May 26, 2022

It's Always Something: "Publishing Industry Forces OverDrive and Other Library eBook Vendors to Take a Giant Step Back" (via Librarian by Day)

From a Librarian by Day Blog Post:

Yesterday I received an email from OverDrive with an attachment titles OverDrive Partner Library Update from Steve Potash [CEO over OverDrive], I glanced at it and filed it away in my to-read pile for a later date (which honestly means I may never have gotten to it). This morning Heather Braum brought it to my attention via this post by Joe Atzberger.

The contents of this document are spun in a positive way and there are some great things coming from OverDrive, but in between the good news is some bad news, some really bad news.

Here are a few points from the letter Steve Potash sent yesterday. The full text (PDF) is available on the Librarian By Day Web Site.

1. Publishers are concerned about e-book licensing agreements where what you purchase is yours forever. Keep reading.

2. Next week OverDrive will announce that one publisher, Harper Collins] will implement a plan that places new e-books (it’s not retroactive) checkout limits on each licensed title. The one-copy/one-user model continues but now after 26 checkouts the book will no longer be available without relicensing the book. This is the case for other ebook providers not only OverDrive.

3. But that’s not all!

From the Potash Letter:

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.).

4. What about members of consortia and shared collection?

Here’s something for them:

Another area of publisher concern that OverDrive is responding to is the size and makeup of large consortia and shared collections. Publishers seek to ensure that sufficient copies of their content are being licensed to service demand of the library’s service area, while at the same time balance the interests of publisher’s retail partners who are focused on unit sales.

Again, the full text (PDF) is available here.

All of this comes after a massive amount of media attention and an large influx of new e-book borrowers who are at least willing to try the service even if they often have to jump through hoops to access the material.

Another problem, the inability to find an e-book to borrow without waiting several weeks has been the case for the INFOdocket team in Maryland and Florida.

Both of these concerns are mentioned in a superb commentary by Eric Hellman on his Go to Hellman blog.

So, the library world is providing a service that the media likes to report on and users appear to appreciate even with its many problems. In other words, library-based e-books have become a popular service at many libraries and what happens, some publishers (we don’t know how many) want to change the rules about licensing material. It’s not that they can’t change licensing agreements but what about working with the library community (aka their customers) to try and find a solution that works for all parties prior to making an “here’s what we’re doing” announcement.

What’s the point of marketing/promoting a service and then have to make significant changes in an area as important as cost because the service is being used?

See Also: Comments by Peter Brantley (via Reading 2.0)

See Also: “HarperCollins Puts 26 Loan Cap on Ebook Circulations” (via Library Journal)

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.