OverDrive Adopts a ReadersFirst Suggestion

When OverDrive released the update to their app last Fall, ReadersFirst liked moving away from the need for Adobe authorization for ePub titles but had reservations about the need for readers to provide a personal email to authorize the app. Our Working Group entered discussions with OverDrive, suggesting the possible use of readers’ library card numbers instead of emails. We are pleased to see that OverDrive has adopted our suggestion. At ALA, they explained library card numbers would be an option in their new and forthcoming platform. It is a win for library eBook Readers and for libraries. We appreciate OverDrive's responsiveness.

Use of the library card number to authorize apps or otherwise use eBooks offers many benefits:

·         It offers a small measure of privacy and anonymity in a world in which both are increasingly scarce, fitting in with libraries’ concern for patron rights.

·         No functionality is lost: Readers may still provide an email for necessary transactions, such as obtaining holds, with less concern about how their email addresses and personal reading habits are being used or tracked

·         It foregrounds the library as the provider of all content and offers fewer accounts for library users to remember

ReadersFirst calls upon all vendors to provide the option of authorization through library card number, especially via API working across systems. The technological hurdles, if any, can be cleared today using readily available means. A future in which readers could visit their libraries’ catalogs or apps, enter a library card number once, and enjoy access to all eContent across all platforms on all devices without once leaving the virtual "home" library is attractive in its simplicity and respect for readers’ time and privacy.

Michael Blackwell for the ReadersFirst Working Group