Has Amazon and Overdrive 'screwed' the libraries? Maybe, maybe not

Has Amazon and Overdrive 'screwed' the libraries? Maybe, maybe not

Summary: Or do libraries have to move with the time?

TOPICS: Amazon

California librarian Sarah Houghton has recorded a video in which she Amazon and Overdrive's library lending program 'anti-user, anti-intellectual freedom, anti-library' and says that libraries have been 'screwed'.

Here's the video (Warning: Some language may be NSFW.):

There's a complete transcript of the video here.

Here's the core of Houghton's argument against the electronic lending system:

So how is this different, right? Well, unlike on all the other formats and devices, when you check out a Kindle book from Overdrive, it dumps you out on the Amazon web site, and you conclude the transaction there. And the transaction ends with a pitch for you to buy more books.


So many libraries have a rule that we cannot endorse companies or promote a particular product or service, and with one fell swoop many of us are now doing that through this Kindle lending program that we have through Overdrive. So hey, are we aware of that? Probably not. So that's not cool. So we need to tell Amazon and Overdrive that that's not cool.


The other thing that's really distressing is that all of the data about users' borrowing practices with library ebooks is being kept by a corporation now. So Kindle has allowed Amazon to harvest all of this borrowing data. So it's an instant violation of all of our privacy policies. So most of our policies in libraries have some statement of "This is the data that's kept by us or our vendors or if you're on our web site or if you're using databases." Guess what. It's moot. Right? Because if they're using a Kindle, Amazon's keeping friggin' everything. And we haven't told people that, and we need to tell people that.


And maybe Amazon and Overdrive - there's the possibility you don't understand how grave an issue that is for us, how serious it is. Maybe you really don't understand what it would be like to live in a police state, where you can get punished for your ideas and the police can use the things that you choose to learn against you. Maybe you really don't understand how core and critical an issue that is for libraries, and how critical an issue it is for a successful society. maybe you don't get it.

Okay. But you know what? I do.

So it comes down to two issues:

  • Commercialization of the library system
  • Privacy

Houghton makes some valid points and overall has a compelling argument. But there's a 'but' ...

See, I think that there are several aspects to the whole Amazon/Overdrive electronic library lending debate that Houghton misses entirely:

  1. Accessibility Electronic lending will make the library service more accessible to a far wider audience that traditional bricks-and-mortar, and that's a positive thing all round.
  2. Choice I'm assuming here that Amazon and Overdrive aren't putting a gun to people's heads and forcing them to use the electronic lending service over going o the library and grabbing a physical copy of the book. People sign up to the service willingly. There's no coercion. It's a choice.
  3. Privacy I get the privacy issue, but overall how many people really care about who knows what book or books they've borrowed from the library or bought? Seriously. I know that some people do care about such things, but these people either won't sign up to an electronic system in the first place because they're aware of the associated 'risks' of doing business on the internet, or they're already leaving a massive electronic paper trail behind them that 'the man' (whoever that might be) will be able to follow from a mile away (with or without the appropriate judicial approval).
  4. Buying the book is not evil If people are offered the chance to buy the book, and they do so, then is that so evil? At the very least, it benefits the publisher/author, which is a good thing, and it also frees up a book for the next person wanting to borrow it.

What do YOU think? Is the Amazon/Overdrive electronic lending system 'anti-user, anti-intellectual freedom, anti-library' and the libraries are 'screwed,' or is i a sign of the times and libraries and librarians need to move into the 21st century?

(Image credit: timetrax23)

Topic: Amazon

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  • RE: Has Amazon and Overdrive 'screwed' the libraries? Maybe, maybe not

    I'm not sure on the privacy issue, but I think she's dead on with the comericalization issue. The main reason I think this, is when I check out books from the Overdrive app on my Tablet, I'm not taken to a sales page. When I checkout overdrive books to use on my Nook, I'm not taken to a sales page. This seems to be exclusive to Amazon, and that's a little fishy.
  • The libraries must adapt or perish

    Look it doesn't matter what some irate librarian thinks, it's not her choice. Her patrons, her customers, who also happen to be taxpayers and thus ultimately her employers, are deciding how this is going to go down. Counties are on the verge of bankruptcy damn near everywhere. Large, well-equipped libraries on prime real estate, populated largely by homeless people, are on the way out or going to be severely downsized. They can either find a way to service their customers, you know the ones with actual money who pay taxes and buy ebook readers, or go under.

