Steal This Idea

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Here is one good way to turn public libraries into centers for community publishing. If I had the time, better software development skills, or the business savvy I’d try to make this happen myself, but I don’t – so maybe somebody else out there can pick up the ball and run with it.

Someone needs to build a CMS-style publishing platform similar to Pressbooks, for instance, that integrates seamlessly with any public library catalog and website.

Imagine that Jenny in Anytown USA wants to write a book. Jenny would log on to her public library website and “create a project.” She’d have a series of templates to choose from – paperback book, comic book, etc. When she creates that project (book) via her library, a record with a specific item type (work in progress) is automatically generated in the library catalog.

As she writes her book, other interested library patrons are able to watch and track the progress. They can comment and even participate if she invites them to do so; group authoring would be easy enough to support.

Most importantly, it would work like a Kickstarter for printing books. If a sufficient number of patrons felt the project had the merit to be published as a print volume, they could vote it up to the top, Reddit-style, and then commit real money toward publishing.

The community actually determines what gets published beyond the Web. Suddenly, those zamboni-sized espresso book printing machines make a hell of a lot more sense in the library than they do right now. Or, the community could be hooked up to Ingram’s Lightning Source or another print-on-demand service.

Once the book is committed to print publishing, it no longer exists only as an e-book in the library catalog, but there will be a hard copy at the library as well.

As for an economic model: Well, I can tell you that if you built this product and it truly integrated seamlessly with the integrated library system and website, libraries would buy it. That could get you started.

Catch Nate talking more on this topic in the panel discussion Making Stories: Libraries and Community Publishing at SXSW Interactive this March 10th in Austin TX, along with Char Booth, Amy Buckland, and Michael Porter.

Nate Hill

About Nate Hill

Nate Hill is a librarian, designer, and naturalist living in the Santa Cruz mountains. By day he is a Web Librarian at the San Jose Public Library, and in his 'free time' he writes for the Public Library Association Blog, does Web consulting work with Influx, and acts as a convener for the Audience and Participation Workstream of the DPLA.

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5 thoughts on “Steal This Idea

  1. There are libraries beginning to do this on their own. What a force if they get together and create a bigger system. Apparently, Overdrive and the traditional publishers are just not supplying enough ebooks for library patrons. I love a proactive librarian.

  2. We’re just starting up a project at the Chesapeake Public Library in Virginia that incorporates elements of this model. Our focus is providing tools for authors to take them from the writing process through publicity and sales. The main site is now up and running at http://www.epublishorbust.com. We’ll be implementing the components over the course of the next year.

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