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Struggling to Satisfy Demand

March 18, 2013
Posted in: Board Member Posts, Uncategorized

library renewal logo 

the reality of the public library ebook marketplace reflected in usage data from a selection of public libraries

                             Matt Weaver, Board member, Library Renewal       

March 2013

In order to serve our constituents with electronic content, libraries need to be able to understand how our collections are being used. This paper aims to present library-centered usage data to help libraries make decisions with regards to e-content, and to counter media and industry hype. Much has been written about the impact of major publisher changes on library lending, which are noted in the Sidebar.  By looking at these events in the context of actual usage data, this report endeavors to demonstrate that a vendor-driven ebook model is neither extensible nor sustainable.

Sidebar : Ebooks in libraries – Key Dates: Jan. 2011 – Jun. 2012

HCOD – Feb 24, 2011: Overdrive announces HarperCollins’ 26 checkout limit on its ebook titles.

KNDL – Sept 21, 2011: Kindle support comes to Overdrive.

PNG1 – Nov 21, 2011: Penguin restricts access to library lending of new titles

PNG2 – Feb 10, 2012: Penguin ends library lending of digital content.

RAND – March 2, 2012: Random House announces new pricing: some per-title increases were as high as 300

Purpose and Scope

In the period from January 2011 through June 2012, there were many major events that changed how libraries have been able to provide ebooks and digital audiobooks. As a result of these decisions, the ebook/audiobook market is split between vendors and devices. Costs of content and administrative fees are growing. As aggregate “big data” on ebook usage abounds, not all of that data comes from the perspective of libraries.

This period has been critical in laying the groundwork for ebook wars among library vendors. With the market split between vendors who have exclusive access to publisher content, and/or support for dominant ebook format, libraries will feel pressure to add multiple vendors. Libraries that rely on vendor-generated data without looking at their local usage see a distorted picture of how ebooks are affecting libraries. This paper presents data from a small sample of public libraries to get a sense of how public library ebook and audiobook collections are being used. While this paper hardly qualifies as “big data,” the snapshot that it captures presents insights into usage that have not been shown in other reports, surveys or studies.

Data Sources

This paper presents data from a handful of librari

es that have provided statistical reports generated via Overdrive’s Content Reserve interface, and other sources. All reports were generated in the second-half of 2012, before Overdrive released the new version of this administrative suite.

For this report, only data for Overdrive was used. Why just Overdrive? While competition has increased in the ebook market, Overdrive was by far the largest player in the market during the scope of this analysis.

This report uses data from three members of Library Renewal’s Partner Libraries program:

  • Robbins Public Library (MA)
  • Santa Monica Public Library (CA)
  • Omaha Public Library (NE)

Two other libraries, which are not partner libraries, also provided data:

  • Topeka Shawnee County Public Library (KS)
  • Westlake Porter Public Library (OH)

Notes about data sources

Topeka Shawnee County Public Library had been a customer of Overdrive via the State Library of Kansas consortium agreement. In December 2011, after the State Library had ended its agreement with Overdrive, TSCPL became an independent customer; however, the data that covers the period in which TSCPL was part of the consortium agreement disappeared. As a result, TSCPL’s data covers December 2011 through June 2012.

Not all libraries provided data for each area of analysis. Omissions are noted.

Disclosure: Library Renewal Board Member Matt Weaver works at Westlake Porter Public Library, and Board Members Gina Millsap and David Lee King work at Topeka Shawnee County Public Library.

Provision of data for this project does not imply a relationship with, nor an endorsement of Library Renewal.


Overdrive Big Data: An Overview

During 2012, Overdrive has released several reports. The first Big Data report, released first in April but was more broadly available in May, focused on patron engagement with Overdrive site content and contained no checkout data. Featuring d

ata on page views, cover image views, and site visits, this report’s audience clearly was not libraries, but rather publishers and the message was clear: library patrons engage with publishers’ content.

During the summer of 2012, the American Libraries Association sponsored a survey that Overdrive ran on libraries’ Overdrive-run websites. The report created from that survey includes some useful data regarding devices and sources of book recommendations; but the most touted takeaway from the report was the fact that library ebook borrows are also library ebook buyers.

In January 2013, the company released a report that stated that 70 million ebooks were checked out in 2012. Out of context, those numbers appear impressive; but when considered in the context of total library circulation, total ebook circulation is a fraction of overall circulation. In January 2013, the IMLS released data for U.S. public libraries covering fiscal year 2010: total circulation was 2.46 billion items in 2010 (Swan et al, 2013), up from 2.41 billion items in 2009 (Miller, et. al, 2011). If total 2012 U.S. public libraries’ circulation were even 2.4 billion, ebook circulation would amount to less than 3% of total circulation based on Overdrive’s numbers.

image shows graph of unique patrons with checkoutsgraph shows new patrons per month


graph shows total checkouts by libraryGeneral usage data

It comes as a shock to no one who works in public libraries that the holidays represent a huge increase in new Overdrive users. In

2011, ereader shipments totaled 27.7 million units (IDC, Dec 2012) and tablet shipments reached 68.7 million units (IDC, Mar. 2012). With the increase in demand for devices came

In Figures 1 and 2, there are clear spikes in usage in December and January. The boost in new users in Figure 2 results in a larger number of unique users with checkouts following the holidays and adds enough users to the pool of active users of the service to cause an increase in monthly checkouts (Figure 4) in the spring months that remains higher than the fall months, despite the drop in the addition of new users in February and March (Figure 2).

When looking at each month’s checkouts as a percentage of total checkouts for the January 2011 to June 2012 period (Figure 3), the impact of the post-holiday boom is apparent. Some months in the spring posted higher figures, but that growth built on the rise in during the holidays.

