May 23, 2022

ReadersFirst Releases Inaugural Edition Guide to Library Ebook Vendors

Update: We share a few comments at the bottom of this post. 

ReadersFirst represents 292 library systems in the U.S. and Canada.

From a Summary & News Release

The ReadersFirst Guide to Library E- Book Vendors ranks seven Library e-book vendors and outlines best practices for the distribution of eBooks. ReadersFirst Guide  Library E Book Vendors.pdf

Click Cover Image to Go Direct to Full Text

“We believe that in the long run these guidelines will be good for everyone, but most importantly

for our patrons,” said Michael Santangelo, Electronic Resources Coordinator for BookOps and ReadersFirst current coordinator. “E-books provide another way to reachreaders—whether long standing library supporters or new users. Yet the full potential of lending e-books in libraries is being held back by technological confusion that even library staff members, as well as their library patrons, have trouble navigating. We advocate for giving libraries the proper tools, real choices, and open systems as concerns the discovery, circulation, and downloading of e-books and in order for these libraries to select or create user-friendly e-lending systems for their respective institutions.”

How The Guide Was Put Together

To fully assess e-book vendors and their platforms, ReadersFirst developed an evaluation form to be completed by vendors based on the organization’s four principles:

  • Find e-books with an easy search of a single, comprehensive catalog including all of the library’s offerings.
  • Access e-book checkouts, holds, availability and communications in the same way they manage other library offerings.
  • Seamlessly access all e-books in one place, regardless of publisher or distributor.
  • Download e-books that are compatible with all reading devices.Major vendors responded to the survey, which included questions about whether a platform could store and index metadata, allow patrons to place an item on hold, provide detailed account information, send delivery notifications to patrons and more. Vendor responses were ranked on a scale of 0 -100 based on compliance of ReadersFirst principles. Participating vendors included noted e-book distributors Overdrive, Baker & Taylor Axis 360 and 3M Cloud Library.

Direct to Full Text of The ReadersFirst Guide to Library E- Book Vendors (17 pages; PDF)

See Also: Latest Draft of ReadersFirst Content Access Requirements

Hat Tips: Claire Kelley/Melville House Books, Matt Weaver

Comments from Gary

User/reader privacy is central to what library’s provide and is part of the ALA Code of Ethics but the ReadersFirst key principals, this guide, or content access requirements make no mention of privacy when it comes to library ebooks. This is disappointing and we hope ReadersFirst addresses user privacy moving forward.

While we have written a lot about privacy and transparency as it relates to library ebooks placed on Kindle devices there are other issues at play that all users and librarians should be aware of independent of the device or service they use.  Not addressing privacy/transparency as it relates to users library will not make these issues go away, cease from being a concern, and stop new ones from appearing. 

A library user should be assured that a library’s commitment to user privacy with ebooks is the same as it is with print materials. I’m not sure this is the case. Plus, potential problems that might occur should be made clear.

Libraries want others who deal with data to be as transparent as possible. What about us?

Finally, if user privacy is not a concern with regards to ebooks (and for that matter other electronic serviece) that’s fine but that means it’s time to amend the ALA Code of Ethics.

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

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.