So, why don’t we have ______ ? (Or, OverDrive eBook selection demystified.)

When it comes to eBooks, have you ever:

  • Been frustrated when trying to explain why there are missing titles in a series?
  • Experienced a brief moment of excitement to see the title you’re looking for, only to be disheartened when you realize it is only available in audio (e.g. Bossypants)?
  • Been befuddled about why we don’t have Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder or Tim Tebow’s Through My Eyes (and no, it’s not because he led the Broncos in squashing the playoff hopes of the Steelers)?

Wondering yourself why we don’t have those things, or how in the world the ACLA Downloadables Committee goes about making selections?  Well, read on, and hopefully things will become a lot clearer.

First, the ACLA Downloadables Committee currently focuses on selecting current and/or popular titles.  We purchase eBooks, eAudio, and eVideo, but we primarily select eBooks.  As a happy result of increased funding for e-materials this year, we have also been able to increase the number of copies of popular titles we purchase, as well as reduce the holds ratio on all e-content so that turn-over occurs more quickly and patrons have a higher satisfaction rate.

Sadly, there is a limit to what is available.  This, in short, is the reason we might not have:

  • All the titles in a series;
  • The eBook version of a book we have in audio;
  • Certain best-selling titles.

Let’s start with missing best-sellers (and, by extension, the reason we offer some titles as eAudio, but not eBook).  The e-publishing landscape is constantly shifting as publishers try to find a licensing/purchasing model that they feel comfortable with.  I could spend a whole blog post on the reasons for this, and maybe I’ll do that down the road, but for now I’ll just outline what we are able to get from the Big Six publishers:

  • Random House: Currently the only Big Six publisher offering libraries their complete catalog of eBooks without circulation restrictions.
  • HarperCollins: Offers their complete catalog of eBooks to libraries, but, as of March 2011, restricts each copy to 26 circulations (titles then have to be repurchased for continued access). The ACLA Downloadables Committee, along with many libraries across the country, decided to temporarily discontinue the purchase of HarperCollins eBooks when they announced the 26-circulation limit.
  • Penguin: Offered their complete eBook catalog to libraries until November 2011, then imposed an embargo on frontlist titles, with no indication of when new titles will become available.
  • Hachette:  Offers mid and backlist titles, but no frontlist.
  • Simon & Schuster: Does not sell eBooks to libraries.
  • Macmillan: Does not sell eBooks to libraries.

In terms of missing titles in a series, unfortunately, the publishers don’t necessarily have the digital rights to all of the books they have print rights to.  As a result, we are sometimes able to purchase some books in a series, but not all.

The good news?  We recently reinstated HarperCollins purchasing, so you will soon be seeing State of Wonder, Through My Eyes and other popular HarperCollins titles.  Further, publishers are constantly working on increasing their digital catalogs, so additional books in a series and books we have in audio but not eBook should become available over time.

I hope this helps to explain the rhyme and reason (or lack thereof) behind our eBook collection.  If you have questions, comments, or interest in this committee please feel free to post them below or contact me directly.

Sarah (CLP, Coordinator, eResources)

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Annica Stivers

    Thanks, Sarah! This is really informative. I recently learned that we are now purchasing HarperCollins ebooks, even with the circulation cap. I was wondering why CLP had a change of heart? Is this a trend happening in other library systems? Has HarperCollins made any recent changes to their policies regarding libraries?

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