Monday, November 28, 2011

OverDrive "Test Drive" Program (Right Now, There is Only One Car in the Lot)

OverDrive has announced the launch of its new "Test Drive" program, which allows libraries to sign up and get guided instructions and information from OverDrive on using ereaders. From their website:
OverDrive Test Drive is a program that enables your library to offer eBook devices for demonstration and lending. OverDrive provides guidelines, recommendations, best practices and promotional materials to help you successfully integrate eBook devices into your everyday services, all within publisher copyrights and library lending policies.
Libraries can sign up for the program for free and will be given particular materials (not ereader devices, libraries need to go buy those) from OverDrive to support either in-house demonstrations of the devices, training for library staff and patrons, or actual lending of devices for patrons.

Devices to be used with the Test Drive system will also be required to be compatible the library's ebook catalog, allow direct download via mobile browser or app, support copyright protection (aka DRM) and be compatible with the OverDrive accessibility program LEAP. Looking at their list of "Test Drive-approved" devices, there is only one: the Sony Reader Wi-Fi (Model PRS-T1).

What about those devices already in the libraries? It seems that OverDrive is stating that those are a bad idea. In fact, the FAQs provided specifically address this (bold emphasis mine):
Can library staff pre-load a device with titles, and then offer it for circulation?
No. To insure compliance with your eBook lending library, we urge each title to be checked out to an existing user or library card. This will avoid issues and concerns of publishers that the devices are being used to frustrate or circumvent approved lending models. This will also provide the best circulation and lending policy practices (number of titles per user checked out at one time, etc.).
Can we circulate a device that is not part of the OverDrive Test Drive program?
No. It is important that devices meet requirements set by publisher copyright permissions, and therefore, we urge you to only circulate devices that are Test Drive approved.
So, what I actually see here is not a new and innovative support system for training and lending of ereader devices, but a way for OverDrive to be able to demonstrate to publishers that they are supporting THEM and adhering to copyright and lending policies of ebooks. With Penguin's decision to pull out of library lending (then back in, then oh wait, only until the end of the year) and questions about the Amazon deal, OverDrive might need to appease publishers with more emphasis on policy, not access to materials. What does this mean for all of the libraries that are already circulating devices?

Anyway, libraries are already doing all of this test driving, aren't they? For those of us scrambling to keep up with the Kardashian-like fervor of ebooks, we have acquired devices, trained staff, done demonstrations and answered questions from patrons and libraries alike. We have accomplished all of this with our own research, our own questions, our own collaboration, our own funds. How does the Test Drive program actually assist libraries?

They are not giving us the devices, not really giving us any special tricks or tips on using them. I guess it could help those who have not jumped on the ebook wagon already, and gives more hand-holding (of the instruction and virtual kind) on getting ereaders in the libraries to try out. Do not look for special help with those approved devices though - OverDrive states in their FAQs that for any problems patrons may have with them, talk to the manufacturer - or the library. Plus, right now there is only one device that is approved for this program. With the restrictions for wireless downloads, we are not going to see the Nook or Kobo or older Sonys here, which many libraries already have. No Kindles either, as they will not be able to support the OverDrive LEAP program. How fast will devices actually be approved for Test Drive, given this?

Does anyone see any real benefits with this program, now or in the future? I am not sure that I do. With all the devices out there - ones that OverDrive touts on their compatibility pages - this just seems like a step backwards for instruction and recommendation.

Monday, November 21, 2011

New Penguin Ebooks No Longer Available From OverDrive (UPDATED)

This post has been updated to include links and further thoughts.

I was offline most of the weekend, but came back to discover that people are talking about missing Penguin titles. It seems there have been a lot of reports from patrons that use OverDrive that Penguin titles that were on hold in the Kindle format have disappeared off their waiting lists. Other reports are people received emails saying their title was available for checkout, only to log in and find the hold either completely missing or switched to an EPUB format. Titles that people insist were available in Kindle format until Friday are now just gone.

Checking our own catalog this morning, I ran an Advanced Search for Penguin USA in Kindle format - zero hits. Checking all other Penguin listings gave me the same results, except there do seem to be a couple titles under Penguin Adult/ePenguin Imprint that still have Kindle formats available, but that is two titles. TWO. TITLES.

That definitely does not include The Help.

No official reports have come either from OverDrive or from Penguin. Besides Twitter talk and threads on various Kindle sites, the I Love My Kindle blog has a short post musing the same questions. Hopefully one of the camps will speak up and let their customers - and our patrons - know exactly why this has happened, and if it is permanent.


The Digital Shift just published a post indicating that Penguin is taking the stand that "due to new concerns about the security of our digital editions, we find it necessary to delay the availability of our new titles in the digital format while we resolve these concerns with our business partners."

From OverDrive Library Blog:

"Last week Penguin sent notice to OverDrive that it is reviewing terms for library lending of their eBooks. In the interim, OverDrive was instructed to suspend availability of new Penguin eBook titles from our library catalog and disable “Get for Kindle” functionality for all Penguin eBooks. We apologize for this abrupt change in terms from this supplier. We are actively working with Penguin on this issue and are hopeful Penguin will agree to restore access to their new titles and Kindle availability as soon as possible."

So, does this mean that we are going to see all ebook formats for Penguin new titles disappear? Or, are we just no longer going to be able to purchase new ebook titles from them? So far, what we have bought are still in our catalog, and it looks like it is going to stay that way, according to all reports. However, access to additional copies, and other new Penguin titles, is going to cease. This will make four big publishers that do not allow library lending of their new (or any) titles. Add to this the 26-loan cap for HarperCollins, libraries are going to find longer queues for digital holds, and upset patrons wondering why we do not purchase any more copies or have these titles. Publishers are putting the burden on us to explain their industry practices to people who wonder why we can't just go online and purchase the same ebooks they do. OverDrive knew last week that Penguin had made this decision, yet chose to not inform their customers about this until Monday, after changes happened.

