Amazon, Overdrive, Ebooks … and YOU.

You all read Sarah’s blog, right? (if you’re not, you should be). For those of you that don’t – check out her video rant about Amazon, Overdrive, Kindles, and ebooks (embedded above). There’s a bit of “language” in it … so you have been warned if that bothers you.

Great video, great content. And here’s the deal – Overdrive has basically allowed Amazon to sell their books on YOUR PATRON’S KINDLE. Via the Overdrive Kindle ebooks deal. And you and your library’s tax dollars are … paying for that privilege.

Did Overdrive tell us about that? Nope. Is that cool? Nope. Watch Sarah’s video for the details. And this is besides all the user data/privacy issues that I haven’t seen addressed yet (also discussed in Sarah’s video).

I’m not pointing the finger at Amazon – it’s not their fault. I’d guess they have been planning that functionality for months. Overdrive surely knew about this (I’m guessing here, but we’re talking about normal business practice too). Why didn’t they mention that?

What can you do about this?

  1. For starters – read your contracts/licenses, etc. You don’t have to automatically agree to everything written there – you can actually change things. Or you can try, anyway.
  2. More importantly – if you don’t like what Overdrive “allowed” Amazon to slip in (ie., direct selling and marketing to YOUR PATRONS without your permission) – let them know!
  3. Or … simply don’t buy it.

Overdrive – no more secrets, please! Or if you DID share that and we somehow missed it – could you kindly point out where? Thanks!

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  • Batarang

    This doesn’t surprise me, unfortunately.  I’ve always thought Overdrive to be just a “middleman” for the publishing industry in the worst sense of the word.  If they weren’t, they probably wouldn’t be in business.  Amazon had to bow down before publishers and raise prices on books.  Netflix is not #winning ATM because of decisions they have made in large part due to the pressures of the visual media cartels.

    The key to all this is that our patrons/customers need to be better-informed of the choices they are making regarding privacy (facebook), security (passwords), purchases (too many to pick), etc.  The multitude of resources on the internet allow for this education to happen and positive change to occur “for the people”, but do people have the will to seek out this knowledge?

  • davidleeking

    Good stuff. I’d add – can libraries teach this stuff? I think so.


  • sharon

    Do you know that Ads by Google placed an ad for the Kindle at the bottom of your post, as seen via email feed?

    Isn’t a Kindle owner, by virtue of having shopped at Amazon, or having an Amazon account, already acutely aware of how much Amazon knows about him or her? And haven’t they already made the calculation that the value they get out of that relationship is worth giving up some privacy? Let’s alert patrons to the fact that they will be getting an ad with their expiration notice, but let’s not overestimate the importance that patrons/customers place on privacy in these days of Facebook and Twitter and Google+ and personal blogs.

  • davidleeking

    Ha – funny about the ad. Obviously, I have no problem with ads. I run both Google and Amazon affiliate ads here from time to time (it pays my annual webhosting fees).

    And I agree with you to some extent about the privacy thing. No, I don’t think most people are acutely aware of any sort of privacy issues they’re giving up, just like most people don’t think about privacy issues when they use their debit card to buy milk (companies mine data from those transactions).

    That said, many studies have shown that many people simply don’t care about privacy.

    But that’s not the real issue – it’s that many libraries have legal obligations to deal with privacy laws surrounding library content. It’s mandated in state and federal law (disclosure – the closest I’ve come to knowing much about law would have come through reading a John Grisham novel).

    So if one of our vendors isn’t protecting those laws (that they know about), then they are selling us short at best, or perhaps “helping” us break laws at worst.

  • sharon

    “many libraries have legal obligations to deal with privacy laws surrounding library content. It’s mandated in state and federal law ”

    That’s a separate issue. There are two issues (at least). One is the marketing, and I maintain that we knew or should have known that was coming. It’s Amazon, fercryingoutloud. That’s what they do. And how are the ads any different from the ads that have been in the back of mass market paperbacks since forever?

    The second issue is privacy, and again, I’m not sure we can credibly claim to be shocked and dismayed. Our contract is with Overdrive. Overdrive, as our vendor, is–or should be–bound by the same privacy laws that public libraries are bound by. We (public libraries) are not in a contract with Amazon; that’s between Amazon and Overdrive. For years we have clamored for Kindle compatibility, and now we’ve got it. The Kindle is a wireless device. Its native format is azw files from the Amazon store. Did anyone really think that it was going to work the same way that the Sony and Nook ereaders work, with epubs and Adobe Digital Editions? And how would you like to be the one to explain to your patron that all the notes and bookmarks that they made in their borrowed Kindle book are erased when they return the book or it expires?

    Bottom line–we’ve made our bed and now we have to lay in it.

  • sharon

    “lie.” I always get those mixed up.

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  • Batarang

    I agree, but it’s incredibly difficult.  Horses, water, drinking and all that…

  • Deb Czarnik

    I commented on Sarah’s blog too, but wanted to point out a large misunderstanding with the OverDrive/Amazon Kindle Lending program:
    1. OverDrive does NOT pass patron information (not even the barcode) to Amazon, when the patron is directed to Amazon for the Kindle ebook.
    2. It is the patron who selects what Amazon account to use. They do not need to use their retail Amazon account. The patron can create an anonymous account for their library checkouts if they do not want their Kindle eBooks to be tracked.
    We’ve known Amazon has kept the Kindle on a short leash, why would we expect that to be any different with library books on the Kindle?  Amazon has deigned to let OverDrive and libraries put eBooks on their flagship Kindle product, and the price for this privilege is promotional messages for purchases for those Kindles!  I don’t see this as an issue — I think the Kindle users will associate the ads with their Kindle and Amazon and not with library.As I said on Sarah’s blog, OverDrive has been an advocate for libraries from the day they launched their ebook service for libraries, allowing us to provide popular eBooks to our library members in a way no other company had. They have jumped through the hoops of an industry behemoth on behalf of libraries to bring eBooks to Kindle patrons WITHOUT charging for this additional format. Along with this deal, OD decided to consolidate and provide all formats for one purchase, when they could have made more money by continuing to charge for each format and adding a charge for the Kindle copies to boot! They worked hard to get us Kindle eBooks, and libraries should be thanking them for their continued efforts and give them constructive advice on how to make the service better.I’m frustrated that OverDrive is constantly attacked when I know how hard they are working on behalf of thousands of libraries in this rapidly growing and constantly changing market.P.S. Don’t forget that OverDrive also subsidizes 100% of the cost of Bookshare eBook accounts for print disabled library patrons as well.

  • Braehenry

    Would be nice however if the Amazon-Overdrive partnership were a bit more transparent. I hear via the grapevine that the deal is not to be discussed.

  • davidleeking

    Right – I don’t have a problem with Amazon. Good for them for expanding and reaching out to libraries, even if it is to make more money. It’s more that as far as I can tell, Overdrive didn’t communicate that bit about Amazon direct-selling to our patrons very well, if at all (someone correct me if I’m wrong).

    Also, since Amazon has the ability to try to sell us the book we just checked out, they know what our patrons are reading (so not sure about your #1 point above).

    Honestly, most of this would be fine with me … if there was simply more communication of how the process would work, up front. We shouldn’t find out about it after-the-fact. Not good customer service.

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