Joe Follansbee, an independent publisher, writer, journalist and blogger based in Seattle, has started a very interesting and disturbing thread on Linkedin about a problem with how ebooks are included in the set up that Kindle and Overdrive have with libraries in America, which I felt was important enough to share with you guys.
It seems that once again, in the USA at least, the Moloch of large corporations is riding rough shod over small companies and individuals, to the detriment of us all. And certainly to our detriment when it precludes any ebooks written and published by small companies or individuals getting into public libraries.
Not exactly censorship, but it would have a very serious effect on the spread of non- mainstream literature if it isn’t addressed and changed.
It appears that this problem may well be local to the USA rather than international, or at the least, based on a misunderstanding between Overdrive/Kindle and public libraries. If this last is the case, then the sooner that the interested parties get together and sort it out the better.
So, here is what Joe has had to say on this issue with his full permission to quote him:-
I’d like to relate my experience following up with my local library after hearing about the Overdrive deal to distribute Amazon ebooks via public and school libraries. As an independent publisher, I won’t benefit from this deal. But I believe Overdrive’s business practices will exclude a significant number of non-traditional publications teachers and library patrons use for historical research. This represents a step **backward**, not forward, as libraries pursue a mission of information curation and distribution for the benefit of their patrons.
I applied to Overdrive as publisher, hoping to make my ebook historical novel, Bet: Stowaway Daughter, available in the Seattle Public Library. I planned to give copies to the library, as I have done with print versions of my other books. (The novel is not available as a print book.) I live in Seattle, and I’ve supported the library for decades. The novel is strongly rooted in Seattle’s maritime history, and I believe teachers and patrons interested in local history would benefit. Seattle Public Library has a strong print collection of local history and local authors, as do most community-based libraries.
However, I did not qualify as a publisher under Overdrive’s criteria, and when I approached SPL and offered to give electronic files in EPUB and PDF formats so that local readers could download it, SPL said it could not accept my book, even as a gift, because I had to distribute it via Overdrive. It’s a classic Catch-22.
The implications of my experience go far beyond my own disappointment. I have worked with local non-profit historical societies and small museums for years. They are unappreciated treasure troves of information. Many publish books, though usually once a year at most. Many receive grants to publish these books, and the grants often require gifting some copies to local libraries. This is easy to do with a print book. It appears impossible to do with an ebook, at least through Overdrive.
We all agree that ebooks will become a major, if not primary, method of book consumption in the next few years. Patrons who prefer ebooks will start to look for publications on local history in public and school library catalogs. However, if public and school libraries require these small non-profits to go through a third party to make their books available, and if Overdrive continues to require high volumes from publishers before including their books in its distribution system, tens of thousands of local history books will be excluded from the ebook universe. Students, genealogists, academic researchers, authors, and people who just want to know more about their community will lose opportunities to learn about how and why their town came to be what it is, increasing the risk that local history will be lost. This is unacceptable.
Thus Joe’s experiences.
In England it seems the problem has been resolved:
Another member of this forum (Jean Innes, a British librarian) said that in her library they had no such problems, and had made use of a section of Overdrive called “Community” to place non-mainstream ebooks with no problems.
So, Joe promptly contacted his local public library to find out what they thought of this solution, and this is what they told him.. so it isn’t quite as straight forward as Jean thought, apparently:-
The library is not making use of the Community Reserve feature at this time, partly due to the OverDrive requirement that the library supply metadata which can be costly to produce and the return on the investment minimal given anticipated use of the resource.
Joe finishes of with this comment:
It seems that the issue I brought up in my original comment is real, though the actual impact may vary from library to library, depending on internal policies and how a library works with Overdrive. Jean’s library system in the UK seems to have worked out the kinks, but at least some libraries in the US haven’t. Why do we Americans always seem to be behind the curve?
Adders in the grass here…. Beware!
So, if you combine this with the problems of data collection that has upset numerous librarians all over the world (read post on this), it would appear that as the Dutch put it, there is a large nest of Adders lurking in the grass around this system that Amazon and Overdrive have put in place for libraries to lend Kindle ebooks, and it all obviously needs to be looked at very carefully by librarians.
Links to Joe’s various websites:
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So, is it a case of Goliath flattening poor little David, or is there a realistic way in which David can win this particular fight?