One thing is clear: the acquisition of new devices drives usage. Nowhere is this more patent than in Figure 2, which plainly shows a surge in December and January. The events noted in the sidebar have radically altered access to content, and threatens libraries’ ability to provide enough content in order to keep them.

Data in Figures 1 through 4 reveals bumps after the arrival in the Kindle, in September; but the full impact of the Kindle on library ebook lending is revealed in data that shows the Kindle format’s share of checkouts, as shown below.

Formats, Publishers and Competition

Kindle format

Table 1: Kindle share of ebook checkouts – average of sample libraries (TSCPL is not included)
month share









In September 2011, when the Kindle format was first supported by Overdrive, it accounted for an average 22.3% of ebook checkouts among the libraries that provided data for this category (Omaha, Robbins, Santa Monica, and WPPL). By December 2011, that share doubled to nearly 55%. In March, Kindle accounted for nearly 60% of ebook checkouts, falling slightly by end-June 2012, the end of the term covered in this analysis (Table 1).

Big Six Content

Table 2 shows the changes in major publishers’ share of total checkouts between January 2011 and June 2012. Despite having ended its agreement for library lending through Overdrive in February 2012, Penguin’s share only dropped by a little more than two percentage points. Random House’s share increased, despite its price increases which took effect in March 2012. The timing the Penguin and Random House decisions may have been too close to the end of the scope of this project to see them reflected in the data. Random House’s share increased by almost twelve percentage points. The share of Hachette, which only allows libraries to loan backlist titles, remained constant, but low. Harper Collins’ share dropped by more than half.

Table 2: Share of checkouts – average of sample libraries (TSCPL is not included)
publisher  Jan. 2011 Jun. 2012
Random House, Inc.



Penguin Group (USA), Inc.



HarperCollins Publishers Inc.



Hachette Digital, Inc.



Total share



Overdrive Competitors

The landscape for ebooks in libraries changes constantly. 3M and Penguin embarked on a pilot project for libraries shortly before making the publisher’s content available to all 3M Cloud Library customers. Hachette is working on a library lending pilot program–not with Overdrive, but rather its competitors, 3M, and Baker & Taylor. Macmillan has announced that it will work on a pilot ebook lending program with several library distributors, offering backlist titles from one of its units, Minotaur–however, not to consortia.

Given that reportedly, Penguin ended its relationship with Overdrive because of terms by which libraries received Kindle support, it is highly unlikely that Penguin and Overdrive will rekindle (sorry) their partnership, as long as Amazon is in the mix.

Other competitors promise some support of Kindle support, via apps that can run on the Kindle Fire series of devices; however, Overdrive is the only library ebook vendor that supports the much more affordable Kindle e-ink ereaders.

What are libraries to do? A library that has been a long-standing customer with Overdrive would lose all of their content should they choose to move to another vendor, no matter what Random House says about libraries’ “ownership” of content.

Table 3: Library Ebook Vendors

3M Axis360 Overdrive Freading
Big Six Content Penguin, RH, HC RH, Hachette, HC RH, Hachette (backlist), HC no big six
Kindle Support app only app only all wifi-compatible Kindle devices app only

If a library that is currently an Overdrive customer wants to restore access to Penguin titles, it will have to not only pay another administrative fee and content costs for the second collection, but in adding the 3M Cloud Library, it will introduce more confusion for Kindle owners.

I take you to a public service desk at Your Public Library, Anytown, USA:

Member: I would like to download a Nora Roberts book to my Kindle.

Staff member: I need to know what book and what type of Kindle you have, because if the book is new and you have a Kindle Fire then I will show you how to download the 3M Cloud Library app. If the book is an older title that we got through Overdrive, we can get it–but you will have to transfer it via USB cable. Even if it’s a Kindle Fire, and even though there is an Overdrive app for that device. If you have a Kindle e-ink ereader, and the book is new, we can’t get it for you at all. Have I lost you?

Yes. I’m guessing we will have lost them. With Kindle support split between device format, owners of e-ink Kindles are locked out of content from competitors.

If all of this doesn’t have current or potential Overdrive customers reaching for the antacids, there is still the concern that the Penguin-Random House merger could result in Overdrive losing Random House titles, depending on which half of the merged whole decides how the new entity will deal with library vendors. Should Overdrive lose Random House titles, then its service amounts to little more than a Freading with exorbitant administration costs.

At what rate will ebook vendor administrative costs increase? In 2011, the State Library of Kansas was faced with a 700% increase in administrative costs alone over the course of a 3-year renewal from $10,000 to more than $75,000. The mileage of different libraries–consortia vs. independent customers–is likely to vary. As for content costs, with increases of up to 300% announced by Random House, and another increase announced by Hachette, the systems and content agreements that control ebook content are preventing competition from having a positive benefit for libraries. The result is, less content for our constituents, and spending more of their taxes to keep what libraries already have.

Don’t believe the hype, nor specious logic

While there is no question that ebooks have become established as a mainstream format, many media pieces about ebooks in libraries are inflating their usage beyond the reality. Take, for instance, a piece that says that ebooks are outpacing print books within a county library system:

“In 2012, 19,948 ebooks were taken out from the [county] library system, compared to the circulation of 17,678 items at the Woodbine library branch and 16,598 at Stone Harbor, according to figures provided by Poillon.”

Comparing all ebooks for a county library system to the circulation data of two separate branches, isn’t sound reasoning with which one can conclude that ebooks are killing off print circulation at libraries. In fact, the data shows the opposite of the author’s conclusion: total circulation of those two branches alone–which must be small branches based on that annual circulation data–exceeds ebook circulation for the entire Cape May County. According to IMLS data, in fiscal-year 2010, Cape May County Public Library’s total circulation was 522,310. Without a 2012 circulation to compare accurately, if 2012 total circulation is similar to the 2010, ebook circulation would account for less than 4% of total circulation.

