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Why Publishers Support E-book Lending with OpenLibrary.org: A Q&A with Smashwords Mark Coker

Photo of Mark Coker

Mark Coker Founder, CEO Smashwords

This Q&A kicks off a series of conversations with visionary publishers who support e-book digital library lending with OpenLibrary.org.

Mark Coker, Founder, CEO and Chief Author Advocate, founded Smashwords  to change the way books are published, marketed and sold.  In just three years it has become the leading ebook publishing and distribution platform for independent authors and small publishers.  The Wall Street Journal named Mark Coker one of the “Eight Stars of Self-Publishing” in 2010. He is a contributing columnist for the Huffington Post, where he writes about ebooks and the future of publishing. For Smashwords updates, follow Mark on Twitter at @markcoker.

Q. What is the relationship between publishers and Open Library?

A: “There is an intersection of common interest with publishers and Open Library – the passionate desire to get books to readers. The innovators at Open Library understand that the way people access books is an ongoing evolution and they are at the forefront of finding solutions to support all the key stakeholders – publishers and distributors, authors and most of all, readers.

Q: How do Libraries help to support book distribution?

old man reading computer

“Its simple – the more readers have a chance to engage with a book, the more likely they are to recommend it, or purchase it.”


A: Open Library purchases your books and shares them with readers by creating a web page for each book, with a cover photo and descriptive information. There are prompts to read, borrow and buy. Open Library has more than 4,600,000 unique visitors a month.

Q: What makes Smashwords different from other publishing organizations?

A: Smashwords represents 19,000 indie authors and small presses who handle the writing, editing and pricing of their books. We distribute these titles to major retailers such as Apple, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo and Diesel. We believe that authors should maintain the creative and financial control of their work and receive the lion share of income. Our authors keep upwards of 85% of the profits on the books we distribute.

Q. Why are some publishers and authors excited about e-books accessed via public libraries?

“If you build it, they will come.”

A: Our authors and publishers rely on Smashwords to open up new opportunities to reach readers. We’re working with most of the biggest indie authors, and many of them are excited about libraries. Open Library and its partners believe, “if you build it, they will come and I agree.  As demand for ebooks through a digital public library systems increase, publishers will better understand the value of partnering with Open Library. We hope they utilize Smashwords to reach these new distribution venues.

Buying E-Books from Smashwords

Young Adult e-Books by Amanda Hocking available on OpenLibrary.org

Smashwords’ best-selling authors contribute to OpenLibrary.org

Smashwords, the largest distributor of independently published literature, recently provided the Internet Archive and OpenLibrary.org with its first installment of e-Books from best known, best-selling e-Book authors including: Young Adult sensation Amanda Hocking; Fantasy author, Brian Pratt; Romance novelist Ruth Ann Nordin; and Business Expert, Gerald Weinberg.

Mark Coker, CEO of Smashwords believes that libraries are crucial to every publisher’s survival because they provide the face to face connection between readers, authors and books.

“We see tremendous value in partnering with the Internet Archive. Their visionary leadership is helping to create a worldwide digital public library.”
Mark Coker, CEO, Smashwords

The deposit by Smashwords was a first attempt at demonstrating the feasibility of making modern books more globally accessible through OpenLibrary.org. Next up – the creation of a new model that supports the on-going purchase of e-Books by participating libraries.

“The publishing world is rapidly changing,” asserts Coker, “There’s plenty of room for numerous distribution models and in my opinion, publishers should be bending over backwards to support these initiatives.”