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Self-publishing News: Overdrive Records Half A Billion Digital Lends In 2021

Self-publishing News: Overdrive Records Half a Billion Digital Lends in 2021

In this week's Self-Publishing News Special, ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway looks at a record year of digital borrowing from libraries with Overdrive.

Dan Holloway head and shoulders

ALLi's News Editor Dan Holloway

I very much look forward to seeing many of you on tonight's #indieauthorchat at the usual 3pm Eastern, 8pm UK time when we will be discussing the importance of covers. In the meanwhile, do listen to the last podcast from last year as Howard and I reflect on last year's Futurebook Conference.

Is the Most Intriguing Mystery in Literature (Almost) Finally Over?

Most of us love a good mystery. In fact many of us as writers make our livings from the fact that so many people love a mystery. For several years the literary world has been gripped by its very own mystery. A story of theft, intrigue, a secret criminal working from the shadows, and a motivation that no one could fathom. This week, one of those pieces, identity the mysterious figure at the heart of this baffling crime spree, may have slotted into place

For years, someone has been stealing literary manuscripts. And I don’t mean ripping texts and putting them onto dodgy download sites. Nor do I mean scraping content to stuff into overlong ebooks in order to dupe Kindle Unlimited readers. Or even sifting the slush pile to find gems to pass off as their own. No, someone has been soliciting unpublished manuscripts by bestselling authors, using carefully disguised email addresses that look like they originate from within the industry and…then doing absolutely nothing with them. Fascination with the mystery reached a peak when Vulture published a big spread on it last year after the new Millennium thriller was targeted. Speculation grew as to the motivation but no one really had a clue.

And they still don’t, despite the fact that in the past few days the FBI arrested Filippo Bernadini when he set down in the USA after flying from the UK. Bernadini was (I assume it’s past tense!) an employee of Simon and Schuster, the Big Five publisher whose acquisition by Penguin Random House is currently subject to an antitrust injunction. The truth usually turns out to be far less interesting than the speculation. No doubt Bernadini’s motives will follow that pattern. But until we learn more we can at least have a few weeks feeling that pulse racing pang we get when we’re about two chapters away from a heartstopping finale!

Overdrive Clocks Half a BILLION Digital Lends in 2021

Libraries have been in the news a lot of late. Most of the time the reason has been their ongoing war with publishers, who seem to think they are stealing sales. This week the relationship between libraries and consumers hit the news in a slightly different way. Depending where you stand on the main dispute, the latest chapter will either be a cause to celebrate or a sign of impending doom. In their annual state of play blog, Overdrive, the company that provides ebook catalogues to libraries, reported people had borrowed books from its digital catalogue more than half a billion times. That’s almost a 20% increase year on year. 

The wider content of Overdrive’s Annual Review blog makes really interesting reading. There were lists of most downloaded books and magazines that offered few surprises. But two things really drew my eye. The first was the emphasis on their apps. Libby got two mentions. Libby allows people to access and read ebooks from their local libraries really simply. And Overdrive credit increased use of the app with significant growth. Libby also won several tech awards through the year, and clearly shows the healthy state of public use of libraries. 

Another Overdrive app is Sora, which gives students access to educational materials. And this segues into the other area of interest – acquisitions. Overdrive’s report highlights their acquisitions over the year, including educational catalogues. It is clearly, that suggests, a platform that considers half a billion downloads just a milestone and not a destination. The public seem to agree. And yet again, I’m left thinking that publishers are going to have to find a way to work with libraries that doesn’t make them look, not to put too fine a point on it, as though they don’t actually support reading.

Spotify’s Call to Action Cards are Part of a Move to Drive More Advertising: What Does that Mean for Audiobooks?

Spotify announced a new feature this week that it hopes will make it easier for people to buy stuff from adverts during its audio content. Call To Action (CTA) cards are, as far as I can see, tiles that you click while listening to content, which then take you to a landing page. This sounds rather low tech. Somewhat like the things that appear on screen when you’re watching YouTube. Except that audio podcasts aren’t like watching YouTube. CTA cards seem to be two things. On the one hand they’re a synching tool – they display something interactive while you’re listening to that thing being advertised, so no one loses potential clicks. 

But they also account for the fact that many people listen to audio while doing something else, like riding a bike or something else that means you might not be able to click right now. So you’ll see the CTA card when you visit the podcast’s site later – for up to 7 days. And you’ll even see these cards if you are a Premium payer.

Spotify clearly cares about advertising – they spent $235m recently buying the podcasting ad platform Megaphone. So it is inevitable that when they talk about themselves as a one stop shop for audio, that means all Spotify audio eventually will see ad creep. And that means audiobooks too. I remember many years ago, some indies suggested they might make money by selling advertising in their ebooks. They were treated as pariahs. But it looks like we’re well on the road to this becoming an industry norm.

Overdrive celebrates half a billion digital loans last year and other top #selfpub news stories for #indieauthors, in one quick read, by #ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway @agnieszkasshoes #digitaleconomy #publishingopenup Click To Tweet

Upcoming Conferences and Events

Help us fill this with great online events in the coming weeks and months. I highly recommend this great list of online writers' conferences from Nate Hoffelder, some of which are indie-inclusive.

Bay Area Independent Publishers Association (BAIPA) – Zoom meetings the 2nd Saturday of each month

Over to You

Author: Dan Holloway

Dan Holloway is a novelist, poet and spoken word artist. He is the MC of the performance arts show The New Libertines, which has appeared at festivals and fringes from Manchester to Stoke Newington. In 2010 he was the winner of the 100th episode of the international spoken prose event Literary Death Match, and earlier this year he competed at the National Poetry Slam final at the Royal Albert Hall. His latest collection, The Transparency of Sutures, is available for Kindle at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Transparency-Sutures-Dan-Holloway-ebook/dp/B01A6YAA40

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