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A Record Year For Digital Lending In Libraries: Self-Publishing News Podcast With Dan Holloway

A Record Year for Digital Lending in Libraries: Self-Publishing News Podcast with Dan Holloway

It's been a record year for digital lending in libraries. Welcome to Self-Publishing News with ALLi News editor Dan Holloway, bringing you the latest in indie publishing news and commentary.

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Show Notes

Looking Back on the Book Publishing Industry in 2023

About the Host

Dan Holloway is a novelist, poet, and spoken word artist. He is the MC of the performance arts show The New Libertines, He competed at the National Poetry Slam final at the Royal Albert Hall. His latest collection, The Transparency of Sutures, is available on Kindle.

Read the Transcripts to Self-Publishing News: Record Year for Digital Lending

Hello and welcome to another Self-Publishing News podcast from here in Oxford.

It's going to be a relatively short one this week, apologies if you look forward to hearing many hours of my delectable tones. It's been a difficult time here in Oxford, personal things getting in the way of much of what I'm doing.

This is going to be a whistle stop tour. If you do want to hear from me for longer, I will put a link in the description to an end of year look back, that I had the pleasure of doing with Len from LeanPub on the FrontMatter podcast, where I spend an hour and 25 minutes, Len and I, talking about what happened in 2023.

2023 Library Figures Show Closing Gap Between eBooks and Audiobooks

A lot of that looks at the year in libraries, which brings us conveniently to our first story, which is this year's figures, or last year's figures, should I say, from Overdrive.

So, Overdrive, of course, is the catalogue provider, the platform that feeds digital books in all formats, whether that's comics, magazines, audiobooks, or eBooks, into the library system across the world.

Really interesting figures. The headline says that there were 662 million digital lends through Overdrive in 2023. Add to that, there were a further 253 million on the wait list. So, lends that couldn't happen because of the way that the waiting list works in the library system with digital loans. That's something in itself that I've talked about quite a lot in the column, the way that it can be difficult to get hold of the books you want to get hold of because of the way that publishers charge and meter licensing to libraries.

That said, that's a total of nearly a billion that we're looking at, of either lends or lends on the Waitlist. That's a huge number.

One of the really interesting parts of that is that, if we look at the difference between the number of audiobooks within the original 662 million, the number of audiobooks and the number of eBooks, we see that although eBooks are more, it's not an order of magnitude. It's very much that audio is catching up with eBooks.

This is something I remember from my childhood. I remember I used to go to my local library, and I'd borrow big box sets of cassettes full of audiobooks, and I would take them home. Inevitably there would be one that didn't work, fingers crossed that wouldn't be the last one. Those of you who remember listening to things on cassettes will know how frustrating it was when you got a glitch in the cassette, you will also be aware of what we see in all those memes that say, do you remember what this is? And you have a picture of the sprocket from a cassette and a pencil that we used to try and make the things work again.

I think this is how I was introduced to Sherlock Holmes was through listening to, I think it must have been A Study in Scarlet, on cassette tape. Likewise, I remember listening to the Day of the Jackal on cassette. Wonderful memories.

But audiobooks aren't exactly something new to libraries, but it's really interesting to see those 253 million downloads of audiobooks, or borrows of audiobooks, from libraries last year through Overdrive. 370 million eBooks.

For us as indies, of course, that's really interesting because it's becoming easier and easier for us to get our audiobooks onto Overdrive. So, we can do this, for example, through Draft2Digital, or we can do it through Findaway Voices.

We can put our books on the catalogue, and then we have access to more than half a billion library listeners who can then discover our works that way.

As I said, the gap between audiobooks and eBooks isn't large, and it is narrowing. There was a 12% increase in the number of borrows of eBooks, but the number of audiobooks borrowed went up by 23%. So, it's a gap that is narrowing, and if it carries on narrowing at that rate, it's not going to take long to close completely. Positive news on the library front.

Caliburn Prize Open for Entries

Also, positive news from the world of awards, the second edition of the Caliburn Prize has just been announced.

The Caliburn Prize, you may remember from last year, funded by the writer Tony Lee, it awards £2,500 to an as yet unpublished writer of comics or graphic novels. I mentioned that comics were part of the Overdrive catalogue. Digital comics, an increasingly popular genre that I've talked about several times over the last couple of years on this column, and it's great to see a prize devoted to newcomers within the genre.