Looking at the percentage of library cardholders who have used the service will give a better indicator about usage and the actual size of the population of ebook users.

Percentage of total cardholders

In the period of January 2011 to June 2012, a total of 18,523 patrons registered for Overdrive among WPPL, Santa Monica, Omaha, and Robbins. Those libraries account for some 483,000 cardholders. Overdrive registrants represent 3.8% of cardholders.

chart shows percentage of cardholders that used Overdrive in June 2012

Table 4. Sample usage for lifetime of their Overdrive contracts
Library Contract start time % of card holders who have checked out at least one title from Overdrive during the contact period through June 2012
Omaha September 2004 5.33
Robbins October 2009 7.49
WPPL June 2010 6.49

June 2012 (Figure 5) was the month with the highest average percentage of cardholders that checked out a title via Overdrive out of the period from December 2011 to June 2012, the term for which there is data for all participating libraries. Unique users were determined by running a patron activity chart via Content Reserve.

When looking at the percentage of users who have used Overdrive over the lifetimes of the libraries’ contracts with the vendor, Figure 6 shows the individual percentages for the three libraries, whose data is included in this portion of the analysis, an average of 6.44%. Only data for three libraries is included in this chart.


chart shows unique patrons with checkouts as percentage of cardholders


One major factor of low ebook usage is marketing, as only 12% of library members were aware their libraries offered ebook services, according to aPew report. No report has attempted to capture the loss of existing Overdrive users, but this loss completes the picture of ebooks in libraries.

Estimating User-loss


Given the tools available via Content Reserve, it is difficult to get data that indicates the loss of users. By looking at totals of registered users (registration presumably means entering their library card number) and comparing them to reports for unique users with checkouts, the difference between the two numbers is one indicator that can be determined. To be sure that the total of unique users did not include returning users, reports were run from the start of the libraries’ respective contracts with Overdrive up through June 2012.

For the three libraries included in this portion of the analysis, (WPPL, Robbins and Omaha in Figures 7 and 8), the differences between those two numbers indicated that 17%, 29%, and 30% of registrants, respectively, did not check out a title during the life time of the contract up through June 2012. This figure does not account for people who have checked out titles but then stopped using the service at some point, or those who decided not to use Overdrive before logging in. This percentage was used to create estimates of non-use, and the impact of new and returning users on circulation.

Table 5 shows the formulas used to create estimates of new active users, non-starters — patrons who registered with Overdrive but never checked out a book, and returning users, showing their impact throughout the time period of this study.

Table 5: formulas to break users into categories
Variables/Values Data Source  Notes
A: unique users with checkouts Known value from Overdrive report
N: new patrons New registrations. Known value from Overdrive report
V: new active users (patrons who joined the service and checked out a book in the same month)  N-O=V
R: returning users A – V = R
O: non-starters (estimated) N * P = O Number of Overdrive registrants that did not check out an Overdrive title from the start of the library’s contract through June 2012.
 P (N-A)/N Percentage of Overdrive registrants that did not check out an Overdrive title. Calculated for the entire term of the library’s Overdrive contract


chart shows esitmated checkouts by returning users and by new usersCheckouts by new users (Figure 7) follow the pattern for overall checkouts in Figure 4. As the pool of returning users gradually increases, so do their checkouts. In contrast to the hype of ebooks, adoption of ebooks by new users is stable and predictable, as is their checkout behavior. There is a separation between checkouts by returning and new users in Figure 8 from February to April, when the checkouts by new users drop off.

chart shows estimated numbers of returning users, non-starters and new active patrons

To evaluate the methodology for determining these estimates, the data for WPPL was analyzed for from the start of the library’s contract with Overdrive through June 2012. The estimated monthly totals of unique users with checkouts and non-starters were compared with known values from reports or from calculations. The differences between the estimated totals and the known totals were negligible as seen in Table 6.

Table 6: Evaluating the estimates
Time period unique users w/checkouts new registrations actual non-starters (total registrations – unique users with checkouts) %of total registrants that did not check out a title
Known values from 6/1/10-5/31/12





estimated totals (totaling the estimated value for each month)



diff. in estimate from report total:



These figures are estimates and should be considered as such. That said, the data indicate a significant level of usage loss. Using the reports available via Content Reserve, it is not possible to generate data to indicate patterns of usage for unique users in order to see at what point those who have checked out a title stop using the service, or at what intervals users check out titles. However, it can be shown that a significant number of patrons go as far as registering (which simply involves entering a library card number) but never check out a title.


The future of ebooks in libraries looks expensive. Driven by a desire to provide their members with as broad access to content as possible, libraries will be pressured to add multiple ebook vendors, and thereby assure that they will remain powerless against the decisions of publishers and vendors. That pressure comes in an economic environment when many libraries are dealing with decreased budgets:

“Twenty-three states reported cuts in state funding for public libraries from 2010–2011 to 2011–2012. For three years in a row, more than 40% of participating states have reported decreased public library funding” (American Library Association, p. 9)

The present ecosystem for ebooks in libraries does not represent a value for our members. While competitors to Overdrive have emerged, this competitive environment does not drive prices down, as prices are controlled not by vendors, but by publishers. Without the ability to own ebook content and migrate collections between vendors, then libraries cannot benefit from the arrival of new competitors in the marketplace. In the end, library ebook collections will remain fleeting, bound to vendors; and not only expensive to acquire, but also to sustain. An environment in which access to as broad a range of content as possible is secured for patrons, and affordable to libraries, will not emerge out of the current environment.

