January 27, 2022

Heavy Circulation Causes Free Library of Philadelphia to Make Changes to Ebook Lending

The changes to the lending policy for OverDrive titles (only) was announced in a Free Library of Philadelphia blog post today and also noted on the Philadelphia Magazine web site.

The library also provides access to ebooks via Freading, EBSCO, and Tumble Books.

From the Library’s Blog

We are delighted that OverDrive ebook circulation continues to grow — a 33% increase in use over this same time a year ago– and we anticipate continued growth. This great increase comes at a time when the Free Library’s materials budget is flat and some popular ebook titles have long waits.  To ensure everyone has more access we will be changing two aspects of our Overdrive ebook policy shortly:

  • The loan period will now be 14 days for all OverDrive formats.  If there are no holds on your item, you can renew it (or put a hold on it); and you can still return items before they are due. [Previously, the loan period was on a title by title basis, but often at set at 21 days].
  • The number of OverDrive items that can be checked out at the same time will be six (6).  [Down from 10]

We hope this makes it possible for more customers to have access to ebooks.

Joel Mathis from Philadelphia Magazine and a user of the library’s ebooks comments here.

He writes:

I don’t mind the library reducing the number of checkouts, but I do mind the reduction in length of a checkout. There are plenty of books I can finish in three weeks that I can’t finish in two.  But maybe I’m the exception and everybody else has “time to read.” If so, maybe this will give more people a crack at materials. It might turn a few away, however, too.

Questions for Everyone

Changing policies for ebook loans are not only an issue at the Free Library of Philadelphia.

However, today’s news from Philly once again made us think about the future of ebook services in all libraries.

We continue to wonder how sustainable library access to ebooks can be assuming circulation continues to increase and library budgets remain flat? What happens if we do not to see a price decrease by publishers? What will increased spending mean for other programs and services? What services can be reduced or eliminated? What do “all you can read” subscription services targeting consumers mean for these programs? I think many of these issues go towards defining what a 21st century library is about at least when it comes to the services offered. Said another way, where do we spend our money and are we looking at both meeting the wants/needs of all users/user groups and also making sure we will be around for the long term?

These are just a few of the many questions that need to considered both locally and as a profession.

On Sustainability

Earlier this year we shared research on this topic written by Matt Weaver. We think the report is worth reviewing and some thought. 

See Also: 45,000 Ebooks Were Checked Out and Downloaded During November, 2013 (via Free Library of Philadelphia Blog)

See Also: eReaders: New Research Shows Amazon Has Over 20 Million Kindles In Consumer Hands (December 12, 2013)

See Also: Adding Transparency to the Ebook Transaction (June 25, 2013)

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.