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  Public Library Director's Guidebook


Modern technology has made it possible for libraries to offer ebooks - the text of books available for download to a dedicated reader, such as the Kindle or Nook, a tablet, a smartphone, or even a PC. Access to ebooks can be purchased for the library through the Nebraska Overdrive Consortium. Overdrive also provides audiobooks.

Patrons often bring lots of questions about e-Books and e-Readers to the library looking for help and answers. This is a format that has quickly become mainstream and an expected collection in any library. The Nebraska Libraries Overdrive Group provides a valuable opportunity for libraries to offer their patrons e-Books.

How do people read e-Books?

e-Books can be read on a number of devices though recently tablets and smartphones have become very popular. In some cases, different devices will work with different formats of e-Books. For instance, only books in Amazon Kindle format (AZW) can be read using an Amazon device. Some platforms like Overdrive offer in-browser readers that require no downloads. Visit to read more about popular e-readers and formats.

The Nebraska Library Commission also offers e-Reader training with hands-on opportunities to play with devices and download items from Overdrive. Contact your system director to learn more.

How much do they cost and are there any restrictions to circulation?

Patrons may assume library e-Books are purchased and function similarly to e-Books purchased by individuals through stores like Barnes and Noble. However, due to pricing and lending restrictions there are some differences. The "Big 5" publishers (Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster) have set pricing and lending practices that in many ways disadvantage libraries trying to build an e-Book collection. The "Big 5" pricing and lending practices can be seen on this PDF from ALA's website.

Libraries pay a premium price for each e-Book title they purchase. Publishers typically use the hardcover edition as a measure for the mark up. Some set prices at three or four times the retail hardcover price. Others have lending restrictions that require libraries to re-purchase a title after twenty-six checkouts. With these restrictions it is more accurate to say that libraries lease e-Books rather than purchase. Many titles do not allow simultaneous checkouts, meaning one title can be checked out by one person at a time. This is counter to many people's expectations since the content is digital and reproducible.

Are there privacy concerns with e-Books? What is Digital Rights Management (DRM)?

Checking out and downloading e-Books does not pose a threat to an individual's privacy though the platforms, devices, and software someone is using to access and read e-Books will have its own privacy policies. For instance, users checking out Kindle format e-Books are redirected to Amazon's website where their privacy policy is in use, not the user's local library policy. In Fall 2014, it was reported that Adobe Digitial Editions was transmitting reader data in plain text (not encoded) to its servers. See the Ars Technica article to read more about this specific issue. Since then, Adobe has rolled out changes to address these privacy concerns. This news was important because many libraries recommend using Adobe Digital Editions (ADE) to patrons trying to read EPub formats. ADE manages a digital title's rights meaning how long a file can be checked out, to which devices, and allows automatic return at the end of the checkout period. In essence, digital rights management (DRM) is a lock on a digital file and it is the mechanism that allows checkouts and returns of library e-Books.

How do libraries purchase e-Books to circulate?

If your library is a member of the Nebraska Libraries Overdrive Group, purchasing is done through the Overdrive Marketplace. Title recommendations can be sent to the volunteer collection development coordinators. Visit for contact information under the Collection Development heading.

Some libraries choose to use other platforms, in which case purchasing is done through those. Examples of other lending platforms and vendors include 3M's Cloud Library, Ingram's MyiLibrary, and ODILO TID.

Are there ways to get free e-Books?

Check out for free e-Books of works in the public domain. Sites like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, etc. will have free e-Books available and special deals.


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