    Don't get me wrong, I love libraries, and I still vote to keep them funded. But the economics of it are looking bad, at least in their present forms.
    • Like all govt programs libraries are inefficient

      Private libraries existed before and there's no reason for them not to exist now. Research libraries are a special niche that will always exist but the county library with its overpaid staff and all of the fluff items like toys, movies, etc that they loan out, deserve to be closed.
      • RE: Has Amazon and Overdrive 'screwed' the libraries? Maybe, maybe not

        @otaddy And you sir deserve to be fired from your job. Seriously what kind of crap is this you posted here? Did some library worker steal your wife/ girlfriend from you?

        Here's the thing - how many people have access to ereaders? What about those who cannot afford one? Left those people out didn't you? Why should their access to books be limited?
  • The privacy issue is paramount

    I don't want the government or a corporation to know what I have been reading in the library. It is none of their *@&! business.
    • What makes you think


      They don't already know? Buy books, pay cash, don't give them email or phone number.
    • But of course the govt can access your library records

      @bmeacham98@... Why no concern about this?
  • Libraries are obsolete ...

    ... like newspapers most should be shut down gracefully, with only a few quality cases repurposed or reinvented. They are a facet of the pre-IT revolution destined to be replaced within a generation. Prolonging the agony ... only prolongs the agony.

    Is it irony or coincidence that the decimation of the Amazon forest for pulp ... will be replaced by the AMAZON cloud datacentre?
    • No no no...you can only site pollution/ecological issues

      @johnfenjackson@... when arguing FOR a government program. We are supposed to believe that govt action is good, never mind that they are the biggest polluters on the planet.
      • Say what?

        1. I didn't mention Government.
        2. I like to think for myself regardless of whether I am 'supposed to believe' anything.
        3. A program is good or bad according to its merits ... the reputation of the proposer is irrelevant.
        4. Given that we are chopping down trees to create paper AND producing computers, then cutting out paper will result in less pollution.
        5. Did you mean cite or site?
        6. Can anyone decode otaddy's reply?
    • and burn

      @johnfenjackson@... pulp versus billions of tons of fuel buned or kilograms of uranium fissioned to keep that 'cloud' electrified and alive. Look at all sides. With a book, the book remains tangible/usable for a lifetime and is ultimately recycleable. In the cloud, the power consumed at every stage for one to look at an electric screen (including non-backlit and the network to store and get the data there) in order to read an e-book is converted to heat and lost to us. niether is more evil or less good.
  • Serious library privacy question:

    Are public library users guaranteed confidentiality under existing laws? For example, if a terrorist checked a book on bomb building out of a library, built and used a bomb, and was arrested and brought to trial, could the prosecution obtain information about his library borrowing history and use it against him? Or does the law support confidentiality between librarian and library user?
  • RE: Has Amazon and Overdrive 'screwed' the libraries? Maybe, maybe not

  • RE: Has Amazon and Overdrive 'screwed' the libraries? Maybe, maybe not

  • RE: Has Amazon and Overdrive 'screwed' the libraries? Maybe, maybe not

    Adrian - electronic lending will make books more accessible? Are you joking? First, you have to have a device to read the electronic books on, which costs money. This is money which a lot of people don't have, particularly right now with the economy the way it is. So that limits accessibility to people with a certain amount of disposable income. Also, libraries require you to have a library card to check out books and ebooks. To get the card, you must come into a library branch and show proof that you live in the area serviced by that library system. A few libraries offer online applications, but very few. And you still have to provide proof of residency. So if you live in the area, and have to go to the library to get the card anyway, how are the ebooks more accessible? Libraries are heavily used by low-income people who can't afford to buy books, and can't afford to buy an ereader or a tablet. I would really like to hear how you came to your conclusion.
  • ePub plus Bittorrent equals Privacy

    If you don't want records of what you buy, don't buy through Amazon. Anonymous bittorrent is your friend.
    That leaves the format - epub is the most common, although pdf is up there as well.