Is OverDrive Deceiving Its Libraries? came across a blog post from a highly displeased librarian who discovered that OverDrive does not make the same ebooks possible to all of its 15,000 libraries. Not even that they are charging different prices or placing restrictions on some libraries for being public school libraries (ie, for children) versus city-wide public libraries. No, not all libraries who rely on OverDrive’s catalog to supply ebooks for their patrons can have the same content.

Or should that be catalogs?

Sarah Houghton, acting director for a two-library system in San Rafael, California, and creator of the Librarian in Black blog, first discovered this discrepancy when it was brought to her attention by a fellow librarian from New England. She did some digging and firm letter writing, but still has not received an explanation for OverDrive not allowing all libraries to access the same catalog of titles other than vague references to the contract that was signed to establish the partnership with OverDrive (neither she nor the librarian who first brought this to light were not in their director positions when the contracts were signed).

So far, the only explanation to come about was from a letter from OverDrive CEO Steve Potash dated in February of this year:

“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.”

“Another area of publisher concern that OverDrive is responding to is the size and makeup of large consortia and shared collections. Publishers seek to ensure that sufficient copies of their content are being licensed to service demand of the library’s service area, while at the same time balance the interests of publisher’s retail partners who are focused on unit sales. Publishers are reviewing benchmarks figures from library sales of print books and CDs for audiobooks and do not want these unit sales and revenue to be dramatically reduced by the license of digital books to libraries.”
Territorial rights of books? Because making books available to every citizen isn’t good business practice? By definition, a public library is funded by citizens’ tax dollars and available to everyone with a geographic right to use the library, yet OverDrive and the publishers are allowed to choose which libraries are allowed to make which ebooks available to their patrons?

There will be more on this when OverDrive answers the angry letters from libraries around the country.

Mercy Pilkington (1982 Posts)

is a Senior Editor for Good e-Reader. She is also the CEO and founder of a hybrid publishing and consulting company.

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