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eBooks – not everything is available

Warning . . . whatever I’m writing in this post may very well be outdated before I push the “publish” button . . .

eBooks have overtaken the information industry like a tsunami. Almost everyone knows someone who has an eReader, if they don’t have one personally. While many die-hard print booklovers have decried eBooks as a passing fad, it appears that not only are they not going away, their presence in the information world is getting more prevalent. And it seems like the whole atmosphere surrounding eBooks is market-driven and planted not-so-firmly in the sand. Like anything else in this techy-obsessed world, desirability appears to be based on newer, shinier, and faster. Thus, the relationships and the rules are being written and changed as we go along.

Almost every library system in Minnesota provides eBooks as one of its choices for book formats and the company OverDrive is the primary provider for the subscription service. ECRL buys eBooks from OverDrive title by title, just as we would from a print book vendor. OverDrive provides the website on which readers search for and check out the eBooks.

When OverDrive first launched eBook service for libraries, owners of one eReader device could not take advantage of their library’s service — the Kindle. Kindle is a product of Amazon. By September of this year, OverDrive had brokered a deal and accomplished the logistics for library subscribers to check out and download eBooks to their Kindle device. So, by the time ECRL launched eBook service, eBooks were available for almost all eReader devices.

Meanwhile, there has been considerable jockeying within the industry about how individual publishers allow their publications to be used and made available. Macmillan and Simon and Schuster do not license ebooks to public libraries. Hachette Book Group withdrew its frontlist ebook titles from library circulation in July 2010, although reportedly they may be reconsidering their position. Harper Collins caps the number of checkouts for their licensed books to 26 per purchase. Then there are some books that simply are not available for libraries to check out as eBooks – like the Harry Potter series.

The news in recent days is from Penguin Group (USA) to not allow their books to be checked out and downloaded to the Kindle. Indeed, a check on ECRL’s OverDrive site (http://ecrl.lib.overdrive.com) shows that Penguin books that ECRL currently owns are available for checkout only as Adobe EPUB or Adobe PDF (which will work fine for your Nook, or Sony Reader, or many other eReaders) but not Kindle. Furthermore, Penguin is not licensing any of their new books for any format – so it appears that we will not be able to purchase any new Penguin published books.

ECRL regrets that some of our current books are not available to Kindle owners. It’s not a decision made by ECRL, and we’ll continue to advocate on behalf of all eBook readers and keep you, our public, informed through this blog.

More information is available in this article from Digital Shift.
Notice from OverDrive concerning non-availability of Penguin books for Kindle

Barbara Misselt, Director

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