April 19, 2018

Kansas State Library Partners with Bilbary


The state library of Kansas will partner with ebook startup Bilbary, according to Publishers Weekly, adding a link on its website for patrons who want to buy ebooks.

The move follows a meeting between Tim Coates, founder of Bilbary, and the four state librarians who constitute the ebook task force of the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies (COSLA). As LJ reported, Jo Budler, the state librarian of Kansas, chairs the task force, and was one of those met with Coates at the American Library Association’s Midwinter Meeting in Dallas.

Budler said at the time that she found the “bookstore piece” of it interesting in part because it gives patrons a mechanism to make a “contribution” to the Kansas state library’s consortial ebook fund. And Coates reiterated that aspect when he announced in March that Bilbary would donate towards the survival of U.K. libraries, saying that U.S. libraries can earn a share of the income from e-book sales made from their websites through Bilbary, for the benefit of the libraries themselves and their patrons.

However the Kansas library will not receive income from sales, at least for now, because, as Budler told LJ, “we really want to encourage them to develop the lending part of it. I am less interested in it being a fundraiser than it being an alternative service. So what we’re talking to them about is, what you would give us as a commission, keep that as an account for us, and you can use it to develop a lending library, and when it’s up and running, maybe we’ll take that money out of the account and use it for the service.”

Exactly how much money that would be, however, hasn’t been quantified. It’s a handshake deal, said Budler. In addition to helping Bilbary develop an alternative library ebook platform, Budler said her goals were to offer a service for patrons who have asked for a way to buy ebooks through the library, and “show the publishers that we’re really wanting to help them with their business model.”

“We offered a healthy chunk of what we would have got and she accepted and gave it right back to us,” Coates told LJ. “I’ve never done a deal like that before.” He said the plan would enable Bilbary to get up and running that much sooner, and that it was really “about building a bridge” between publishers and libraries.

Bilbary is also in talks with several other groups, including a consortium as well as states, to do something similar, and Coates says he hopes Budler’s “persuasive powers will shine out” to convince the rest of COSLA, or at least the rest of the committee, to sign on as well.

In the meantime, however, the discount Bilbary will offer to Kansas patrons is available to anyone who clicks through from the Kansas website, regardless of their own location. What that discount will be depends on the discount the publisher offers to Bilbary as a retailer, but Coates says he hopes to pass on as much as possible of the publisher’s discount, on the order of 30 to 40 percent, unless of course the publisher is on the agency model.

Budler said that despite her interest in Bilbary, Kansas’ current ebook platform provider, 3M, shouldn’t worry. “We’re very happy with 3M,” she said. “It’s a service our patrons have been giving us a lot of positive response about. We’re going to buy a lot more content” from 3M, she said, adding that Bilbary might eventually offer a different (and potentially complimentary) service, or different publishers’ titles.

This is far from Budler’s first time as an ebook pioneer: last year she won the right to transfer her state’s ebook holdings from OverDrive to 3M at no charge, arguing that Kansas owned its holdings.

Meredith Schwartz About Meredith Schwartz

Meredith Schwartz (mschwartz@mediasourceinc.com) is Senior Editor, News and Features of Library Journal.