In consideration of the holiday boom in ereader and tablet sales, it is clear that readers’ acquisition of ereader or tablet devices drives usage of Overdrive services. Based on the major events noted in the sidebar above during the period of January 2011 to June 2012, libraries have progressively ended up with access to less content, as publishers either removed their content from the library marketplace, or imposed restrictive conditions on circulation and/or exorbitant prices that place additional financial strain on library ebook collections. While devices drive usage of library ebook services, the content that libraries have to offer is insufficient to sustain it.



American Library Association. (2012). The 2012 State of America’s Libraries. American Libraries, special issue. Retrieved online from:

American Library Association & Overdrive. (2012). Library eBook Survey hosted by OverDrive and American Library Association (ALA). Retrieved online from:

Cape May County Public Library data. Data is from Public Libraries Survey, Fiscal Year 2010. Retrieved online from:

Davis, Alex. (2013). Digital books outpacing print in some libraries. Shore News Today, Jan. 21, 2013. Retrieved online from:

International Data Corp.  (Mar. 13, 2012). Media Tablet Shipments Outpace Fourth Quarter Targets; Strong Demand for New iPad and Other Forthcoming Products Leads to Increase in 2012 Forecast, According to IDC. [Press Release]. Retrieved on line from:

International Data Corp. (Dec 5, 2012). IDC Raises Tablet Forecast for 2012 and Beyond As iOS Picks Up Steam, Android Gains Traction, and Windows Finally Enters the Market [Press Release]. Retrieved on line from:

Kelley, Michael. (Apr. 6, 2011). Kansas State Librarian Goes Eyeball to Eyeball with OverDrive in Contract Talks. Retrieved online from:

Kelley, Michael. (Oct. 18, 2012). Random House Says Libraries Own Their Ebooks. LJ Insider. Retrieved online from:

Lovett, Michael. (Jan. 15, 2013).Digital Library As Hub of Discovery: 2012 OverDrive Data Review. Digital Library Blog. Retrieved online from:

Miller, K., Swan, D., Craig, T., Dorinski, S., Freeman, M., Isaac, N., O’Shea, P., Schilling, P., Scotto, J., (2011). Public Libraries Survey: Fiscal Year 2009 (IMLS – 2011 – PLS – 02). Institute of Museum and Library Services. Washington, DC. Retrieved online from:

Overdrive. (April 16, 2012). Library Media Network Ebook Report. Retrieved online from:

Owen, Laura Hazard. (Feb. 10, 2012). Amazon’s Kindle Plays A Part In Penguin’s Library Decision. Retrieved online from:

Owen, Laura Hazard. (Sept. 14, 2012). Hachette to raise ebook prices for libraries by 220%. Retrieved online from:

Price, Gary. (Jan. 24, 2013). Macmillan Announces Details of Library Lending Pilot. Retrieved online from:

Price, Gary. (Feb. 22, 2013). Macmillan Ebooks Pilot on OverDrive Begins In One Week. Retrieved online from:

Publishers Weekly. (Oct. 29, 2012). Random House, Penguin Agree to Merge. Retrieved online from:

Swan, D. W., Grimes, J., Owens, T., Vese, Jr., R. D., Miller, K., Arroyo, J., Craig, T., Dorinski, S., Freeman, M., Isaac, N., O’Shea, P., Schilling, P. Scotto, J. (2013). Public Libraries Survey: Fiscal Year 2010 (IMLS-2013–PLS-01). Institute of Museum and Library Services. Washington, DC. Retrieved online from

Wright, Jazzy. (Nov. 15, 2012). OverDrive Survey Finds Library Patrons Buy Ebooks. District Dispatch. Retrieved online from:

Zickuhr, Kathryn; Rainie, Lee; Purcell, Kristen; Madden, Mary; Brenner, Joanna. (2012). Libraries, patrons, and e-books. Pew Internet & American Life Project. Retrieved online from:




ALA, Apps and an Overdrive Update: Your Libraries and E-Content News Summary

October 8, 2012
Posted in: Uncategorized

The Double Nook Ebook App Launch

A major complaint of patrons who buy Nook tablets (ranging from the Color, to the new HD devices) is that they cannot download ebooks wirelessly. As of this week that is no longer the case. There are library ebook apps for both Overdrive Media Console and 3M for the Nook tablet devices (sorry, Nook Touch folks, keep those USB cables handy). The Overdrive version of Overdrive Media Console is not available via the Overdrive Media Console page, however, only via the Barnes & Noble page: Overdrive’s press release directs users to the Barnes & Noble Appstore. It appears to function similarly to other versions of Overdrive Media Console, particularly the existing Android app, which makes sense given the Nook devices run the Android OS.

As Penguin Launches Pilot with 3M, It’s Already Talking Expansion

As for Penguin, the publisher is already talking about expanding ebook lending to all 3M library customers by the end of this year, even as it launches the pilot project. Great news for libraries? Not if you are already an Overdrive customer and want to restore your patrons’ access to the likes of Nora Roberts and Harlan Coben. Some libraries can afford both systems, but I’m guessing not many; and because a library would lose access to everything that it has invested in via Overdrive should it leave, Penguin will remain out of reach.

An Open Letter to Publishers, and Then Some

The biggest ebook news recently has been the back-and-forth between ALA president Maureen Sullivan and publishers. It all began with her open letter to publishers, in which she took publishers to task for either not allowing libraries to loan ebooks, or for doing so with such restrictions that:

“If our libraries’ digital bookshelves mirrored the New York Times fiction best-seller list, we would be missing half of our collection any given week due to these publishers’ policies.”

