Archive for November, 2011

In an October 2011 ITI Newlink article, Nancy K. Herther described a battle between OverDrive, the global provider of digital content,  and the Kansas State Library over the terms of their contract and pricing for eBooks.  One of the fundamental issues for libraries in the provision of eBooks to users, has been the ownership of content that they have purchased from eBook vendors and their right to lend that content —  not just through the duration of their contracts or licenses, but after the contract has ended.  Until recently libraries have assume that they owned the content and vendors have not claimed otherwise.

But with the skyrocketing adoption of eBooks, more and more publishers and vendors have taken a contrary position, claiming that libraries are only buying access and only for the duration of the contract.  In one of the most audacious moves by a publisher, HarperCollins decided to restrict the lending/downloading of eBooks to 26 occurrences on each library website, at which point the library would need to pay again for access to that content.  This caused an uproar and HarperCollins has faced harsh criticism for its announcement.

As Ms. Herther’s article states, the Kansas case raised a variety of important issues and problems in the eBook industry, including competition over platforms, buyers’ rights and the still unstable relationship of eBook vendors with publishers, libraries and consumers.  With the relationships continuing to take shape, libraries are adapting to various methods of providing this form of digital content to users.  However, one well known librarian, Sarah Houghton-Jan (aka the Librarian in Black) feels that the licensing relationship with eBook suppliers has been a huge mistake.  She points to non-profit models such as the Open Library project and Library Renewal and others as one possible way out of the current conundrum.

The story is far from over, but the Kansas State Library’s battle holds lessons for libraries in many other jurisdictions.

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