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David Lee King: Three simple steps to make your ebooks rock

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At the recent American Library Association Annual Conference in San Francisco, ebooks were everywhere. They were talked about in sessions, they were well-represented in the exhibit hall. And most likely, they were also well-represented on a bunch of mobile devices owned by the attendees.

Image: David Lee KingDavid Lee King

David Lee King is the Digital Services Director at Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library, where he plans, implements, and experiments with emerging technology trends.

He speaks internationally about emerging trends, website management, digital experience, and social media, and has been published in many library-related journals. David is a Library Journal Mover and Shaker.

His newest book is Face2Face: Using Facebook, Twitter, and Other Social Media Tools to Create Great Customer Connections.

David blogs at

Read David's other article…

Image: Social media

I'll bet that, at this point, your library has ebooks and your customers are reading them. I'll also bet that you have many customers who don't know you have ebooks, or don't immediately think about your ebook collection when they're ready to read.

There are three pretty easy steps to get more ebooks into the hands of more people:

1. Gotta actually buy ebooks

OK. I know. This point sounds pretty lame, doesn't it? But give it some thought. I've talked to a number of libraries with ebooks that complain that they don't have enough, or that all the "good stuff" gets checked out fast, or that the best, newest ebooks are very expensive (see Jamie LaRue's list of ebook price comparisons).

Budgets aside, if you want to have enough ebooks to meet customer demand, you have to budget enough to meet that demand. Even if it means buying five $90 ebooks rather than just one.

That, and continuing to tell your ebook vendors and publishers that you really don't like paying $90 for a $10 ebook.

2. Gotta tell people you have ebooks

Another simple thing that many libraries don't do well. I guarantee that your library has customers who don't know about your ebooks (and the many other really cool services and collections that you provide).

Want to let your customers know that you have ebooks? There are many ways to do this – in your building, on your website, and out in your community.

  • In your building: Put up signs, posters and banners where people walk. By the bathrooms. On study tables. Mention them at the service desk. Even on the book shelves! Also make sure your staff know what can be found in your ebook collections, so when a customer can't find a book on the shelf, staff can provide the ebook version.

  • On your website: If you want to point website visitors to your ebook collection, you should put a call-to-action link in the top portion of your website. For example, at my library's website, you'll see a big blue button that says "Download it" on every page of our website. Ebooks in our community are so important that we have given our econtent collection (ebooks, streaming movies, digital music, and emagazines) a prominent place in a navigation bar, along with the library catalogue and our database collection.

  • In your community: Rent a billboard, place signs in coffee shops. Send out press releases about new additions to your ebook service. At meetings out of the building. For example, my library has created business cards with the URL to our ebook page that we hand out at meetings. Announce a new or improved ebook service through local news media. For example, I've talked about ebooks on our local TV news.

3. Gotta train your staff

Staff should know where the app stores are, how the app works, and how to connect the app to the library's ebook collection. Then go a step or two further – train staff in how iOS and Android mobile devices work (yes, that means you might need to buy an Apple iPad and an Android tablet for staff to play with), so when that new ebook customer visits the library for help, they can get the help they need.

Sound like a lot of work? It's really not. I'll guess you already have some of this in place. You probably just haven't thought of it as a package deal. Think of growing your ebook collection as a priority. If you want to grow the service, and get it into your customers' hands … you have to do these three things – buy them, tell customers you have them, and make sure your staff know how to use them.

Simple stuff, yet so often overlooked. Do it right and your customers will notice, and your ebooks will fly off your digital shelves!