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Selling E-books in the Academic Market

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With the prices of textbooks
skyrocketing and libraries coping with lean budgets and limited shelf space,
e-book sales for academic titles can only go up. Through ebrary, NetLibrary,
Content Reserve (OverDrive), and books24×7, some of my titles are now available
in more than 300 academic libraries in the United States, and I recently signed
up with Coutts Library Services, which has formed a division similar to ebrary
and NetLibrary to sell e-books to Europe and other countries.

 

I recommend that all PMA members
with titles suitable for academic libraries look into those sources of income.
Do not be afraid of being stigmatized if you are a self-publisher with only one
title. I am a self-publisher myself, and a one-person operation, even though I
now have nine titles.

 

Instead of selling individual
copies to consumers, companies such as ebrary, NetLibrary, and Content Reserve
keep titles from selected publishers in their databases and make the content available
online, in whole or in part, to libraries and large organizations. They charge
by the page and time usage, and pay royalties to publishers (typically 10
percent of the price a publisher sets) on a quarterly basis with a detailed
statement. To the best of my knowledge, none of these companies requires
exclusivity.

 

Agreements with them typically run
for five years, and publishers retain the rights in their intellectual
property.

 

E-book Advantages

 

Creating an e-book for the
academic market is easy. Once you?ve finished with your printed version,
convert it to PDF, and your e-book is ready for sale.

 

Academic titles may do well as
e-books both because they cost less and because—with permission from the
professors—students can use them with handheld devices during exams.
E-books have certain obvious advantages from the publisher?s point of view too.
Returns are very unlikely. It?s easy to make corrections, change your retail
price, and re-upload. And you can use as much color as you wish, both on the cover
and in the interior.

 

Other advantages include (1)
having a reason to inform professors about the existence of your title (you
report that it is available in digital form in the campus library), and (2)
being able to send professors to the library when they ask for free examination
copies.

 

Disadvantages include having to
use different ISBNs for print and e-book versions; and having to buy a reliable
PDF converter package (I use the industry standard, Adobe Acrobat).

 

Some publishers sell their e-books
through their Web sites by uploading the content to each buyer?s PC, Mac, or
notebook. Others sell them on CD. I chose to sell mine through the Ingram
subsidiary Lightning Source, Inc. (LSI), so that I can spend more time writing
more books and less time uploading or waiting in long lines at the USPS. LSI
provides a digital rights management (DRM) feature that protects against
unauthorized copying and forwarding, and it makes titles available to
Amazon.com, Powell?s, and other e-book retailers. Like its parent company, it
expects a 55 percent discount. Payments to the publisher are monthly after a
90-day period.

 

First Steps

 

To help you get started in the
academic market for e-books, I offer my contact list. It?s best to approach
these contacts with a letter written on handsome company stationery and sent
first class (email might be OK too, but it may be discarded as junk). Present a
brief description of the content of your book; explain why you feel it is a
good candidate for inclusion in the company?s database; and include published
reviews and/or comments from professors who are using your content or comments
solicited from students with permission and help from their professors.

 

A review in <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>CHOICE

magazine should help get your title into academic libraries via the contact
list below. See www.ala.org/acrl/choice
for information, and submit new titles for review via <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>submissions@ala-choice.org.

 

Contacts
list

 

·      ebrary: <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>www.ebrary.com
;
Lisa Berry, lisa@ebrary.com

·      NetLibrary: <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>www.netlibrary.com
;
Natalie Jones, njones@netlibrary.com

·      Content Reserve (OverDrive): <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>www.contentreserve.com
;support@contentreserve.com
(for no known reason, this organization never gives out contact names, but they
are very responsive)

·      TecKnoQuest: <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>www.tecknoquest.com
;
Pasquale Pagliuso, pasquale@tecknoquest.com
(sales of my e-books have been very limited with this organization)

·      MyiLibrary: <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>www.myilibrary.com
;
Sarah Underwood, sunderwood@myilibrary.com
(this new company, based in England, is a division of Coutts Library Services
in Niagara Falls, NY)

·      books24x7: <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>www.books24x7.com
;
Courtney Nolan, cnolan@books24x7.com.
Before contacting this organization, visit its site and decide which of its
categories—it calls them ?Collections?—your title may fit, even
though, ultimately, Courtney Nolan will make that decision.

 

Taking Stock

 

Recently, a professor concerned
about the high cost of conventional textbooks decided to adopt two of my
titles. When he inquired about discounts at his college bookstore so he could
compare prices for the print and e-book versions, the bookstore manager called
me.

 

I offered a 40 percent discount on
the print version to bring its price in line with the e-book price. I think we
will see more scenarios like that in the near future.

 

To date, about 75 percent of my
revenue is from royalties paid by ebrary, NetLibrary, and others cited above.

 

I am not getting filthy rich, but
with e-book revenues plus revenues from pbook sales at Amazon, college
bookstores, and institutions that have adopted my texts, I am content.

 

Steven T. Karris, the
founder and president of Orchard Publications, has undergraduate and graduate
degrees in electrical engineering and is a registered professional engineer in
California and Florida. He has more than 35 years of professional engineering experience
and more than 30 years of teaching experience as an adjunct professor, most
recently at UC Berkeley.

 

 

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