Carry On My Wayward Collection

From Library Journal:

The state librarian of Kansas, with the backing of state attorney general’s office, is planning to terminate the Kansas Digital Library Consortium’s contract with ebook vendor OverDrive and is asserting the bold argument that the consortium has purchased, not licensed, its ebook content from OverDrive and, therefore, has the right to transfer the content to a new service provider.

But wait! There’s more!

Budler said the current contract, which expires in December, required the state library to obtain permission from the publishers to transfer the content. As a result, she has sent two rounds of letters to 168 publishers (on May 16 and June 10) seeking their consent "to transfer this digital content from the current platform supplied by OverDrive to a new platform provider. It is understood that the same Digital Rights Management and the same user restrictions (one copy, one user) will be enforced by the new platform provider," the June 10 letter reads.

"I’m not sure [publishers’ permission] is absolutely required but certainly we are making a good faith effort to comply with the contract’s terms," said Chanay, who assisted Budler in writing the letters.

Chanay said that at some point "it may become a bigger deal" if some publisher decided to take issue with the transfer of content.

I will eagerly await how that situation will resolves itself. Which publishers, if any, will object? And under what grounds? And what will it mean for the libraries in Kansas (or any state, for that matter) that seek to move content from one eBook provider to another in the future? I can imagine another round of fallout akin to the HarperCollins fiasco if any of the major publishing houses say no.

On its face, the article sounds like an excellent supporting argument for outright library eBook ownership. Considering the time and expense required to move purchased material by gaining permission alone, the contract hoops that the Kansas State Library is required to jump makes it a costly one. Perhaps that is part of the business plan; to make it so that changing providers is such an ordeal and undertaking that it will discourage all but the most frustrated of librarians to endure it.

My wonder is how something like this will change the language on future contracts with other states. I don’t imagine publishers allowing Overdrive to put them in this spot again.

This will be one to watch.

(h/t: LISNews)

4 thoughts on “Carry On My Wayward Collection

  1. Oh, the language of the contract has already changed. My library’s two year old contract explicitly states that we give up access to our content should we sever our relationship with OverDrive. I’ll be eagerly watching the Kansas story unfold, in hopes that it will begin to change how acquisition of e-content happens.

    • If your contract is any indication, it means that libraries will stick it out or just eat the loss when it comes to content. That’s rather unfortunate and makes me more opposed to current eBook licensing practices.

  2. You said, “Considering the time and expense required to move purchased material by gaining permission alone, the contract hoops that the Kansas State Library is required to jump makes it a costly one.”

    I agree, but not just in the time and expense required to move purchased material. It’s the initial investment in general. With the clear limit of competition in acquiring ebook content for mobile devices, I worry that libraries that are keen to meet their user’s needs will make a large investment (Overdrive start-up costs) and feel caged when other alternatives come around.

    This is an interesting one to watch. Thanks for highlighting it.

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