From Steve Potash, CEO of OverDrive:

I am writing in response to the Publishers Association (UK) announcement this week of its position on library lending at the CILIP Public Library Authorities conference, as well as recent reports of publisher concerns about the role and options for public libraries to participate in eBook lending. I am honored to have the privilege of responding on behalf of librarians and the library institutions to which they devote their energies, many of whom OverDrive is proud to count as its partners.

OverDrive’s mission has always been to protect publisher and author rights while providing libraries with premium digital content for their collection. Our secure “one-book, one-user” model has served this mission for years. The Publishers Association is responding to a single isolated incident that was acted on within 24 hours of discovery. In addition, our system has established checks to ensure that libraries are providing eBooks only to those customers in their service area. We have always enforced proper geographic restrictions on the eBooks in our catalog, and will continue to provide publishers with a safe and secure method for distributing eBooks to libraries and library customers online.

Public Libraries and OverDrive are trusted, responsible channels and outlets for publishers and authors to promote and provide access to premium copyrighted eBooks.

OverDrive licenses eBooks under a “one-book, one-user” lending model to UK public libraries. When a public library licenses one copy of an eBook title, only one library customer may access the title at any one time. There are no simultaneous checkouts or downloads for this model, and instead access is limited to the number of licenses of an eBook a library has in its collection. At the end of a customer’s limited lending period, the DRM-protected eBook file expires on a library customer’s computer and device. All eBooks are hosted and remain on OverDrive’s secure servers.

This model has successfully worked for years around the world, providing libraries with access to premium content while generating revenue for publishers.

The current data on eBooks in UK public libraries indicates a stable remote lending model.

OverDrive proudly works with over 50 UK publishers that license eBooks to UK public libraries for lending via remote download. Since the inception of the service over 6 years ago, slightly over 14,000 total eBook units serving public library authorities in Britain, Scotland, and Ireland have been licensed through OverDrive. The average circulation is 2.9 check outs per title. As the service grows in popularity, circulation will increase. But so will the number of units, thereby keeping the circulation per title relatively constant.

UK public libraries working with OverDrive are respecting territorial rights to titles and limiting access to library customers within the libraries service area.

UK public libraries working with OverDrive all require that the user presents a valid, current, authenticated library card prior to borrowing an eBook title. OverDrive performs authentication of each library card to verify its validity. Each UK public library has accepted this requirement for eBook lending. Statements that eBooks are being made available outside the boundaries of libraries’ service areas are inaccurate and do not describe the current status of eBook lending by UK pub libraries.

eBook lending provides valuable sales and marketing support for authors and publishers.

In 2009, visitors to OverDrive-powered library websites viewed more than 401 million pages. Among unique visitors to these download library pages, 80 percent did not check out a digital title, yet still visited 13 pages on average.

eBooks serve readers, students; address public interests and the common goals of authors and publishers.

When a new generation of students, children, young adults, and online readers are stimulated to try a legally licensed and purchased eBook from the public library, publishers and authors win.

The UK public libraries serve the most noble and trusted role of providing the opportunity to read, learn, and become part of the consumer market that authors and publishers both seek. As books and reading compete with every other form of media, video, game, and social network experience, the opportunities to place eBook titles in front of potential new readers and customers is an invaluable service.


For over 25 years, OverDrive has partnered with many of the world’s leading publishers and authors to protect and distribute intellectual property and copyrighted works. We hope to continue the dialog with both libraries and publishers to maximize benefits for all.

For additional reading, download OverDrive’s Thought Leadership White Paper, “How eBook Catalogs at Public Libraries Drive Publishers’ Book Sales and Profits”.

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