Libraries should not be the last in line for the information that affects so many. Who is going to the table now?

More Links:

Publishers Weekly - Penguin USA drops library access
Early Word - Penguin exits OverDrive pending evaluation
Melville House - Penguin pulls ebooks from libraries in apparent slap at Amazon
Smart Bitches, Trashy Books - Oh For Gods Sake: Penguin Disallows Digital Library Lending

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Ebooks: A Brief Fix On a Moving Target

On Friday I traveled to Northeastern University to attend a session put on by the Collection Development Interest Group (CDIG) of the ACRL - New England Chapter: "Ebooks: A Brief Fix On a Moving Target". This session highlighted short talks (20-25 minutes) from various people in the library world about a subject that is near and dear to our hearts - ebooks and how they affect libraries. While the sessions were for the benefit of academic librarians and staff, I was pleased to listen to it outside of the OverDrive-laden news I tend to have in my work (although OverDrive definitely came up).

These notes are gleaned from my thoughts and my tweets during the session (hashtag #CDIGebooks):

E-books: Intellectual Property Rights of Libraries and Library Patrons (Kyle Courtney, Manager, Resource Sharing and Faculty Information Delivery, Harvard Law School)

The concepts of intellectual property, first-sale doctrine and copyright is huge dealing with ebooks right now. While libraries are still looking at ebooks as physical books being purchased, publishers see the digital file as being licensed. Where does the truth lie? Libraries would not be able to lend without the stipulations of the first-sale doctrine, nor would used bookstores or used music stores be in business, thanks to the 1908 court case of Bobbs-Merrill  Co. vs. Straus. One interesting slide from Courtney was about piracy: consider theft does not equal piracy, and vice versa? Theft removes the object from its original place; piracy makes a copy (or tens or hundreds). If someone takes your car but returns it to the same place, has it actually been stolen? While I understand the broad thought this comes from, I am not sure I agree with it. Also highlighted was the OverDrive contract with the Kansas State Librarian, which has been on the forefront of libraries' minds in regards to contract review and changes and ownership of digital materials. Courtney stresses that everyone should read their contracts (libraries AND vendors).

Gluejar: Give Books to the World (Andromeda Yelton,

Ebooks are coming in various formats, supplied by various vendors, with multiplying devices. Add DRM, copyright and rights holders to that, it is enough to make any librarian's head spin. However, what if you could "unglue" the digital rights for a book from the rest? Yelton explains that Gluejar is looking to do that with While still pre-launch, the concept of would include purchasing the ebook rights for works from the right holders, fundraising (along the lines of Kickstarter) to cover the cost, then providing the ebook under a Creative Commons license. While attribution and non-derivative clauses will exist, this could be a good way for libraries to supplement the ebook demand at minimal costs. Authors could see the benefit of increased demand on backlist titles or for derivative works. I am looking forward to see how this project moves forward.

Patron-Driven Acquisitions: History and Best Practices. (David Swords, EBL)

PDA - such a strange term for a strange process. Patron Driven Acquisitions is a scalable way for smaller libraries to distribute funds for collection development. While many libraries are concerned that PDA will cause ill-advised buying, he notes that using a model such as acquisitions based on short-term loans of titles to regulate the purchase showed a marked decrease in print titles being acquired. Swords also talked about the contents of the De Gruyter title that is being released which highlights history and theory, plus practical use. I was intrigued to find out that one of the chapters was written by my former supervisor, Tom Corbett. He is currently the head of the library at Cushing Academy, which made major headlines by "throwing out its print collection for ebooks". The library does a lot more with ebooks than print, but still carries a print collection, although less than half of what was originally there.

A Change of Heart on Ebooks: A User’s Perspective (Greg Eow, British and American History Librarian, Yale University)

Eow never thought he would want to be an ebook user. He rarely had to use digital resources while getting his degree, so had been able to put them aside for texts. As an archivist, he finds pleasure in the written word, but more and more he is starting to believe that digital formats will overtake print formats, and librarians that insist on collecting print materials will become "rare book librarians". Eow discussed how he received his first ereader (a Kindle, present from his mom) and found that carrying it on a trip was much easier than trying to bring print copies of the reference materials he was reading. He is now purchasing many of the books he already owns in ebook format. However, he also thinks that the arguments that people have about the "killing of footnotes" by ebooks will not hold. Especially in the humanities, whether print or digital, people still need pagination, still need footnotes. Debates on the other side of the desire to still see print succeed, based on the love of paper, of bindings and type, seem to further illustrate it is not a content argument, but one of collectors. Thus, the idea that print materials will be "rare books" could still play out.

Issues in Current and Future E-book technology (Bob Boissy, Director, Network Sales, Springer)

Boissy loves ebooks, but recognizes the limits of e-ink, as shown by demonstrating the differences between veiwing an 14th century manuscript on an original Nook versus an iPad, Boissy shows that technology can bring a book to life on screen. Academic publishers have been on a fast track to digitization, in fact it has been a case of "DIGITIZE ALL THE THINGS" and deal with the ramifications later. A lot of backlist has been digitized; Springer has now been able to clear out most of their backlist print after digitizing with Google Books, and now keep to print-on-demand for their titles. Subscription packages for libraries are scrutinized as they know that libraries will not buy what they will not use. To keep libraries buying, the packages must drive usage, and publishers are on the proving end of that. Boissy also noted that publishers that have electronic journal subscriptions, then add ebooks to them, have seen an inflationary effect on the electronic journal usage. While reports say that the online catalog is still the top source for finding academic resources in the library, with search engines and other discovery platforms being introduced to libraries, the best way to find what you need is a moving target.