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Sourcebooks NEXT.

Last Friday Library Journal announced an experiment between Overdrive and Sourcebooks called The Big Library Read.

The Big Library Read—The Pilot

Sourcebooks and OverDrive are partnering on a pilot program that will allow library patrons worldwide the opportunity to read New York Times bestselling author Michael Malone’s acclaimed novel “The Four Corners of the Sky” in ebook format. The Big Library Read is a no cost program in which libraries worldwide promote from their lending catalog a single ebook to their patrons. In addition to creating a global “library book club,” it’s designed to generate data about the positive exposure and sales influence library ebook catalogs provide to authors and publishers.

The Data

How do readers discover authors and books? This seemingly simple question has always been central for book publishers, perhaps more now than ever. Any publisher will tell you that libraries have always been critical agents of discovery. Both Sourcebooks and Overdrive understand this.

Today there is a deep and fruitful conversation occurring between libraries and publishers, and on the business side of the discussion most of it centers around ebook lending and financial models. This pilot is of value because it moves the conversation toward what we might accomplish together if we partnered at a deeper level. It’s using data to push the business discussion into a reading discussion, and to my mind there’s very little that’s more valuable than that to our culture.

It has always been a “given” that library support helped drive author success, both short- and long-term. Seeing if we can provide data around that assumption is a fascinating challenge. With respect to this pilot, we hope to discover several things:

  • Can a large-scale coordinated promotion across many library systems drive strong and sustainable check-out rates for the selected ebook from the library?
  • Does interest in the featured ebook drive check-outs of the author’s other titles?
  • Is there any measurable impact on the ebook, print book, or the author’s sales in the retail segment?
  • Will a promotion like this drive buzz and word of mouth? How about book clubs and reading groups?
  • If there is an effect (in any of the above), how long does it last? Is the author left in a different place (or not)?

Library Journal has agreed to assist with data review and analysis following the pilot.

Our primary goal is to learn, and (as always) we are eager to develop new ways of reaching readers on behalf of our authors.

Bookstores and libraries

I’ve always believed there’s an interaction between libraries and bookstores; that people find books they love and want to own in libraries and then go to bookstores to buy those books. As the U.S. publisher of every book by Georgette Heyer, we’ve certainly seen that link. This OverDrive pilot with Michael Malone runs for 2 weeks and then the book disappears from devices. Will people want to keep reading? What form will they want to read the book in? Will people want to read other Michael Malone books?  Answering these and so many other questions makes for a compelling test.

No experiment is perfect

This is a pilot. Working with OverDrive and participating libraries, we will track and share data related to exposure, discovery, and retail sales activity that can be originated from library ebook lending catalogs Together we will endeavor to generate real data, ask and answer tough questions, and most importantly learn from it all.

Specifics of the program

  • The Four Corners of the Sky will be prominently displayed at your OverDrive-powered library website (if they opt into the program), and discoverable through your library’s catalog.
  • The program runs from May 15-June 1, 2013
  • For the pilot, the ebook will be simultaneously available for any and all readers with a library card to browse, sample, and borrow.
  • At the end of the pilot period, the title will be removed from the collection (unless previously purchased by the library), but will be available in OverDrive’s Content Reserve Marketplace to purchase for the standing collection ($9.95 USD worldwide).
  • OverDrive will share data from the pilot with Sourcebooks and participating libraries including the exposure, sampling, checkouts, and social media interaction.
  • Sourcebooks will share data with OverDrive and participating libraries including retail sales and social media interaction.
  • More information can be found at www.BigLibraryRead.com.

Why Michael Malone?

Well, first of all, Michael is an author who we all felt clearly deserved this kind of worldwide attention. He’s is an award-winning writer who’s written novels, plays, short stories, and even soap operas. As his publisher and his friend, both he and his compelling work are near and dear to my heart.

Secondly, The Four Corners of the Sky is a novel of love, secrets, and the mysterious bonds of families. Malone brings characters to life as only he can, exploring the questions that defy easy answers: Is love a choice or a calling? Why do the ties of family bind so tightly? And is forgiveness a gift to others...or a gift we give ourselves? The book was a 4-star People Magazine Pick and is beloved by Michael’s many fans. You can listen to this interview he did with NPR about The Four Corners of the Sky to learn more.

When I told him about the OverDrive program, Michael totally got it, quickly telling me that libraries are “history’s home and freedom’s harbor” (yes, he really does speak like that…he’s just remarkable). To get a sense of his commitment, you might want to read this letter he wrote for Big Library Read that will be inside the ebook.

And finally, this experiment is worldwide (there are over 25 countries involved) and Michael is an author for whom we have worldwide English language rights. As our digital culture continues to erode country and territory lines decades (even centuries) in the making, we will begin to generate data on what impact we can have worldwide.

For Discussion

What questions would you like to see us address? What hypotheses do you have? It’s all a compelling discussion, and we look forward to sharing and continuing it with you all. Feel free to post your thoughts below.

With warmest wishes,




0 # Lori Wald Compton 2013-05-09 10:29
Will there be a discussion component for readers?
0 # hmoore 2013-05-10 09:24
Hi Lori! We are working on setting up a twitter chat for the week of May 20. You can follow Michael on twitter @michaelmalone and/or Facebook (facebook.com/.../...) for updates!
0 # Katie 2013-05-11 12:36
I've seen the announcement for this, looking to see if my library consortium wants to participate. It's an interesting and worthy concept, but we've been given a week to decide about participation, and notify our patrons. It's not enough time, and we are wondering why the delay and short notice.
0 # hmoore 2013-05-13 06:47
Hi Katie - This is Overdrive's first pilot and they didn't intend for the libraries to have to do anything. There is nothing the libraries need to do to get this launched. In the future, they will build in more time for libraries to plan and leverage for community promotion.

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