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E-Publishing and Libraries: A 21st Century Partnership

by on August 29, 2013

The partnership between the Los Gatos (CA) Public Library (LGPL) and Smashwords has spurred a movement within the library and publishing communities. “Forward-looking libraries such as LGPL are expanding from a culture of literacy into a culture that includes authorship,” says Jim Azevedo, the marketing director at Smashwords. [1] Since 2010, this new partnership has worked to bring libraries and authors together by promoting e-book publishing.

Smashwords is an e-book publishing portal that allows an author as much control as possible over their literary work. Authors can set their book’s price, cover art, and length. The website and project was inspired in 2008 by the founder, Mark Coker, and his own personal struggle to get his book published. In Coker’s experience, he found traditional publishers’ goals were more financial than creative. Today there are over 70,000 members of the Smashwords community that includes authors, agents, and small independent publishers.

In 2010, an off-hand comment by a library page to LGPL Town Librarian Henry Bankhead about Smashwords led Bankhead to learn more about the new world of e-books and self-publishing. Bankhead admits that in the beginning he had a distorted view of self-published e-books, which included believing they lacked integrity and value. But once he contacted Coker, the librarian’s view changed. It altered so much that Bankhead invited Coker and his team to use LGPL as a way to educate the public about e-books.

In 2012, LGPL and Smashwords put together a dynamic presentation series on self e-publishing. This series included three valuable segments: e-book overview, a primer on e-book publishing, and e-book publishing best practices. Each presentation had multiple presenters and details within it to provide a complete overview of each subject matter. All the presenters involved were impressed by the dedication and drive of their local author community

Since then, the two groups have teamed up to create a co-brand, allowing authors of the LGPL community to publish their work through Smashwords. This connection between authors and their local library is powerful. Any author’s work sent from Smashwords to LGPL still goes through the library’s vetting system. But the hope is that once the work is vetted and approved, a relationship between author and library is cemented. Also, this endeavor can support authors and their e-books without using up sometimes valuable library shelf space.

The response from Smashwords authors toward libraries is enthusiastic. “For many authors, libraries represent another significant way for new fans to discover their books,” says Azevedo [2]. Many of these authors are pleased to charge little or nothing to libraries to add their titles to the catalog.

LGPL and Smashwords continue to plan out the next steps in their collaboration. Technical glitches have slowed the process although not the enthusiasm. “Things we have discussed doing include encouraging Los Gatos’s Poet Laureate to publish a community poetry anthology,” says Bankhead. [3]

The Public Library Association offered a webinar about this partnership in June 2013. To view it, visit here.


  1. From e-mail to author dated 7/12/13.
  2. From e-mail to author dated 7/12/13.
  3. From e-mail to author dated 7/10/13.

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