Last Week in E-Content

Posted Monday, December 12, 2011 - 08:20

Last week was a busy week for e-content, so here is your quick Monday morning catch up on three trending topics: OverDrive was bad, Kindle was jailbroken, and iBooks was fontified (I think that is the correct word for when you add fonts to a device).

Rumblings continue to plague OverDrive. After last month’s lost-and-found Penguin Kindle loans (new Penguin ebooks are still “lost” to library lending), librarians continue to take a critical look at OverDrive’s business practices. Sarah Hougton, Librarian in Black, has been tracking down the differences in what OverDrive is willing to sell to particular libraries. You may think you bought in to the full OverDrive catalog when you paid for the platform, but it turns out that OverDrive limits titles to some. Houghton has the story from Ryan Claringbole at Chesapeake (Va.) Public Library as well as screen shots showing the titles that CPL cannot access. The cause of this, it turns out, is that Chesapeake Public Library is . . . well. . . a library. They have nonresident borrowers and other shocking instances of library misdeeds.

When Claringbole asked OverDrive about the missing books, he was told that “since the Chesapeake Public Library System allows reciprocal cards and purchased full service cards for patrons outside of the City, certain publishers won’t allow access to their eBooks at all, according to OverDrive. And by ‘no access’ it means that those items won’t show up in our Marketplace.” The backup clause from the OverDrive contract is vague (but quite threatening):

Access to the Application Services shall be limited to those patrons of the Library that have the required relation to the Library to receive a library card (“Authorized Patrons”). Library shall not provide access to the Application Services to any end users who are not Authorized Patrons. Authorized Patrons shall be defined as individuals who can provide proof of residency, employment, or enrollment in school or similar institution in the Library’s service area. Online library card applications and issuance, with or without any fees, that provide access to the Application Services without proof of the required library relation (as referenced in the foregoing sentence) shall not be permitted. OverDrive reserves the right to immediately terminate this Agreement if Library provides access to the Application Services to end users who are not Authorized Patrons.

This issue promises additional PR nightmares for OverDrive even as it is still smarting from the Penguin disaster. I for one have lingering questions about the contractual oddities around the sudden loss of Kindle lending rights that had been “sold” to libraries. Did OverDrive sell libraries something that it never secured contractual guarantees to be able to offer? Or did Penguin breach its contract with OverDrive and pull its content? And if that was the case, why didn’t OverDrive exercise more diligence in protecting the public funds we spent with the company?

In other quick news bits of note, The Digital Reader reports that the Kindle Touch (5th gen) has been jailbroken to allow back-end access to the operating system (a bit of JavaScript and a lot of HTML5). The hope is that this could lead to an EPUB reader sometime in the near future. This morning, Boing Boing is covering minor but aesthetically important cosmetic changes to Apple’s iBooks. These include the addition of a night-time reading theme (white text on black), a full screen mode (no more “bookness” and center fold), and a few new fonts (check the comparison on Boing Boing).