In Run-Up To Kindle Lending Program, Libraries Beef Up E-Book Offerings

The number of people that check out e-books from libraries is still relatively small–under 15 percent, according to a January Digital Book World survey. But as e-book sales surpass print sales and e-readers add support for lending books, libraries and publishers have to respond quickly. Now OverDrive, the leading distributor of e-books and audiobooks to libraries, has announced a series of updates to its platform that should improve the selection of e-books available to library patrons.

The update, called OverDrive WIN, will be officially announced at the American Library Association Annual Conference in New Orleans at the end of June. For now, in addition to streamlining e-book checkout process at libraries, OverDrive says the update will:

-Offer support for Kindle Library Lending coming later this year, in addition to every major operating system, reading device, and mobile platform
-Add hundreds of thousands of in-copyright e-book and digital audiobook records with free “E-Book Samples” for immediate access on reading devices and platforms
-Enable patron driven acquisition, an opt-in program that will allow readers to immediately borrow a title, recommend to a library, or “Want It Now” from online booksellers
-Provide new “always available” e-book collections for simultaneous access of romance, self-help, young adult, children, and other fiction materials
-Launch “Open E-Book” titles, free of DRM

E-book lending in libraries has become a major issue for publishers. Two of the “big six,” Macmillan and Simon & Schuster (NYSE: CBS), don’t offer their e-books through libraries at all. Earlier this year, HarperCollins infuriated librarians and readers when it announced that its e-books could only be downloaded from the library 26 times before the license would expire and the library would have to purchase it again. OverDrive was criticized for failing to stand up to HarperCollins, and though the publisher still hasn’t budged on its terms, OverDrive says that the WIN update is in response to “library directors, advocacy groups, and readers” who “challenged” it to balance their interests with publishers’.