I work for a large library system. And for a few years we’ve had an ebook collection, contracted through Overdrive.
We have a decent collection, but when we first acquired our ebooks, something which I didn’t quite understand was the concept of “licenses”. Sure, I understood the idea as it related to software. But I couldn’t fathom why that should apply to books.
My patrons have the same problem. I walked a lost soul through the thickets of ebook borrowing the other day. As I explained the parameters of library ebooks, she became more incensed.
“See,” I explained, “ebooks are like physical books. Just as we buy a certain number of copies of physical books, we buy a certain number of “copies” of ebooks. We’re buying licenses, just like for software.”
“But,” she countered, “they’re not software. They’re books, just in electronic form.”
“I agree. However, we don’t make the rules. We just have to explain the assinine rules to our patrons.”
Here’s how it works. Most publishers give you a discount on the ebooks. BUT, after 26 or so checkouts, you have to buy an entire new license. That would be like having to throw away a physical book after 26 checkouts and buy an entirely new replacement.
Some publishers don’t make you buy a new license after a certain amount of checkouts. But, to recompense themselves, they charge upwards of $80 for just one license.
These are the reasons why no library has the number of ebooks that Amazon has. It is just too expensive for a public library, with limited funds, to build an extensive ebook collection.
See how I mentioned Amazon? There’s a reason for that.