The Other Shoe of #hcod

Lest anyone forget that there was more than one outrageous aspect in the Overdrive dispatch to libraries over eBooks, Karen Schneider reminded me that there was another bombshell that went with the limited eBook checkouts. I’ll quote the blurb on Bobbi Newman’s post and keep the emphasis that she added:

In addition, our publishing partners have expressed concerns regarding the card issuance policies and qualification of patrons who have access to OverDrive supplied digital content. Addressing these concerns will require OverDrive and our library partners to cooperate to honor geographic and territorial rights for digital book lending, as well as to review and audit policies regarding an eBook borrower’s relationship to the library (i.e. customer lives, works, attends school in service area, etc.). I can assure you OverDrive is not interested in managing or having any say in your library policies and issues. Select publisher terms and conditions require us to work toward their comfort that the library eBook lending is in compliance with publisher requirements on these topics.

My gut answer is “Um, how about no?”

In the same paragraph in which Overdrive assures that they are not interested in being involved in library policies, they accede to the publisher’s concerns by making it is a requirement to cooperate with those terms. I can only presume this was in done in the absence of consultation with their library “partners”. I’m not super familiar with partnerships in which one party simply tells the other what the deal is going to be without recourse; perhaps I cling onto an antiquated definition of partnership which includes bilateral communication. But if there had been some form of consultation as to the viability of these publisher fears, I would imagine their shock when they found out that what publishers want already exists.

First, libraries can pretty damn good at identifying who gets borrowing privileges. Whether it is a school, town, county, college, or hospital, one of the things that is well established in policy is who gets a card and who doesn’t. Generally this is shaped around who pays taxes or membership fees, who has active employment or enrollment at the school, or who simply works there, but I will concede there are a few exceptions. However, since library privileges are built around the concept of “who is in and who is out”, the publisher’s concerns have already been addressed. It’s a policy that is enforced everyday in libraries across the United States. Case closed.

Second, libraries already enforce patron qualifications as to who can remotely access materials through the library website. Long before eBooks appeared on the scene, databases were the outreach resource that could be accessed from outside the library walls. As a subscription service, libraries were pretty keen to ensure that only qualified parties could use these materials (especially there were a limited number of logins permitted). In order to access this content, an individual needs a library card; the same would be true with eBooks. As the issuance of library cards was handled in the previous point, the publisher’s concern is moot.

It really makes me wonder if publishers who are expressing these concerns are out of touch with libraries. They could walk down to their own public library or their kid’s school library or call up a university library and ask the very basic question as to what it takes to get a library card. Library card issuance policies are as clear cut as they get in the library world.

As to Overdrive, a little more consideration might be in order. Seriously, before making the mistake of rolling over to some unwarranted hand wringing, a little research might be in order. The answers might surprise you or already be in place.


So, here are my remaining questions as it pertains to this other shoe that Overdrive dropped:

(1) Who are these publishers that have concerns? Names would be good.

(2) What are these concerns in detail? What are these nebulous terms and conditions? Some details would be illuminating.

reposted with permission from Agnostic Maybe


  1. Rich Adin10 March, 2011

    At the top of the list, I’m sure, is HarperCollins, which is owned by that staunch capitalist Rupert Murdoch — you know, the same person whose minions preach let the market determine but then act as big brother themselves.

  2. Diane10 March, 2011

    What they are concerned about is that libraries in the future might sell subscriptions to out of area people as the Philadelphia free library does. Then nobody will buy books, they will check them out of the library.

    It’s an unfounded fear because even if libraries do this, it will just increase wait times for books which will discourage people from using the library which is what the publishers want. On the other hand, it might give libraries more money to buy more books. I would think that libraries buying more books would be a good thing. Instead of thinking of libraries as the enemy, publishers should think of them as customers. Customers who promote their books.

    On second thought, that doesn’t work either because publishers have a history of not treating their customers very well.

  3. Darryl Adams10 March, 2011

    If you work off the assumption that a publisher loses a sale every time someones borrows a book, this makes perfect sense.

    Digital content should be protected because the tools are more feasable to use. Hence the 26 use then expire ebook and draconian DRM and region controls.

    You could say this is payback to all those libraries who have been stealing revenue for all those centuries!

  4. pholy10 March, 2011

    Quote: “You could say this is payback to all those libraries who have been stealing revenue for all those centuries!”

    I trust you are joking. Almost every library I know is struggling to make ends meet. If they’ve been stealing revenue, I’d like to know whose account books it showed up in.


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