In a Digital Book World post on a meeting between ALA and several publishers, Jeremy Greenfield writes that Wiley’s Peter Balis said, “We have twelve different models. You have to come back to us with more than just ‘equitable access at a fair price.”

So, equitable access at a fair price isn’t a sufficient business model for publishers to work with, as Andy Woodworth points out. Frankly, leaving publishers to determine “fair price” gave us Random House and Hachette, so clearly publishers need more specific guidance on that point.

But even so, if libraries don’t get so hung up on ownership, and focus on access, perhaps a simple solution exists, writes Live Oak Public Libraries collection development coordinator Diane Bronson. Comparing ebooks to database records, Bronson points to a flaw (one of many) in how the metaphor of print is preserved in the delivery of digital. Subscription models have worked for databases, and that model has not been tested with ebooks. Or should libraries start selecting individual records and buy them? No? I don’t think so, either.

Overdrive Reboot

Overdrive has started to promote its new advances to its interface, including the READ browser-based ereader, and a new patron interface on Overdrive websites. A new feature will be a “Buy it now” button, giving patrons the ability to by-pass the “friction” of placing holds: patrons who want the book now, can get it now, and choose from a few options, an online retailer to buy it. In return for facilitating the sale, the library gets Overdrive credit. Brian Herzog writes that it is unclear whether this feature is optional, and appears open to it. It also appears as an option in Douglas County Libraries’ home-grown ebook collections, but DCL isn’t paying Random House prices to loan its ebooks, either.

Overdrive READ will be available later this year, but is being used for samples currently for each ebook. It promises to work in browsers and allow tracking your reading progress across devices, all without installation. You can find more Overdrive READ sample titles at the bottom of this blog post by Gary Price.


Great ideas on econtent from Montana Libraries

September 18, 2012
Posted in: News

Workshop on econtentMichael Porter and David Lee King (that’s me) recently presented a workshop on econtent at the Montana State Library’s Fall Workshop. We gave our usual overview of the econtent marketplace, showed some statistics about ebooks, etc … but then we divided participants into small groups, and had them answer three questions:

  1. What do you want with ebooks?
  2. What is realistic for your organization?
  3. What can you do to make what’s realistic actually happen?

Michael and I want to share those answers here, for two reasons: so the workshop participants can have a takeaway from the session, and also (and more importantly) because these answers provide a great overview of current thinking in libraries about wants and needs for econtent, and some potentially realistic ways to reach those wants and needs. Good stuff here!

Here are the answers to those three questions from all five groups:

Group 1:

1. What do you want with ebooks?

  • affordability
  • access
  • universal compatibility
  • more diversity in content
  • ownership
  • one copy/multiple users
  • buying model not based on print
  • consortia buying/expand buying pool
  • libraries help publish local authors/content
  • single easy interface
  • all books in a series

2. What is realistic for your organization?

  • forming regional consortia
  • focused marketing
  • buy/lease from several places (local authors)
  • sell our Montana content to publishers – MMP
  • get one publisher to sell to libraries at the same price as to individuals
  • make the library/economic issue known to Montana representatives in Congress

3. What can you do to make what’s realistic actually happen?

  • coordinated action – talk to vendors when ordering, ask for a better deal
  • investigate using our own local publishers – Falcon Press
  • talk to our Montana representatives in Congress, make case libraires are important economically
  • use our regional consortia – MPLA, PLNA

Group 2:

1. What do you want with ebooks?

  • patrons to know we have them and use them
  • titles that allow libraries to do what we need to do (without arbitrary restrictions)
  • immediate access to what I want to read
  • accessible titles and an easy interface – able to order from all publishers
  • $, $, $ – to provide content
  • long-term access
  • no silos

2. What is realistic for your organization?

  • consortium based solutions
  • build our own platform
  • work together in a systematic way for change
  • continue to build our Overdrive collection – grant funding, outside funding
  • healthy ecosystem – content-focused

3. What can you do to make what’s realistic actually happen?

  • confirm the importance of econtent
  • dedicate consortium time to these issues
  • educate patrons about problems
  • library budgets change to reflect importance of econtent
  • Montana State Library take lead in staffing econtent issues

Group 3:

1. What do you want with ebooks?

  • read them
  • popular titles
  • many available copies or unlimited access
  • affordable for all libraries
  • universal way to download

2. What is realistic for your organization?

  • no money so don’t participate
  • helping with devices even though we don’t have huge selection
  • meet the needs of community with what we have available
  • support state library efforts and use it
  • partnerships

3. What can you do to make what’s realistic actually happen?

  • more informed
  • enhancing what we are doing
  • educating the public and library staff

Group 4:

1. What do you want with ebooks?

  • an infrastructure within the state to collect econtent – for accessibility as well
  • ANY book we want – in any content (accessibility)
  • affordable
  • digital divide issue – rural areas have difficulty getting the content on their device
  • standard reader format – all the same file type
  • all formats available at one price

2. What is realistic for your organization?

  • working as a consortium – teamwork
  • having a state infrastructure for content collection (local and state)
  • leader education within the governing body to promote why the funding is necessary

3. What can you do to make what’s realistic actually happen?

  • work together
  • identify funding sources
  • explaining the need – to the public, to governing bodies
  • ensure that representative (ALA) is expressing true Montana library concerns
  • advocating for the “middle ground” – libraries are a place for information and entertainment – we still need to serve all our patrons

Group 5:

1. What do you want with ebooks?

  • readily available – all content, no wait-time, shorter wait
  • same rules for ebooks from vendors – same pricing, same circulation, no limits, library binding = better quality – slightly more $$
  • have video and games
  • affordable pricing
  • flexibility – trade books/content in and out
  • audio books – digital format, not just CD
  • software/tools to create econtent
  • interactive – like Facebook, share notes and flags, choose ending, hyperlinks, especially for fiction

