In this week’s Self-Publishing News Special, ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway looks at a campaign against Overdrive is in the latest book ban row, and the return of US Book Show.
This week’s #indieauthorchat is tonight, Wednesday 11 May, at 8pm UK time, 3pm Eastern Time. Tim will be leading us in a discussion of the importance of location and setting in books. Please do listen to a special London Book Fair Self-Publishing News podcast here. Howard takes in all the fun of the Fair. He also speaks to everyone about ALLi’s 10 year story so far.
Book Bans: Now Attention is on Overdrive
Book bans have been big news for several weeks now. Attention has largely focused on libraries, especially school libraries, removing titles. Most of the attention has been on the removal of LGBTQ+ titles. I reported recently that the Authors Guild has responded by launching a Banned Books Club. Their first choice is David Levithan’s LGBTQI+ title Two Boys Kissing. But in that same column, I noted that the fight was not just about the books that appear in libraries, but how those books get to appear in libraries. In that story I reported on the criticism of Hoopla. Hoopla is one of the platforms that provides titles to libraries, many of which are self-published. And that is where the interest in this really lies for us, at a time when we are starting to see our access to library readers expand. Librarians had expressed concern over the large amount of Hoopla’s content that was conspiratorial or antisemitic.
This week, (thanks to Nate Hoffelder for the tip) the focus turns to the biggest platform of them all. Overdrive is the way most of us get our books into libraries. In 2021, Overdrive facilitated a cool half a billion lends in schools and public libraries. That’s a lot of reach we have access to. Conservative parent groups are putting pressure on school libraries to shut down their digital offerings. The concern again seems to be access to LGBTQI+ content and similar. One county in Texas, it seems, has already shut off access to OverDrive.
Second US Book Show Virtual Conference
It’s no surprise that libraries feature prominently in the programming of US Book Show, which returns next week. A whole day of programming has been given over to the importance of libraries. The event, which is all virtual, runs next week. Organised by Publishers’ Weekly, the US Book Show was set up during Covid as an alternative to the defunct Book Expo. While there’s little indie-specific content, the panels on TikTok and BookBub are sure to pique interest. Whether they pique $149 worth of interest is up to you. If so, you can book tickets here.
What Does Last Week’s Crypto Crash Mean for Indie Authors?
If you spend much time on social media, you will almost certainly have noticed that it has been a really difficult week for cryptocurrency. Without going into too many technical details about what has happened and why, I want to explain the situation very briefly. And I want to look in particular at why this matters for us as indie writers. If you want more details about the crash and what may or may not have caused it, you will find them everywhere. You could start with this piece in Buzzfeed.
In short, what happened last week centerd on two cryptocurrencies on the Terra blockchain protocol. The Luna cryptocurrency has plummeted in value from over $113 a month or so ago to under a fraction of a cent now. And really significantly, its partner stablecoin, UST, has lost more than 70% of its value and has been decoupled from the US dollar. It is that coupling which is supposed to make so-called “stablecoins” more, er, stable. What happened to these two currencies has caught the headlines, but the trend is wider, and the cryptocurrency market is estimated to have more than halved since last year.
All of this matters to us because of the role of cryptocurrencies in NFTs (non-fungible tokens). In order to buy NFTs, the digital special editions that have made such headlines recently, you have, at some point, to make a trade in a cryptocurrency. And that includes when we sell NFT ebooks. In order for the NFT market to thrive, people need to have confidence that they can buy and sell using cryptocurrency without losing everything. And it’s that confidence that’s been shaken.
Eco-friendly Solana Blockchain Hit Particularly Hard
In doubly bad news, this TechCrunch piece suggests that the Solana blockchain has come out of recent particularly damaged events. And that’s important because Solana makes a big deal out of trying to minimise its environmental impact. One of the reasons people have criticized NFTs is the vast environmental impact of blockchain technology. So NFT producers seeking to sidestep that criticism have flocked to Solana to demonstrate their eco credentials. All of which adds up to make this a week when those of us considering entering the NFT space might want to take a wait and see rain check!
How Widespread is Subscription to Audiobooks?
We hear a lot about subscription being the future of reading. That goes double for audio. But how many people actually pay for their audiobooks through subscription? Mark Williams sheds light on a fascinating report from Sweden. It shows that ten percent of the population in Sweden now has an audiobook subscription. That’s an eye-watering amount. Of course, it makes sense in one respect. Sweden is home to a lot of audiobook subscription companies like Stortyel and Nextory. But to what extent there are lots of services there because subscription levels have the potential to reach those heights? And to what extent are subscription levels high because audiobook subscription options are plentiful? It will be interesting to see what happens if other parts of the world start to be quite as well served as the Nordic countries. My sense is not that there is anything particularly special about Nordic readers. It’s more that audiobook readers elsewhere remain underserved.
Upcoming Conferences and Events
Bay Area Independent Publishers Association (BAIPA) – Zoom meetings the 2nd Saturday of each month
US Book Show, May 23-26
Wild Words Festival, 3-5 June (Cuffley End UK) – click the link for an ALLi discount (adult tickets £100 from £120, 5-12 years tickets £40 from £60)
Indie Unconference, 9-12 June, Matera