It looks like there may be another major player in the library ebook market.

Baker & Taylor (B&T) is one of the oldest print book distributors, but it only recently entered the ebook market with its own fully fledged digital media platform, Axis 360. Since its launch in June 2011, the platform has gained some traction, with 107 libraries having signed contracts as of March 5 (38 sites are live).

This article is very encouraging. I'm interested to see how it shakes out. I really would like my library to offer ebooks from someone other than Overdrive. I think the fact that Axis 360 doesn't yet offer epub is a real detriment so until they offer more common formats, I think they are going to have a struggle.
I was just clicking around my library's ebook site and discovered that all 7 of the Harry Potter books are listed as pre-order. My library will do this with books and allow people to get put on a hold list prior to the release of the books. The release date is April 30, 2012 (and I just have to say, "OMG J.K. Rowling, fucking finally!")

What I find interesting, though, is that the books are only being offered in epub format.
In addition to the restrictions from several of the "big 6" publishers--Macmillan and Simon & Schuster don't allow ebooks through Overdrive at all, Penguin's stopped allowing new content & shut off Kindle access, and Harper Collins only lets them be loaned out 26 times--a new twist in the OverDrive contract has turned up: different selection based on libraries' card policies. If the library allows non-residents access to their ebooks, they get a much smaller selection.

And they work to hide that detail, because dayamn I couldn't write a less-clear contract bit if I tried:
This is an *impressive* example of obfuscatory verbiage )
I was on Overdrive this morning trying to remember what book I was wanting to search for* when I see some new links. In the spirit of curiosity and dead cats, I clicked. Overdrive is now offering DRM-free books. So, when they have a book that has a DRM-free version, it is called Open epub/PDF and has a cute little green, unlocked padlock symbol. The version that has DRM has a red, locked padlock symbol. These unlocked books still have a due date but I'm not sure how they can even enforce that without DRM. Now, there aren't a lot yet and the vast majority seem to be from O'Reilly but the fact that it's now one of the offered formats is, in my opinion, a tremendous step forward. I did get myself on the waitlist (yes, ridiculous, artificial scarcity, yada) for 3 Stargate:Atlantis official fanfiction books.

*Seriously, I have no idea what it was but I remember thinking about it and being really excited so I hope I eventually remember.

ETA: The vast majority on the first 3 pages were from O'Reilly but it looks like it's mostly science fiction with a couple of romance thrown in. Of course, this is my library so ymmv.
Amazon's talking to publishers about a "digital library" or subscription ebook service, like Netflix. I like the idea; I can't see it working, at least, not soon.

Movie contracts have had, for many years, a provision for royalties for broadcast; adapting that to paid-subscription broadcast instead of open-public broadcast is a lot simpler than creating a provision for broadcast from scratch. Book publishing contracts generally don't have a clause about rental royalties--because when books are sold, the new owner can rent them any way they want. Selling digital access is a licensing fee that doesn't fit the standard contract structure, and authors are likely to be suspicious of whatever they're offered.

Especially given the bad accounting and rights grabs and bizarre royalty change demands that publishers are often prone to; authors have little incentive to just agree to whatever terms publishers suggest for subscriptions.

Not impossible; just unlikely in the current quagmire of legal, social & technological issues )
babaca: (Sanzo)
([personal profile] babaca Mar. 4th, 2011 03:54 pm)
Unfortunately for me there isn't an overdrive library near me unless I get a library card in some cities just outside of where I live but...

Harper Collins are forcing Libraries to re-buy new ebook copies after checking them out 26 times.

The link will take you to the story and a video of a library in Oklahoma expressing their dismay over this.

That just seems so wrong. I could see if the epub file got corrupted (in that case I still think the distributor would just send out a new copy to a library. Does HarperCollins think libraries make lots of money? Because I can tell you ... they don't.

[Edit: Seems you guys were talking about this days ago. I really haven't been visiting the journals much these days... so pardon. Although I still found the video kind of interesting.] :)
So, has everybody heard about HarperCollins gouging libraries for ebooks?

Library Journal:

In the first significant revision to lending terms for ebook circulation, HarperCollins has announced that new titles licensed from library ebook vendors will be able to circulate only 26 times before the license expires.

Smart Bitches blog:

In other words, the publisher sets a limit to the number of times a digital book can be lent, then when that limit is reached, that library must purchase another copy.

But wait! There’s more! That mysterious “publishers” referred to in the OverDrive email also says they want access to patron information.

[emphasis mine]

Cory Doctorow @ BoingBoing:

I've talked to a lot of librarians about why they buy DRM books for their collections, and they generally emphasize that buying ebooks with DRM works pretty well, generates few complaints, and gets the books their patrons want on the devices their patrons use. And it's absolutely true: on the whole, DRM ebooks, like DRM movies and DRM games work pretty well.

But they fail really badly. No matter how crappy a library's relationship with a print publisher might be, the publisher couldn't force them to destroy the books in their collections after 26 checkouts. DRM is like the Ford Pinto: it's a smooth ride, right up the point at which it explodes and ruins your day.


Hashtag #hcod
HarperCollins tweet regarding the mess:  We're reading your posts-and listening to our authors. If you want to share longer thoughts with us, email

Feel free to post additional links in the comments.

ETA: Courtney Milan, author, "On Eating Your Seed Corn":

Publishers, if you make it impossible for young people–those in the “under 25″ category–to support a good reading habit on their own dime, these people are not going to start magically spending money on books when they start making a decent income. No; at that point, they’ll already have started spending their time haunting hulu instead, where they can actually get free entertainment. And when they start making money, they’ll be buying iTunes streams of those shows they watched for free.



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