2. What is realistic for your organization?
3. What can you do to make what’s realistic actually happen?
(this group combined questions 2 & 3)

  • central clearinghouse/coordinator for online resources / hyperlinks, video, etc). Local libraries don’t have time & effort. Don’t reinvent wheel. State agency, regional consortium?
  • we need to come together to up buying power and influence
  • political reform & leadership – $$, publishing statutes, MLA, ALA, regional and beyond
  • each library send a representative to MBSHP group (staff, board, or trustees), small libraries may group together & have a representative (rural eastern) represent different types of libraries (MSC model)


Opinion Pieces on E-Books and Libraries: Your Weekly Libraries and E-Content News Summary

May 18, 2012
Posted in: Uncategorized

This week there have been several opinion pieces on the web related to e-books, publishing and libraries. An op-ed from MacObserver focuses on many of the issues related to e-books, access, and the role libraries will play. The author notes, “As we rush headlong into e-books, we’re not considering how our libraries will migrate forward in time, protecting personal and institutional investments.” He points out that durability and formats need to be considered if we are to move forward with investing in e-books.

Library Renewal Board member Matt Weaver examines the new OverDrive “Duke Classics Giveaway” and walks away with some concerns and serious questions. These are the exact sorts of issues anyone dealing with e-books in libraries needs to be informed about and prepared to speak up, ask questions and take action around. Read the piece and let us know what you think.

David Rothman, founder of TeleRead, argues in Library Journal that OverDrive should be purchased by libraries with the aid of private philanthropic interests. He goes on to list the possible benefits of a library takeover, which could include modernization of the platform, a reduction in middleman costs, and increased clout among publishers currently averse to library e-book lending.

Rounding out the opinion pieces is one from The Observer, a response to a British authors association that called upon the culture minister to address concerns that library lending of e-books would devalue their works.

The Columbia Journalism Review discusses what the right price for e-books should be, taking into consideration factors such as the e-book market, demand, and what people think they should pay for e-books. By looking at what author Chuck Windig, GigaOm’s Mathew Ingram, and TechDirt’s Mike Masnick have written recently about e-books, the CJR highlights what matters when determining what customers will pay for e-books.

The class-action lawsuit against several e-book publishers was given the go-ahead by a judge earlier this week. The suit alleges that Apple and several e-book publishers conspired to raise e-book prices. This case is separate from that of the Department of Justice alleging collusion in price-fixing.

Be sure to check out links to lots of other stories like these that we post on our Twitter feed and Facebook page throughout the week.

Contributing Editor Lindsay Barber writes our weekly e-content news posts along with contributions from the Library Renewal Editorial Team (incl. Colin Wilkins, Matt Weaver and Michael Porter).


A Question about the Classics

May 18, 2012
Posted in: Board Member Posts, Buzz, Uncategorized

Recently, Overdrive ran a promotion called the Duke Classics Giveaway, by which libraries that spent more than $3,500  on digital content received access to Overdrive’s Duke Classics Max Access collection for one year. All Max Access collections have an unlimited access model that is obviously desirable for libraries. Some libraries started noticing these titles in their Overdrive sites and asked about it, because they hadn’t received any notification about the addition of this collection to their sites. What titles are in this unlimited access collection?

‘“Dracula” (the original vampire—sorry Edward!), “Pride & Prejudice,” “The Scarlet Letter,” “Tale of Two Cities” and more!’

So, this is the first problem: this collection, which contains public domain content, was used as an enticement for libraries that spend more money on digital content. Why should a library subscribe to content that is publicly owned?

“Maximum Access plans will be added to collections at no cost in mid-April. Subscription length is one year from live date.”

This collection of public domain content has had DRM applied to them, because this collection automatically expires. Also, these titles count against patrons’ checkout limits, even in Open ePub and Open DRM formats.

Another problem that I see in this promotional offer is that these titles are already in every library’s Overdrive site through the public domain collections.

Duke Classics is the publisher of this collection, but it doesn’t take more than a quick scan of the home page to see that this is an Overdrive web site. Its logo, a picture of the dog, which appears on the public domain cover art that fronts each public domain title, is charming, and the imprint’s name seems evocative of another esteemed private university’s famed classics collection.

Duke Classics offers some enhanced content for these ebooks:

Our introductions present information about the author, the era in which he or she wrote the book, and how the title came to be. You may just learn more about the story than you were expecting.

When you purchase an enhanced package that combines and audiobook and eBook, you will also receive a transcribed version of the special introduction with your eBook.

I guess, if libraries received these titles for free, the special introductions promised in the copy above may not be included, so I haven’t been able to assess how good these introductions are. No samples of this added content are provided on the Duke Classics website.

I imagine this collection isn’t very expensive (pricing data was not available on the Duke Classics website); but I don’t see how Overdrive can bake enough value into these ebooks to make them worthy of subscribing to, or using as an incentive for further spending, when the original titles are in the public domain and already part of Overdrive sites. If this Max Access collection functions differently than collections of paid content–if the collection in fact doesn’t expire, for instance– then the language used in the promotion doesn’t reflect that.

I would like to understand how this promotion and this subscription model for public domain content add value for libraries.

Matt Weaver

Board Member


Alternative E-Book Lending Models Gaining Ground and Harry Potter Meets Amazon’s Lending Library: Your Weekly Libraries and E-Content News Summary

May 11, 2012
Posted in: News, Uncategorized

The Douglas County Library’s e-book lending model has been gaining some traction and attention. The library system negotiates and buys e-books directly from publishers, and then hosts those books on its own platform. This platform duplicates many of the functions behind the scenes that are used by other e-content “providers” to libraries, including the dominant vendor in this marketplace, OverDrive. The model developed by DCL, which is referred to by some as a sort of OverDrive free OverDrive clone (both adding and lacking some features when compared to OverDrive), is now being considered by other libraries. DCL is partnering with other libraries in Colorado to provide information on how libraries can do what DCL has done. The interest in DCL’s lending model indicates that the current state of library e-book lending is in need of change and even as a partial solution is encouraging in many ways.

