The Evolving Role of Libraries in the Digital Age – Part II

When Earl finally began visiting publishers, ready with his manuscript, he was asked to leave the documents at the office with hope that he would get a reply soon. The general reply he got after few weeks was in the form of a rejection letter.

A few months later, he was almost ready to give up his dreams of publishing his family memoir. Heart breaking as it was, he woke up and realized that he needed to provide for his wife and his pet Labrador. So far, he was able to pursue his dreams as much he had because his children were grown up and had their own families.

Realising that he needed to get a job, feeling heartbroken and depressed, he headed to the local library to return a cart full of reference books that he had borrowed to help write his book and that is when everything changed.

There was a huge sign posted outside the library that stated, “Become an eBook publisher—free coaching workshop”, and as they say, they rest is history.

The community initiative featured everything that Earl needed to learn about eBook publishing such as a media room, publishing software, workshops and writer mentors who were committed to giving back to the community by training the next generation of authors to create interactive eBooks.

Why are libraries evolving?

Quite frankly, the role of a library has evolved over the years. There is a heavy pressure on libraries to respond to the changing expectations of patrons. With the emergence of products such as the Kindle eBook and the iBook, customers are increasingly recognizing the convenience and cost-effectiveness of storing all their books on a digital device. This has created a price spiral within the publishing industry, sending a few traditional publishers out of business and leaving the remaining players with very small margins.

Such an intense competition has led certain publishers to treat libraries as adversaries who could cannibalize sales as opposed to allies who could boost book purchases. Hence, most publishers limit or restrict the supply of their eBooks to libraries, assuming that if people can borrow a book from a library, they wouldn’t actually buy it from the store. 

On the other hand, instead of depending on the eBooks that are already featured on publisher websites, Libraries are embarking on a multipronged strategy to create their own eBooks, nurture talent and increasing community involvement.

The libraries have found this to be a win-win strategy for multiple parties because of the following:

  1. The library benefits by increasing its membership, increasing its content and empowering the community.
  2. The local authors have an opportunity to give back to the community by supporting and encouraging new talent.
  3. The local talent stands to benefit in a huge way because they get access to an established infrastructure and support system that is committed to helping them become self-published authors, understand best practices and exponentially reduce the learning curve.

My visit to The Vancouver Public Library:

Recently, I visited the newly launched Inspiration Lab, a free place dedicated to digital creativity, collaboration and storytelling, at the Vancouver Public Library and I was amazed at the numerous publishing tools available.

They have a plethora of software tools, audio and video equipment, tutorials, and workshops to support you on your journey to becoming an eBook author. All of this for free!

More importantly, over the coming months, the library management is organizing panel discussions with industry experts on topics such as film and digital design, including week-long boot camps and multi-session workshops.

Another critical aspect of community publishing is that the library provides a platform that allows authors to create, upload and share their eBooks, but that is a topic we will delve into tomorrow.

In the next article, we will talk about a digital platform that completes the community publishing infrastructure, allowing users to quickly and easily create, upload and share their books with the community. We will also discuss key features of an exciting project we worked on recently.

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