The Industry Leader: Tip of the Hat, Wag of the Finger

RF typically avoids discussing individual library vendors. We wish to be impartial and objective, neither advocating nor decrying any company's products and policies. Industry leading OverDrive has been recently much in the news (and sometimes not in the news when they perhaps might be). In the spirit of the hibernating Stephen Colbert (the star of Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report" and not the still-very-much-awake host of "The Late Show"), we offer a few tips of the hat and wags of the finger.

As reported by LJ in August, Sno-Isle and OverDrive tried demand-driven patron acquisition of titles. Patrons could select titles from OD's full catalog, with Sno-Isle picking up the cost and delivering content seamlessly. Results are encouraging, but the more expensive e-audiobooks soon proved to be a budget breaker and had to be scaled back. Special provisions prevented titles from being duplicated, so popular best sellers were not delivered over and over. A tip of the hat to OverDrive, with a RF thanks for being willing to experiment with a new model. Sno-Isle rightly issues some cautions about budgeting for this model, but it is delightful to see a library vendor respond to a request for creative solutions to getting patrons exactly what they want as quickly as is possible.

A wag of the finger to publishers who will not let even backlists be obtained for simultaneous access by customers on a per-download basis. This model could work--that is to say, create greater demand for your titles and more money for you.  Why not think about it?

A Wag of the Finger at OverDrive for its privacy policy. ReadersFirst has long advocated using the library barcode as the only identifier, authenticated only by a bounce against the library's ILS and with emails only used to notify of holds. The need to sign up for and authenticate an account via email should be avoided.  At least two large library systems are leaving OD for the competition in September, with Miami-Dade stating in a note to its patrons "Our decision also takes into consideration the protection of our patrons’ privacy from third party data mining. MDPLS’s Axis 360 service does not require you to create a separate account with a third party. You simply download the app, authenticate your library card number and PIN, and start reading or listening. Your Axis 360 username is not authenticated and your email address is only utilized by the app to send you notifications to pick up your holds. In contrast, OverDrive requires you to create a separate account directly with them in addition to your library account." RF supports these libraries and advises OD to consider the consequences of its policies. A monopoly on Kindle format isn't enough to keep library customers.

CORRECTION:  OverDrive points out that use of a library barcode without an email account is an option. Since OverDrive agreed to this option at ReadersFirst's suggestion some three years ago, and since we knew it was in place at one point, we are delighted to see it is still an option. RF regrets the error and takes back this wag of the finger.   

A Wag of the Finger at OD over dissolving its partnership with Barnes & Noble--not because of it did but for not releasing any notification of it. We don't blame OverDrive looking after its business interests. Besides, nobody rally wanted ANOTHER app to get content, and this system required not one but two apps--yukk! Why not at least tell libraries? A tip of the hat to  Nate Hoffelder at The Digital Reader for sharing the news.

A Tip of the Hat to OverDrive for offering tests of the new version of their app in beta. Testers are asked to say nothing about the app, so it may be some time before we get news about it. That OverDrive is soliciting librarian feedback is, however, to its credit.

Librarians often have a love-hate relationship with vendors. We like what they provide and dislike our dependency on them. RF hopes that OD appreciates the tips and will accept the wags in the spirit of constructive criticism. 

Do you have any tips or waqs to add? 

Michael Blackwell @ St Mary's