Two Pieces of Ebook Silliness

Just came across a couple of posts from The UK Publisher’s Association and from the CEO of Overdrive. Gotta say, it’s very interesting to watch and listen … but it’s a bit disappointing, too. Here’s a couple bits of what each of them said:

From Richard Mollet, Chief Executive, The Publishers Association, in his PA statement regarding our position on library e-lending post: “Ultimately, the activities of selling and lending have to be able to co-exist with neither unduly harming the other. If ebook lending were untrammelled (as some comments seem to propose) it would pose an extremely potent threat to the retail market which in the long-term would undermine the ability of authors, and the companies which invest in them, to see a reward for their creativity.  This would be hugely a negative outcome for everyone, including libraries and their communities.”

What? Did Mr. Mollet just say that if library patrons could download ebooks in an “untrammeled” way (which for them, I think means being able to check it out and download it from home), it would be a huge threat to the retail ebook market. Really? I’d love to see your numbers to back that up.

And how in the world would patrons checking out ebooks remotely “undermine the ability of authors … to see a reward for their creativity” ??? Come on.

Translation – We think ebook lending, if made too easy, will put us out of business. And, he very obviously doesn’t know how the whole checking out an ebook thing actually works (see below for a little more on that). Explains a lot, I think.

Next up: Steve Potash, CEO of OverDrive, with A statement on the Publishers Association’s position on eBook lending, writing in response to the silliness above: “OverDrive licenses eBooks under a “one-book, one-user” lending model … This model has successfully worked for years around the world, providing libraries with access to premium content while generating revenue for publishers.”

“Successfully worked” – if that means that libraries subscribe, then ok. But if it means our customers get it, then not so much. This statement sorta reminds me of the automotive industry CEOs, when they say “going to the gas pump is a time-honored tradition.” Hmm…

And I found this statement weird – maybe I’m not understanding it: “In 2009, visitors to OverDrive-powered library websites viewed more than 401 million pages. Among unique visitors to these download library pages, 80 percent did not check out a digital title, yet still visited 13 pages on average.”

Is he really saying that lots of people visited Overdrive’s service … but a whopping 80% didn’t check anything out??? Cause that’s what it sounds like to me. And if so … Well, that’s because Overdrive is SO VERY HARD TO USE.

Here’s an example from my library that happened last week. Topeka is currently participating in the Big Read, a grant-funded community-wide reading program. We picked The Maltese Falcon as our Big Read book – it’s available in paper and in a digital audiobook version from Overdrive. One of Topeka’s library customers (who happens to be the general manager of a local TV station) decided to checkout the digital audiobook version … on his Mac. After an hour of frustration on his part, he called the library for some help.

Were we able to help him? No, not really. For some reason, his web browser didn’t like the Overdrive website (he tried Google Chrome and Apple Safari). He wasn’t able to download the “unlimited use” version of the digital audiobook, because it was in the Microsoft Windows-based wma format. Although he could download the Mac-friendly mp3 format, it was checked out and therefore unavailable … which of course didn’t really make much sense to the patron.

Our library customer ended up frustrated at Overdrive, at the library (and told us so), and had a bad experience with our digital content.

Overdrive, Publisher’s Association guys, etc – you can do better than this.

Pic by Dick Rochester

  • KathyS

    Publishers have never really liked the whole “lend books out for free” model that libraries follow, but have never been able to do much about it. Now they’re trying to change it more to their liking (ie, not at all) in the new format

  • Gina

    As a user of a library that subscribes to eaudiobooks via OverDrive, I can tell you that for all my visits to the service and browsing of titles, I look at a lot. But, I rarely check anything out because it’s not available and, personally, I think waiting in line for an electronic file is insane. For all the times I’ve looked, I’ve only checked out 3 items from OverDrive.

    As a librarian, I understand why this is; but how many users are just frustrated and blame the library for the lack of availability? For how many customers does it reinforce the stereotype of the outdated library?

  • lib1

    Seems to me OverDrive should spend fewer dollars on marketing and more on making the whole package easier to use. Patrons get very frustrated. They just don’t have the patience of librarians! That being said, libraries need to figure out how to allocate their budgets to allow for greater use of digital resources, even if that means fewer books, magazines, etc.