The Death of Libraries: Overdrive, Harper-Collins and You

O.K., now that I have your attention, I was just kidding. This is not the death of libraries at all, but there are two significant issues libraries should be aware of regarding ebooks in libraries and the Kansas Overdrive audiobook and ebook service in particular. Overdrive is also known as the “Audiobooks, Music and More” service.

1. The State Library has been in extended negotiations with Overdrive regarding changes in that contract. NEKLS has previously advised libraries to suspend Overdrive purchases due to the uncertainty of that contract. That temporary “boycott” has had a powerful influence on the contract negotiations, and I am confident that a new contract will be signed with Overdrive in the near future. However, this is not settled yet, and I advise libraries to hold off on Overdrive orders a bit longer if they can. When the contract is signed there will be some changes in how the program operates, and we will inform libraries about those at the earliest possible moment.

2. A hot controversy has been ignited by the decision of Harper-Collins to limit use of its ebooks licensed to libraries to 26 uses per book. This arbitrary ceiling imposed by the publisher means that in a statewide service like the Kansas Overdrive system, a book may be available for a few months and then disappear from the catalog. Heather Braum has found a web site with some great discussion and information about the impact of this policy.  You can find that discussion at http://librarianbyday.net/2011/02/25/publishing-industry-forces-overdrive-and-other-library-ebook-vendors-to-take-a-giant-step-back/ I encourage everyone who is interested in ebooks as a library service to explore this site.

In response to the backlash from the library community, Overdrive will be segregating titles published by Harper-Collins in a separate section of the Overdrive catalog. That will allow libraries to decide whether to purchase those titles under the limitations of this new policy.