January 17, 2022

What Do You See? "OverDrive Has Different eBook Catalogs for Different Libraries"

UPDATE (11:45 am, Friday) OverDrive has received our request for a statement and answers to questions and will be back in touch ASAP.

A very interesting, eye-opening, and well documented report by Sarah Houghton on her Librarian in Black blog.

From the Report:

OverDrive has different catalogs of eBooks in the OverDrive Marketplace for different libraries. We’re not all seeing the same title or author selections.

How many OverDrive customers knew that? How many libraries who have been given the restricted catalogs were ever informed that this is what was happening, or why?

Sarah was unable to get a comment from OverDrive about her findings. Not surprising.

We’ve also asked OverDrive for a comment on what Sarah and Ryan Claringbole, from the Chesapeake Public Library found. We also asked several additional questions. When/if we here back we will update this post.

What gets us (again) is how OverDrive doesn’t like to share what’s going on with customers and partners. In other words, it seems that OverDrive believes that keeping quiet us the way to go even after something comes to light. Perhaps if the library (as a whole) demands more transparency and clear answers from OD this might change.


  • Libraries had little notice and no documentation/training as the Amazon/Kindle program began. Of course, some libraries didn’t even have access
  • They also don’t spell out for users that when they click to download a book for their Kindle from Amazon that the privacy that they expect from their library is out the door.
  • Libraries had little or no notice that Penguin titles were taken offline (as you know they’re back now).
  • Forget libraries, what about publishers and Amazon? Michael Kelley from Library Journal reported that Amazon.com was not “consulted” about OverDrive’s agreement with Penguin.

As to why is what Sarah reports on happening in the first place? That’s really for OverDrive to explain but we will add that some of these issues might have been touched on in the Steve Potash (OverDrive CEO), letter that got the HarperCollins story underway.

(via a PDF shared by Librarian By Day)

Potash writes:

…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.

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. Publishers are reviewing benchmarks figures from library sales of print books and CDs for audiobooks and do not want these unit sales and revenue to be dramatically reduced by the license of digital books to libraries.

Again, we will update if/when we here from OD.

Kudos to Sarah and Ryan.

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) 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 Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.