This broke yesterday, so you may have already seen some of these articles. There are some parentheticals in here to try to provide a little bit of context for those of you who aren’t familiar with how library ebook lending works, but if you’re curious about this feel free to ask me (or another librarian you know) for more information.
The Digital Shift: Penguin Group USA to No Longer Allow Library Lending of New Ebook Titles
Penguin released a statement saying that they are “delaying availability” of the ebook version of their new titles, due to unstated “security concerns.” Penguin notified Overdrive (the main vendor for libraries providing ebook lending) of this last week and additionally told them to suspend lending for Kindle editions of ALL of their titles – not just new ones. For those who aren’t familiar with how this stuff works – no, your librarians are not being told to go into the software and flip a switch. Overdrive just pulls the content (which your library has paid for already!) and that’s that – from this article it sounds like libraries weren’t even notified that this change was coming.
This means that four of the Big Six publishers are not participating (Macmillian, Simon & Schuster), or not participating fully (Hachette), in the library ebook lending ecosphere (that leaves Harper Collins* & Random House) and many Kindle owners who were happily reading library ebooks are now upset. Also note that none of the Big Six are participating in Amazon’s own Kindle lending program. Seriously guys? Get a grip. Not participating in ebook lending schemes is not the answer. Someone, somewhere, will always be able to break your DRM. The way around this is not to be more restrictive, it’s to define reasonable terms and design easy-to-use software. (I, a savvy and motivated user, still have trouble with Adobe Digital Editions and I’ve been using it regularly for over a year and a half.)
*You can argue that Harper Collins isn’t participating fully either, since their ebooks now expire after 26 circulations, and your library has to pay to replace it if anyone else would like to read it. Because, you know, ebooks undergo so much damage by being downloaded to 26 different devices . . . OH WAIT.
INFODocket: Overdrive & Penguin: Is Something Steve Potash Wrote in February a Clue to What’s Going On?
Speculation here is that “security concerns” translate into them wanting to be certain that only the authorized users of any given library are accessing their ebooks. So, they want to make sure that libraries are enforcing their own policies about the geographical area that patrons must live, work or attend school in. If this is true, this strikes me as a perfectly reasonable desire. However they have gone about this the wrong way. Howsabout working with Overdrive to reach out to libraries who subscribe (yes, this is at least partially a subscription model) to verify this?
Library Renewal: This Deal Is Getting Worse All The Time
A nice outline of the various issues around ebook lending in libraries. It is becoming clearer that in their desire to get as much content to us as possible, Overdrive isn’t fighting for library-friendly terms. I think this sums it up nicely: “So, Amazon can build ads into Overdrive, but we can’t build our values into Adobe Digital Editions.” We only now seem to be realizing that we have been backed into a corner by this behavior, and by our own acceptance of Overdrive as a middleman between us and the publishers.