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by Jessie Bach
Most libraries these days offer readers a plethora of online services for borrowing eBooks, eAudiobooks, and other digital items like magazines, songs, and movies. There’s OverDrive, CloudLibrary, Hoopla, Freegal, Flipster, the Read Alberta and Prairie Indigenous eBook Collections, and more. A growing number of Alberta libraries are adding yet another electronic library resource (or “eResource”) called Biblioboard. Just like with the eResources listed above, library patrons can use Biblioboard to borrow, download and read eBooks, stream videos, and listen to music. What’s unique about Biblioboard, is that it is hyper-local and intended for both consumers and creators.
On one hand, Biblioboard serves as a curation tool, providing a platform for libraries and library patrons to create collections of local content that ranges from historic photographs, oral history recordings, to visual artwork, and more. At Calgary Public Library (CPL), for example, Biblioboard has been used to curate a fascinating collection of historical city maps that includes, among many other things, vintage transit maps, street maps, and topographical maps! These curated collections are then made available for library users to discover and explore.
CPL has also collected and posted recorded interviews with newcomers to Calgary from all around the world, in a collection called the Newcomer Stories Collection, and stories written by participants in the CBC Calgary Writing Workshop are available on the platform for all library users to read.
Another facet of Biblioboard, and the one that I’ll explore more in-depth in this post, is the suite of tools that helps Alberta writers make eBooks and print-ready books, share their writing with the Indie Author Project and their local library community, and discover and read books by local Alberta authors.
Most of us who write, whether blog posts or epic novels, have encountered challenges (to say it nicely) using the usual tech-of-the-trade to format our work for printing or posting online. This is where the Pressbooks Public Self Publishing Program comes in. The Pressbooks software helps authors and publishers to design and format any kind of book, whether in print or an eBook. Creating a book using Pressbooks is as simple as choosing a working title and clicking “Create.” Once logged in, you can begin by producing content right in Pressbooks using their editor tool, or by importing your content from an existing file.
Pressbooks also provides several themes and style options for formatting your work into an attractive and professional final product. Cleverly named after famous classic writers, each theme is customizable, allowing authors to choose things like margins, spacing, chapter and section headings, colours, fonts, languages, and more. Here are just a few of the themes available:
Completed works can then be exported from Pressbooks in several formats. PDF for printing or print on demand, ePUB for Apple iBooks, Nook, Kobo, Kindle, and most other ebooks platforms, or as Webbook. Webbooks is a Pressbooks-specific format for hosting and distributing a book for free online.
Local authors who create a work using Pressbooks or the publishing tool of their choice can then submit it to the Indie Author Project. The Indie Author Project (or IAP) is a publishing community comprised of public libraries, curating partners, readers, and independent authors. The aim of the IAP is to engage local creative communities and help new and independent authors make their work available to their communities through local libraries. Authors of all ages and experience levels can submit their work for free to the IAP, and the submission guidelines are simple. Books must be:
- Submitted as an ePUB or PDF file,
- In the English language,
- Original works to which the author owns the rights.
The IAP is open to all Albertans—you don’t need to be a card-carrying library member to participate (although of course, I highly recommend it)!
All submissions to the IAP will go through a review process to ensure that the work is appropriate for a public library setting—mainly, that it is properly formatted, not plagiarized, and free of hate speech or graphic cover images. Once it passes muster, the book will be included in the Indie Alberta collection on Biblioboard and be available for library users to download and read. This is a fantastic opportunity for authors to gain exposure and connect to a local audience, while also helping readers to discover great local content.
All books submitted to the IAP—as long as they pass the review process as linked above—will be included in the Biblioboard Indie Alberta collection. However, the IAP also works with a group of editorial partners, including Library Journal and Publisher’s Weekly, whose role it is to further vet the submissions and highlight the best of the best. These titles are identified in the Indie Alberta collection with a blue “highlight” banner, and become available for loan to library users in dozens of libraries across the United States and Canada. They may also become eligible for a royalty-paying program and other expanded opportunities. Authors who submit to the IAP retain all rights to their work.
Every year, the Indie Author Project also runs a regional contest. In 2021, the first year that Albertan authors took part in the IAP, Always Brave, Sometimes Kind by Katie Bickell took home the award. Last year, the winner was Knight Vision by Alice Bienia. The 2023 contest will be open for submissions of indie-published adult and young adult fiction on April first. Winners of the regional contests receive a slew of prizes, including $1,000, honours at the Indie Author Day Reception, opportunities for promotion in public libraries, inclusion in a full-page spread in Library Journal, and the ability to earn royalties. If you’re interested in submitting your book, visit the contest website for more information.
Right now, CPL and the libraries in Marigold Library System offer Biblioboard free to their members. CPL members can access Biblioboard via their Digital Library page, while Marigold member library patrons should visit their local library’s eResources page.
Beyond the Stacks is a column about libraries in Alberta and the useful and necessary services they provide.
Jessie Bach grew up on a family farm in Southern Alberta and is a lifelong library user and book lover. She has a degree in history from the University of Saskatchewan, and a Master of Library and Information Studies from Dalhousie University. Jessie has worked in archives, academic libraries, corporate records management, and now public libraries. Her current role is Communications & Engagement Manager at Marigold Library System. She currently lives in Calgary with her partner and, in true librarian fashion, three cats. Jessie likes to read (of course), knit, consume way too many true crime podcasts, and lift weights in the gym.
Feature image credit: Andrea Piacquadio (via Pexels).