Another alternative to the current e-book lending model was presented at the beginning of the month. Bilbary, an e-book distribution platform that currently sells e-books has made a deal with two trade publishers to lend e-books and not just sell them. Founder Tim Coates noted that “All our rentals will be direct to consumer, but when we partner with a library service they may choose to subsidize the cost from their own funds so the rental becomes a free loan to the reader.” Coates mentioned that he has been approached by one of the Big Six publishers wanting to know more about this lending model.

This week Amazon announced that they would be offering the Harry Potter e-books for free through their Kindle lending library (the full announcement can be read at TeleRead). The lending library is only available to those who belong to Amazon Prime. Amazon noted that this was an exclusive deal with Pottermore, and in the same announcement reminded readers of the difficulties that libraries face in providing access to e-books including one book per user limits, and lending time limits.

Finally, a link to an audio discussion with David Pogue (Tech Columnist at the New York Times), Bradley Graham (co-owner of Politics and Prose bookstore), and Lee Rainie (founding director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project) on radio station WAMU. This discussion focuses mainly on e-books and the effect they have on booksellers, but is still worth a listen.

Be sure to check out links to lots of other stories like these that we post on our Twitter feed and Facebook page throughout the week.

Contributing Editor Lindsay Barber writes our weekly e-content news posts each week along with contributions from the Library Renewal Editorial Team (incl. Colin Wilkins, Matt Weaver and Michael Porter).


Petition for E-Books and Libraries, Microsoft and B&N Join Forces, and More: Your Weekly Libraries and E-Content News Summary

May 4, 2012
Posted in: News

This week, with Library Renewal acting as one of their partners, the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library has created a website, ebooks for libraries, to raise awareness and help convince publishers to make e-books more available to libraries. The site contains a petition that those involved are hoping can collect at least 10,000 signatures. Once that goal is achieved, ebooks for libraries will snail mail the petition to the Big Six publishers in order to encourage them to make their e-books accessible to libraries to purchase rights to circulate. Again, Library Renewal has partnered with the TSCPL to spread the word about the effort and we ask that you join in that effort and share the link and petition with your friends and loved ones. More information about the project can be found on the ebooks for libraries website and in this article from The Digital Shift.

In a statement released Monday, Microsoft announced that it is investing $300 million in Barnes & Noble’s e-reading arm. The companies stated that they would “build upon the history of strong innovation in digital reading technologies from both companies” and “will accelerate the transition to e-reading.” This new venture will include both the e-reading division of Barnes & Noble and their college bookstores. The Wall Street Journal elaborates on possible opportunities created by this new company.

PBS MediaShift shared a piece on the role of libraries in the age of e-books. The article explains the current e-book access hurdles that libraries face, but also discusses the digital divide that exists regarding the use of e-books and how libraries enrich the lives of many in their communities by helping them understand and navigate new technology.

At the recent ALA executive board meeting in April, the board reaffirmed their support for e-book advocacy and will be intensifying their efforts in regard to increasing libraries’ access to e-books. Included in a statement released by ALA President Molly Raphael is a recognition that the board needs to expand their efforts in e-book advocacy, which includes reaching out to media and raising awareness with the general public.

Be sure to check out links to lots of other stories like these that we post on our Twitter feed and Facebook page throughout the week.

Contributing Editor Lindsay Barber writes our weekly e-content news posts along with contributions from the Library Renewal Editorial Team (incl. Colin Wilkins, Matt Weaver and Michael Porter).


Going DRM Free and What It Means, Plus Pew Surveys for Libraries: Your Weekly Libraries and E-Content News Summary

April 27, 2012
Posted in: News

Every year On the Media examines the publishing industry. This year’s show featured several segments on e-books, including ones about Amazon and its business practices; what Pottermore has done for e-books; and Randall White, CEO and president of E — a company that chose to withdraw from selling its e-books on Amazon’s website.

This week, Tor/Forge announced that it was going to sell its e-books DRM free by July of this year. Tor/Forge is a publisher of science fiction and fantasy books, and is a subsidiary of Macmillan. The company stated that both readers and authors demanded DRM-free materials, and noted in its statement that DRM prevents readers from “using legitimately-purchased ebooks in perfectly legal ways, like moving them from one kind of e-reader to another.”

ReadWriteWeb analyzes what it means for a Big Six subsidiary to drop DRM on its titles. Michael Kelley wrote a reaction piece regarding DRM, e-books and libraries at The Digital Shift. Other reactions are available at TeleRead.

The Digital Shift is presenting a series of articles titled Exploring E-Book Options that looks at different e-book platforms available to libraries. Sue Polanka, creator of No Shelf Required (a blog about electronic content in libraries), wrote an article for this series covering the entire e-book and library landscape. Her article discusses all of the available options, plus what libraries should consider when evaluating them.

PaidContent published an interesting piece that includes a conversation with an industry executive about why he chooses to break the DRM on e-books that he purchases.

Finally, the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project is now surveying library users and staff about their experiences with e-books. There are two separate surveys available. The first is targeted at librarians; in order to complete it, you will need to email Kathryn Zickuhr (kzickuhr *at sign* with the subject line “Library Password” to get the URL and login information for the survey. The second survey is aimed at library users, and is available here: This second survey is for library users is not password protected.