I'm thrilled that ALLi is getting involved with this, so there will be a free year's membership of ALLi for the winner. Various other goodies including, and this is a really good one, a table and hotel that says 2025 London Film and Comic Con, provided by Showmasters Events. I don't know if that really does mean a whole table, that would be absolutely fantastic.

It's also a great opportunity to get known within the industry. So last year's winner, Michael Lohman, credits the connections that he made as a result of winning with his successful Kickstarter for his first graphic novel, The Palace of Tears.

Kickstarter is obviously something that comics and graphic novels do particularly well.

Also, on the subject of awards, congratulations to Christopher Hawkins, whose horror novel, Downpour, has become the first horror novel, again, great to see novels from outside the standard genres, or also called lack of genres of general fiction winning prizes.

So, his horror novel Downpour became the first horror novel to win the Booklife Prize. Booklife, of course, is the Publisher's Weekly section that celebrates indie authors and their books.

Mickey Mouse, Tigger and More Now in Public Domain

I will leave you with one of the things that's always a joy to look at in the new year, and that is the new things that have come into the public domain.

So as every year, the copyright expires on works that were published a long time ago. The figure is now, I think, 95 years, and that is a result of two extensions, or a 20-year extension that was granted as a result of campaigning by Disney. Disney in particular really wanted to protect their Mickey Mouse copyright, and so the Copyright Extension Act has become known as a result as the Mickey Mouse Protection Act.

Interestingly, on the way home on the bus the other day, I actually heard, it shows what kind of place Oxford is, and that most people in Oxford are obsessed with books, basically. Not for the first time, book conversation going a bus behind me, the person behind me talking about, oh, this is called the Mickey Mouse Act because of Disney's wanting to protect the Mickey Mouse copyright. But you know that now this year Mickey Mouse is actually in the public domain, and it is indeed true.

Steamboat Willie, which came out 95 years ago, so in 1928, which meant that it's 95 years expired at the end of last year, 2023, and you can now, as a result use Mickey Mouse and other characters as they appear in Steamboat Willie in your own creations.

You had better not use Mickey Mouse and other characters as they appear in other versions or Disney will still do its litigious thing and get all litigious on you. That's obviously the big headline figure that's in the public domain this year is Mickey Mouse, a la Steamboat Willie.

Some other interesting ones, Lady Chatterley's Lover, D. H. Lawrence's famous and notorious novel has also entered the public domain. Make of it what you will, what you'd like to do with Steamboat Willie, Lady Chatterley's Lover. Interesting ideas there.

Another really interesting one is Tigger. So, one of the most loved characters from the Winnie the Pooh books. Of course, Pooh became available in the public domain. Again, not in the Disney format. Don't be led into thinking that you can use the Disney-fied version of Pooh, though who would want to use that, I'm not quite sure. So, in 1926, Winnie the Pooh came out, and so two years ago, the characters from Winnie the Pooh, Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, entered the public domain.

As a result, you got the cultural highlights of the likes of Winnie the Pooh: Mud and Honey, the horror slasher film that became a sleeper sensation at the box office, albeit not a critical hit, needless to say. One of the interesting things about that is that it doesn't feature Tigger, and the reason it doesn't feature Tigger is that Tigger didn't make the first appearance in the Winnie the Pooh books until 1928's, The House at Pooh Corner.

Obviously, that being a 1928 book, Tigger is now available for use by anyone who wants to do something culturally interesting, or even not very interesting, with the full set of characters, including Tigger, who could also join Mickey Mouse ala Steamboat Willie.

Another one that's on the list that interested me was Virginia Woolf's, Orlando. So, Orlando is a film that I remember seeing as a student. A particularly captivating performance by Tilda Swinton, fabulous little art house film that I recommend everyone go and see. I think it was Sally Potter, who has obviously gone on to do really great things, who directed it, but now you can do your own thing with the characters from Orlando.

If you're interested in thinking about how you might use fanfiction to create a graphic novel to enter for the Caliburn Prize, for example, do go and check out the works that have entered the public domain this January.

With that, I will leave you to get your imaginations all fired up and look forward to speaking to you again next week.

Author: Howard Lovy

Howard Lovy is an author, book editor, and journalist. He is also the Content and Communications Manager for the Alliance of Independent Authors, where he hosts and produces podcasts and keeps the blog updated. You can find more of his work at https://howardlovy.com/

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