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Overdrive responds to the new HarperCollins

Yesterday Steve Potash, the CEO of Overdrive, posted a letter explaining how Overdrive will handle the changes forced upon them by HarperCollins. There’s really not much of interest to the general public, though.

The one really interesting part is that they briefly considered dropping HC ebooks. Obviously that wasn’t possible. If they had, Overdrive would have left an opening for a competitor to swoop in and offer the terms HC wanted.

From the letter:

Since Friday, we’ve heard directly from many library partners about the new eBook licensing terms instituted by HarperCollins. As an initial step, here is what OverDrive is doing about it.

Beginning March 7, we are making changes in the eBook ordering process. HarperCollins eBooks and their catalog of titles will be moved from our general eBook catalog to a separate collection. Until we have time to review the effect of these new terms with our library partners, HarperCollins eBooks will not be listed in our Library Marketplace. You will be able to review and order HarperCollins eBooks from a separated catalog, if you so choose.

For those librarians who are less familiar with me or OverDrive, we know that you have expressed concern that OverDrive failed to stand up for you and your readers in this situation with HarperCollins, and that OverDrive did not do enough to prevent these changes. This sentiment does not accurately characterize my and OverDrive’s work in the library market over the past decade, nor does it reflect our discussions with HarperCollins regarding these changes. OverDrive did not invite, recommend, or suggest the need for any changes in terms.

We did have an option to stop carrying or distributing HarperCollins eBooks to our library partners.  Instead of taking this approach, we made the decision to continue to make the world’s second largest publisher’s catalog of eBook titles available to you, communicate the changes in advance to our library partners, and offer the option to make informed purchasing decisions.

As a library advocate, my team has made dozens of presentations to publishers and their associations in the US and abroad communicating the marketing and discoverability, and the economic opportunities the library market represents to publishers. We are aware of the challenges you face because of increased demand, shrinking budgets, and incompatible devices entering the market. As a result, we are prompting publishers to consider less restrictive licensing for eBook and digital media lending. OverDrive’s advocacy efforts for libraries have been ongoing for most of the past decade, most recently with the UK Publishers Association and at Digital Book World 2011. Last year we also released a White Paper to encourage library eBook lending.

We are also a firm believer and supporter of open standards and greater compatibility for digital content. OverDrive was one of the founders of the IDPF (EPUB standard), introduced iPod-compatible MP3 Audiobooks (no DRM), provided thousands of DRM-free Project Gutenberg titles, and developed the first mobile apps for direct over-the-air access to library eBooks.  We proudly partner with for LEAP, which supplies accessible eBooks to your visually-impaired customers.

I have been listening to public librarians for more than 10 years on how you want your digital book lending system to work. We have visited with you in all 50 states (and a dozen countries) hosting events with your libraries, your associations, and via the Digital Bookmobile. We will continue to listen to your concerns and are actively asking for your direction, through initiatives like our OverDrive Library Advisory Council and our user group conference this summer, Digipalooza. We’re also following the unofficial channels with which many of you are already familiar (#HCOD).

I can promise you that we will make the OverDrive platform even easier to use for you and your customers. We will protect your ability to make informed choices and we will work with you to set the direction and policies that serve your customers’ interests. Most importantly, we will continue to innovate, invest, and advocate for libraries so readers will have the best options for accessing digital books, anywhere and everywhere.

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