Saturday, October 23, 2010

Ebook Lemonade

Last week, the UK-based Publishers Association announced guidelines for ebook lending, including a requirement that libraries can only provide ebooks to patrons who are physically at a library branch. My friend Laura tweeted, "I think Overdrive can kiss more than half of its library business goodbye after this." I agree. On top of all the other crap we have to put up with to offer Overdrive-managed ebooks to library patrons, this further restriction would be too much.

But then I began to think: this idea could be workable. I could accept those terms--patrons can only download a library's ebooks if they came to the library --if some of the other requirements were lifted:
  1. No waiting. If the library owns the ebook, it is available when you come in to download it, no matter how many other people have also downloaded it.

  2. No DRM, or a loan period so long that DRM doesn't really matter. I'd say at least 6 months; a year would be better.

  3. Costs must be reasonable. Libraries should expect to pay more for ebook distribution rights than they would for a single copy of a hardback book, but costs should be in line with libraries' current expenses. (I think I'll explore what this means in a future post).
If the only barrier to the service is that you have to go to the library, I could accept that, because we could find interesting ways to make that work. Oz knows that we could be doing a better job with download customer service; face-to-face help in the library would be a fantastic improvement. We could explore partnerships in the community to provide E-branches in coffee shops, airports, or other WiFi hotspots. We could develop Ebook Kiosks for malls, community colleges, parks, etc.

We've already given up so much in our pathetic attempts to be at the ebook table. I see some potential here to win back some power.


Crazy Colorado Knitter said...

I use overdrive from my library (in colorado), and download books onto my nook and audiobooks onto my iphone. This seems like the silliest move ever. I guess if your device has wifi and the ability to download directly, that's fine, but the way it works now, you have to throw it through Adobe Digital Editions for the epubs, and through the Overdrive Media Console for the audiobooks. Neither of which will run actually on my devices, allowing access. ODM even uses itunes to do some sort of processing and sync to my phone.

If these things were drm-free and longer than 21 days (or at least renewable! -- I've gotten to the last couple of pages of something and then I got the dreaded black bar of [you are not licensed for this content]... and then had to get back in line again for the book.

I love my library for offering this, and I'm glad that we've not gotten hit by this insanity over on this side of the pond.

Diane in Chico said...

I have a library card for my local library, which has a VERY limited selection of titles in Overdrive. I also have a library card to a library about 500 miles away, which has a good selection of titles. The DRM issue doesn't bother me, and I will be very sad if I am forced to use a tiny local selection instead of the far away good selection.


Unknown said...

I like the way you think. As usual.