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The Benefits of Public Libraries And Digital Lending For Indie Authors

That bookstore you used to haunt as a child now sells more books through their online site than through the counter. That local library you used to call your second home lends more ebooks than the books on their shelves.

This is how the times have changed, and are continuing to change—even the oldest stores struggle to survive unless they have an online presence, with the ability to serve remote customers. Even if we hate ebooks, even if we would rather peruse the books on a bookshelf than buy online, it cannot be denied that being able to conduct transactions online has made our lives infinitely easier.

In our post, 3 Ways to Get Your Book into Libraries, we discussed how you can get your book into your local library. Libraries are a place where avid readers discover new books—the same readers who inevitably go on to purchase the books they enjoyed reading. Libraries have been known to boost book sales, instead of decreasing it through lending.

But what about lending digital copies of books? How can a library lend books to readers who cannot access the library in person, or as frequently as is required for purposes of returning the book once borrowed? That is why there is a model called controlled digital lending—a means to lend books to those readers who cannot access libraries in person, or who prefer digital copies of books for convenience.

What is Controlled Digital Lending (CDL)?

Controlled digital lending (CDL) is a lending model that allows libraries to scan the physical copies of books they have purchased, lending it to readers online instead of the physical book. According to this digitize-and-lend model, libraries are only permitted to lend the digital copy when the physical copy is available, and vice versa. Libraries can also only lend out the same number of digital copies as there are physical copies.

How Does CDL Benefit Authors?

CDL comes with the same controls as print lending—there are only a limited number of checkout times available, and a maximum number of loans at one time depending on the number of copies the library has purchased. Therefore, just like ordinary methods of lending in libraries, the CDL model, too, benefits authors and readers alike. 

1. Increases the discoverability of books

Libraries play a huge role in increasing a book’s discoverability. They give exposure to authors, and introduce readers to new and upcoming new faces within the writing community. By allowing CDL, libraries open up opportunities for readers from across the world to access their books, which increases a book’s discoverability even more.

2. Generates more author income

Any avid reader knows the desire to own a copy of their favorite book, no matter how many times they’ve read it. According to a survey conducted in 2020 by the Panorama Project, the primary goal of which was to “to establish books’ place in the broader media ecosystem and broaden understanding of how consumers engage with books, where and how they discover books, and the implications for publishers, authors, libraries and booksellers,” nearly one third of the consumers who responded to the survey mentioned that they had purchased a book they first found in a library.

3. Benefits author research

According to author and journalist, Annalee Newitz, the CDL model provided her ways to do research for her books without having to visit remote libraries and archives. There are numerous out-of-print historical and other books that would be inaccessible for authors if not for the CDL model.



Sharika Hafeez

Sharika Hafeez is a nerd, and she’s proud of it. Growing up, she fell in love with books and writing, and is currently following her undergraduate degree (for some mysterious reasons) in Physics. She likes procrastinating by watching the stars with a steaming cup of tea, composing poetry in her head.

June 23, 2022

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