overdrive/netlibrary meeting – a dramatic reenactment

I went to a great meeting today. It was a collection of Vermont librarians interested in possibly purchasing digital audiobooks for use in their libraries. It was an informal no vendor meeting to discuss and compare options, look at what did and didn’t work in New Hampshire with Overdrive and get everyone on the same page regarding what has and hasn’t already been done and how the systems work. It was fun, I met some new people and I learned some things. I IMed with a friend from the meeting (yay for library wifi – thanks Brown Public Library) and told him I was talking about downloadable audiobooks and he thought I was in a vendor meeting. He transcribed my likely scenario thusly.

Library: F*ck you.
Vendor: Whatever.. good luck finding another vendor
Library: Grawr. DRM :(

So true. We had maybe two viable options for a library-grade downloadable audiobook service. The weird part is that patrons can more easily buy their own content, but to get the “checkoutability” it requires DRM and that puts this into the arena of the heavy hitters vendorwise.

10 thoughts on “overdrive/netlibrary meeting – a dramatic reenactment

  1. My local public library has both, and as a user I love them both! (But I don’t have an ipod, heh heh.) Overdrive has more current stuff, but I usually have to get on the hold list. NetLibrary has more titles and a wider array of nonfiction. But I used to spend a LOT of money at Audible, so I’m happy. Inexplicably, this particularly library has NOT loaded the records into the catalog, which is just dumb IMHO.

  2. I use the Baltimore County (MD) public library and Overdrive. I dont like that you can’t use iTunes/iPod. My base station computer is an old P4 1G PC running Windows XP, but with only 128 RAM, I have to be patient when doing anything, including downloading the audiobooks. My regular computer is a G4 Powerbook on my wireless network and it sure would be a lot faster if the library used a format compatible with the Macs.

  3. So… there’s no possibility of converting overdrive files to another format?

  4. Ciaran, I think LibriVox is great and I encouraged the librarians to complement whatever they get with free audiobooks at the same time (why not, right?) However Librivox on its own isn’t going to be able to offer current books in digital format and pretty much the only folks that do that are the big vendors, alas.

    Dan, some subsection of Overdrive files are legitimately available for burning and then re-importation into whatever media player or computer you want. The others are not easily burnable but it is possible and of course violates licenses etc. We had a lively discussion about copyright and licensing surrounding that topic at the meeting.

  5. Yeah, no doubt. The Overdrive vendor was particularly smug about telling me that the library RIGHT NEXT TO APPLE HEADQUARTERS in California has now given up and signed on with Overdrive. As will we, since they are they only real game in town.

  6. Sadly, even after putting together a list of freely available non-DRMed audiobooks available out there for download at such places as Librivox, it was pitifully small and my patrons have frankly been uninterested in it. They don’t want Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in eAudio; they want Janet Evanovich and John LeCarre. Until a library vendor exists that offers this in an iPod/Apple-compatible format… Well, sorry, Mac users.

  7. Was there any discussion about the possibility of a large library system negotiating license terms directly with publishers? After all, it wouldn’t be impossible for a library to serve audiobooks itself through a gated system (requiring a library card no., for instance). I tend to think that DRM is a consumer market problem, and progress can be made when consumers actually use their clout.

  8. My library subscribes to Recorded Books, which has a pitiful selection compared to Overdrive. But as an ipod user, my best bet is to go with old technology: I check out books on CD and rip them to iTunes. It is a sad state of affairs indeed.

  9. Keep in mind that the publishers have to be on board with the vendor’s approach to DRM. Otherwise Overdrive doesn’t have a product to sell. Someone has to convince the publishers for Janet Evanovich to go with light or cross-platform DRM solutions that are also acceptable to both Windows and Apple… and the pressure could come from the libraries themselves.

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