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.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your analysis! When I saw the announcement from OverDrive it was written in such a vague convoluted way (as are all of their communications) that I couldn't tell exactly what you got for signing up. Apparently, not much! I'm becoming less and less enamored of Overdrive and their services as time goes on.