Be sure to check out links to lots of other stories like these that we post on our Twitter feed and Facebook page throughout the week.

Contributing Editor Lindsay Barber writes our weekly e-content news posts along with contributions from the Library Renewal Editorial Team (incl. Colin Wilkins, Matt Weaver and Michael Porter).


The DOJ Files Antitrust Lawsuit, 3 Major Publishers Settle: Your Weekly Libraries and E-Content News Summar

April 13, 2012
Posted in: News

The Department of Justice announced Wednesday that it has filed an antitrust suit against five major publishers and Apple. Hachette, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster have agreed to a proposed settlement which is awaiting court approval. Penguin Group, Macmillan and Apple have not agreed to a settlement. Penguin Group and Macmillan have both released statements denying any wrongdoing.

The settlement with Hachette, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster creates several new restrictions on e-book publishers. The full text of the settlement agreement can be found at TeleRead, while highlights and analysis of the settlement can be found at Wired. Included in the settlement: book retailers are allowed to discount e-books at their discretion for two years; publishers must eliminate any contract with books retailers that prohibits price competition; and a requirement to notify the DOJ of joint ventures with any other publishers related to e-books. This final stipulation could have consequences for libraries and publishers working toward an agreement regarding access to e-books. In the recent ALA State of America’s Libraries report, Hachette CEO David Young is quoted as saying, “Publishers can’t meet to discuss standards because of antitrust concerns. This has had a chilling effect on reaching consensus.”

As the New York Times points out, one possible result of the lawsuit is that Amazon may now be the one setting e-book prices. Regardless of the outcomes, this case will change the environment within which libraries are working on securing access to e-books.

In addition to the DOJ lawsuit, Macmillan, Penguin, Simon & Schuster and Apple also face lawsuits brought by several states. According to a statement released by the state of Connecticut, the following states are joining in leveling lawsuits similar to the DOJ: Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Missouri, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont and West Virginia, plus the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Settlements with Hachette Group and HarperCollins have already been reached.

For a summary of the basics of the suit, the settlement, and the state lawsuits, check out The Digital Shift’s coverage.

ALA president-elect Maureen Sullivan has extended an invitation to authors groups in an effort to include content producers in the conversation about access to electronic content. The ALA is also hoping to understand what issues authors face in an evolving publishing environment. The meetings are expected to take place by mid-May.

In its annual State of America’s Libraries report, the ALA devotes a portion of it to e-books and their role in libraries. It serves as a good review of the issues libraries face related to obtaining and providing access to e-books for their communities.

Anthony Molaro, author of The Information Activist Librarian blog, argued recently that library access to e-books is an issue of human rights, equality and social justice. Molaro wonders what role exclusive e-book publishing will have on access to information.

Be sure to check out links to lots of other stories like these that we post on our Twitter feed and Facebook page throughout the week.

Contributing Editor Lindsay Barber writes our weekly e-content news posts along with contributions from the Library Renewal Editorial Team (incl. Colin Wilkins, Matt Weaver and Michael Porter).


A Week Full of Statistics: Pew On E-Books, Global E-book Usage and What Lending Does for Sales, OCLC Reports on Libraries: Your Weekly Libraries and E-Content News

April 6, 2012
Posted in: News

The Pew Internet and American Life Project released a report Wednesday on the increase in e-reading. Their study indicates that the number of American adults who have read an e-book increased from 17% in December 2011 to 21% in February 2012. Also included in the report is a breakdown of where e-book readers get their books (purchased online) and where they get recommendations (people they know). Several savvy observers have been quick to point out that the difficulty in getting e-books from libraries is a major reason why some prefer to purchase rather than borrow their e-books.

There is a great deal of useful information in this report that we didn’t formally have before. We recommend that you spend some time with it if you are keen to keep up with what is happening with libraries and the evolution of e-content. Having said that, it is admittedly a lot of information to process. Happily, for those wanting more of an overview, INFOdocket provides a great selection of highlights from the report that focus on libraries.

Again, the entire report is available on the Pew website. Just as an FYI, the Pew Internet and American Life Project is part of the larger Pew Internet Project that seeks to understand how the Internet affects children, families, schools and many other areas of our lives. Funding for the research comes from a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

ALA reacted to the Pew report almost immediately in the form of a fairly lengthy press release. In the document ALA seizes an opportunity to highlight some of the challenges libraries face in getting e-books and e-content to their patrons using existing systems and relationships. Kudos to ALA for acting quickly to offer important commentary and perspective as a high profile event like the release of the Pew study happened. Be sure to read their response here.

OCLC released a snapshot (.pdf format) of public libraries and their priorities. Surveying staff from member libraries, the study found that e-books rank in the top three priorities for libraries, just behind showing value to library funders and providing Internet access to the public. The survey also indicates that many library staff believe the future will bring more non-traditional branches, including library websites that serve as a key point of interaction for many patrons. Of initiatives taken on by libraries in the past year, procuring e-books accounted for 27%; other e-resources comprised an additional 10% of those projects. A similar report focusing on academic libraries is forthcoming.

The U.S., U.K., Australia and India lead the pack for e-book adoption, according to a report released by Bowker Market Research. In each of these countries, e-book adoption is at least 20% and growing. The report also includes demographics of e-book buyers by gender and age.

The importance that lending plays in finding authors, an activity that leads to higher sales, is evident from early data regarding Kindle’s lending library. Evidence shows that authors whose books are included in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library are more likely to see an increase in sales of their other books, even if they are also included in the lending library.

Contributing Editor Lindsay Barber writes our weekly e-content news posts along with contributions from the Library Renewal Editorial Team (incl. Colin Wilkins, Matt Weaver and Michael Porter).