E-book are going to a be a subject frequently discussed in the pages of this blog because they are an increasingly popular format and because unlike printed books that public libraries can buy from many vendors while also being able to buy all works put out by all publishers; e-books are a format that publishers are blocking public libraries from owning.

To be more precise, our library purchases e-books via OverDrive the vendor that serves most public libraries in the United States; and we can only purchase e-books from OverDrive that OverDrive has a license to sell us or in some cases a license to license to us and that is the crux of that matter licensing versus owning. When the library buys printed books we own them and can loan them to patrons through out the Southern Tier Library System and keep them in our collections indefinitely but when we buy e-books from OverDrive they can only be downloaded to certain ereading devices and in a certain way required by the publishers and some publishers won’t sell us e-books they will only license e-books to us for a certain period of time and then they expect public libraries to purchase those e-book titles again.  And the great majority of large publishers won’t sell e-books to public libraries at all which is why if you’re looking for a hot and popular new title put out by Simon and Schuster or MacMillan you won’t find it in the library’s Digital Catalog because those publishers, among others, won’t sell e-books to public libraries.

If it sounds confusing that is probably because it is!

Here is link to a Guardian article, titled Ebooks The Great Disruption, that discusses many of the issues regarding this new format of e-books:


And here is a link to the OverDrive website which offers news about the Harry Potter series becoming available for school and public libraries to “purchase” for their patrons. And you’ll notice I have the world purchase in quotation marks…And that is because libraries will not be allowed to actually buy the e-books but instead will be able to license them and will have to renew that license periodically to keep the Harry Potter books in their digital catalogs:


And if you have any questions about the availability of e-books in public libraries ask the staff at SSCL or simply post a comment!

Linda R.

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