michigan had all their funding cut, because they would not remove books that some in the community felts were “harmful”.  Most of these attacks on libraries by the Moral Conservatives center around race, gender, and sexuality.  Books that challenge the current society and the norm. 

This is not just affecting community libraries but also schools. Challenging books has long been a staple of school board meetings this isn’t a new phenomenon. What has changed is the frequency.  According to many educators, librarians and free speech advocates it is the way that the moral conservative is going about it.   These conservative groups, fueled by social media, are now pushing the challenges into legislation and political views.

To mark Banned Books Week, the American Library Association released a report on “the rise in censorship efforts: In 2022, there have been attempts to restrict access to 1,651 titles.”  So, for an author to use Libraries to justify their reasons for publishing wide just does not add up.  Having the ability to have your title in such library program such as Hoopla, Overdrive and Libby is a benefit but with libraries’ funding shrinking it is not always possible to put every book published in every library.

I would encourage authors to change their wording. I think that statements such as, “I have readers across many platforms and want to make my books accessible for all.”

An author is trying to squeak out of a living by selling their books. That is the purpose of doing what they are doing is to SELL Book. I am all for them selling books. Buying books is a luxury and not everyone can afford that. If you live in an area with an underfunded library, it can be difficult to get some of your favorite Indie author’s books into those catalogues.  If an author has a very large backlist, it can be cost prohibitive for both the libraries and consumers to have access to those titles.  To use Libraries as your excuse for not enrolling in a program like KU, reeks of Privilege.  If as an author, you want to gain more readers there are options like Free First in Series or enrolling limited number of books for a limited time into the Kindle Unlimited Program. But please unless you are donating your books to Libraries, please stop using libraries as your excuse to be a “Wide” author. 

Such phenomenon as Booktok is going to drive more readers towards programs like KU because of accessibility. It is a whole lot easier to take a chance on a book when you are paying the equivalent of 2 eBooks a month. Booktok is here to stay and if you want the success and to find new readers you have to rephrase and rethink about how you are approaching such topics of KU vs Libraries.