Publishing Industry Forces OverDrive and Other Library eBook Vendors to Take a Giant Step Back

Yesterday I received an email from OverDrive with an attachment titled “OverDrive Partner Library Update from Steve Potash”, I glanced at it and filed it away in my to-read pile for a later date (which honestly means I may never have gotten to it). This morning Heather Braum brought it to my attention via this post by Joe Atzberger.

The contents of this document are spun in a positive way and there are some great things coming from OverDrive, but in between the good news is some bad news, some really bad news.

The first bit – ownership of ebooks will now expire after a certain number of check outs to patrons. Libraries may no longer own them forever and ever.  This is unbelievable! And a HUGE step backwards in lending rights and library access.

The past several months have brought about dramatic changes for the print and eBook publishing and retail industries. Digital book sales are now a significant percentage of all publisher and author revenue. As a result several trade publishers are re-evaluating eBook licensing terms for library lending services. Publishers are expressing concern and debating their digital future where a single eBook license to a library may never expire, never wear out, and never need replacement.

OverDrive is advocating on behalf of your readers to have access to the widest catalog of the best copyrighted, premium materials, and lending options. To provide you with the best options, we have been required to accept and accommodate new terms for eBook lending as established by certain publishers. Next week, OverDrive will communicate a licensing change from a publisher that, while still operating under the one-copy/one-user model, will include a checkout limit for each eBook licensed. Under this publisher’s requirement, for every new eBook licensed, the library (and the OverDrive platform) will make the eBook available to one customer at a time until the total number of permitted checkouts is reached. This eBook lending condition will be required of all eBook vendors or distributors offering this publisher’s titles for library lending (not just OverDrive).

The second bit of bad news – publishers want to meddle in your library card policies.

In addition, our publishing partners have expressed concerns regarding the card issuance policies and qualification of patrons who have access to OverDrive supplied digital content. Addressing these concerns will require OverDrive and our library partners to cooperate to honor geographic and territorial rights for digital book lending, as well as to review and audit policies regarding an eBook borrower’s relationship to the library (i.e. customer lives, works, attends school in service area, etc.). I can assure you OverDrive is not interested in managing or having any say in your library policies and issues. Select publisher terms and conditions require us to work toward their comfort that the library eBook lending is in compliance with publisher requirements on these topics.

OverDrive Partner Library Update from Steve Potash (pdf)

Update 1:05pm EST: HarperCollins is the publisher that forced this issue. From Library Journal HarperCollins Puts 26 Loan Cap on Ebook Circulations

Update 3:45pm EST: If you wanna follow the outrage on Twitter the hashtag is #hcod

Update 3.1.2011 2:20 pm est A message from OverDrive on HarperCollins’ new eBook licensing terms – OverDrive publicly responds to the uproar.

Update 3.2.2011 5:45am esOpen Letter to Librarians a message from HarperCollins

Update 3.1.2011 6:00am EST I am no longer updating this page with links. I am still bookmarking all posts on delicious. You can find new links under the tag hcod, you can find new links related to the boycott under the tag hcodboycott.

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171 comments for “Publishing Industry Forces OverDrive and Other Library eBook Vendors to Take a Giant Step Back

  1. March 21, 2011 at 3:28 pm

    What HarperCollins is doing is letting us know what they think an ebook is REALLY worth. As a writer/publisher, I’ve adjusted my prices accordingly:

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  3. May 3, 2011 at 2:26 am

    Seems a bit ridiculous that libraries are limiting the use of eBooks. I can somewhat understand that you shouldn’t just be able to go out and get as many books on your Nook or Kindle as you want from the library and never have to return it (borders on piracy at that point, doesn’t it?) but charging the full price of a book for a digital rental is a bit absurd.

    • May 3, 2011 at 2:42 am

      You are confused. It’s not the libraries that want to do this. It’s the PUBLISHER, HarperCollins, that has decided to limit libraries’ rights to the ebooks they “buy,” and force them to re-“buy” the ebook again after 26 loans.

      No one has suggested that libraries charge borrowers the full price of the book or anything close to it for a loan. Some people have suggested $1-$2 per loan, but even that hasn’t been a popular idea.

  4. May 15, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    I agree to an extent that publishers should be able to charge a small fee per e-book checked out. It’s in some way better for our economy than a regular library as long as the books are good. Of course if the books are not good there should be an easy way to rate the book so that the library wont waste money on repurchasing rights to a specific e-book.

    These changes in the publishing industry will change so many things from libraries, to self publishing, to the rise in cost of paper books. It will be very interesting to see how the publishing industry will change in the next decade or two. Hopefully there will be many positive changes as time moves on

    • May 15, 2011 at 5:19 pm

      Actually you’re wrong about the economy. Studies show that library book borrowing actually increases book sales so there is no need for the fee-per-checkout-model based on your reasoning. Also who decides if a book is “good” libraries are about equal access and opportunity, were responsible for providing all types of material even those we don’t agree with or deem “good”

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