The struggle to create a workable, equitable model for library access to e-books has dominated library news in recent months. As state librarian of Kansas, Joanne (Jo) Budler made headlines by challenging the status quo and taking ownership of the state’s e-book collection. The Information Technology Section (ITS) sponsors her appearance to tell her story.
Kansas was buying Overdrive content like crazy to make sure everyone in the state had access to ebooks, at any small library. Overdrive changed the contract to raise prices by 700% and take away ownership of ebooks (which the Attorney General’s office confirmed). Overdrive wouldn’t change this contract, so Kansas decided not to continue with Overdrive (even though the Overdrive staff was always nice and competent).
Jo started approaching other vendors to see if they would create a platform which they could use with their own content (initially, no one was interested). The next step was to write letters to the publishers to make sure no one would challenge moving the content. They got permission to move about 65% of the content away from Overdrive (Hachette completely refused). During the transition, since patron demand was still there, they really emphasized public domain/Gutenburg project content. The consortium eventually moved to multiple platforms
- One Click Digital (Recorded Books – patrons like this)
- 3M (patrons also like)
- B&T (patrons had the most problem here, and eventually Kansas didn’t renew)
Joined CALIFA in summer of 2012, now called Enki, which uses the Douglas County model of hosting its own content, and also started offering Freading in 2013. Patrons like having options, but have expressed a preference for having a single econtent interface (right now they link from the single state-wide catalog to each different vendor platform).
They have a live-staffed 800 number to provide tech support to patrons, but it is too much for one State Library staff person that runs it, so they will buy a device to any other staff who is interested so they can provide support too. Libraries across the state are doing the quick-fix questions themselves, but if it gets beyond what they can handle they refer them to the state helpline.
What to care about moving forward:
- Didn’t care about ownership, they cared about access (but by changing the contract, Overdrive opened the door to limiting access)
- One reason why people like Freading is because there is no waiting lists – that model works in the online world
- Getting content at a fair price (and having publishers give up the idea of not selling to libraries at all)
- When they are being unfair, call them out: like the Big Six (now five) Facebook page, to support the idea of selling to libraries at a fair price – the number is dwindling, so it’s working!
- If you’re interested in a state-wide hosting platform, be sure to include a self-publishing platform (Kansas likes Smashwords)
- Consortia are important (most publishers don’t want to work with consortia, and many pilot programs won’t scale up from small or stand-alone libraries to consortium)
Are ebooks here to stay anyway?
- Sales are dropping dramatically.
- It was new, and the novelty is wearing off
- Not all books lend themselves to ebook format – textbook use up, kids books ebook use going down
- Physical books have special appeal
- There are so many options – patrons can buy themselves (“Amazon” model), Oyster (Netflix for ebooks), Scribd (unlimited subscription reading)
- They might be just another format like cassette and other formats that just drifted away
We have to keep caring as long as people still need access – that’s what we do. Especially for blind and physically-handicapped. We provide education to people for their whole lives.
Bottom line: don’t sign a contract you haven’t read or you’re not comfortable with.