An 'Interesting' Time for eBooks

An ‘Interesting’ Time for eBooks!

March 2010, by James Jackson Sanborn, CEO, Maine InfoNet

In recent weeks, eBooks have been making news nationwide and here in Maine. Much of the publicity has centered on the changes to the library lending rights being offered on eBooks published by Harper Collins. At the end of last month, Harper Collins shocked the library world by announcing that all new eBook licenses granted to libraries through any vendor would last for a total of 26 checkouts and then would need to be repurchased (albeit at a reduced price). Reactions from librarians and eBook lovers were swift and almost universally negative. Despite the outcry and a number of proposed boycotts the new licenses went into effect earlier this month.

Consortial Relationship with Overdrive

Overdrive, the vendor used here in Maine to run the Maine InfoNet Download Library, initially received some of the negative publicity for the Harper Collins decision, as they were the first to announce it. In subsequent communications, Overdrive has repeatedly stated that they fought against this change and they have now removed Harper Collins titles from their main purchasing portal until they decide how to implement the new licenses. At this time, the Maine InfoNet Download Library has stopped purchasing new Harper Collins eBooks titles. Previously purchased eBook titles from Harper Collins remain in our collection and are governed by the original licenses allowing indefinite use of the titles without expiration.

In the same letter to customers announcing the Harper Collins changes, Overdrive also referenced that unnamed publishers have been arguing for stricter controls on consortial systems. This coupled with reports from out of state that some consortia were having difficulty renewing their Overdrive contracts made me fear that the Maine InfoNet Download Library might be in jeopardy as we are in the third year of our current 3 year contract. I am pleased to report that our Overdrive representative has assured me in writing that our system contract will be renewed without price increase from the vendor.

School Libraries

While the contract information is good news, the bad news that I have been given is that Overdrive will no longer allow school libraries to join our consortium. I have been told that we are one of the only consortia to have ever included school libraries and that this was actually against their policies but was allowed as an ‘exception’. Although current school library members are grandfathered in our system, it appears that this policy will now be applied to our system and no new school libraries will be allowed to join.  There has been some initial discussion regarding forming a school library specific consortium to explore offering eBooks to schools,  but there is nothing concrete to report at this time.

Technical Update

As a technical update for members of the Maine InfoNet Download Library, Overdrive has recently released a version of their system that runs natively on the iPad (joining previous offerings of iPhone and Android apps). This software is available from links on the website, and should help expand the service to new users. With the current iPad release of the software, there is currently no way to return eBooks early, nor is there a way to limit the search to titles that have copies available (as there is through the advanced search function on the main website). I have been promised that those features will be coming soon.

Finally, here is a quick update on the collection and usage of the Maine InfoNet Download Library:

  • Total number of eBooks available: 2,257
  • Total number of audiobooks available: 2,236
  • Total number of eBook checkouts last month:  4091
  • Total number of audiobook checkouts last month: 5091

As always, contact me at james.jacksonsanborn@maine.edu if you have questions or want to discuss anything to do with the Maine InfoNet Download Library.