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Below is my 10 minute rant about why the Kindle format lending from Overdrive is anti-user, anti-intellectual freedom, anti-library, and something that all librarians should be aware of and disturbed by.  Amazon and Overdrive did wrong by us, and we bent over and took it.  Watch to learn more.  Warning: some language may be NSFW.

Note: Hopefully the video will stay up this time.  I posted it last night and it was flagged and taken down within an hour.  I’ll give you two guesses which company was behind that…

“Libraries Got Screwed by Amazon and Overdrive”

  1. joshua m. neff Says:


  2. Sara Douglas Says:

    Yes! Thank you for giving librarians a voice in this issue!

  3. Charlotte Says:

    Another important problem is that they have not adequately addressed accessibility for screen reader users. Kelly Ford explains some of the problems here: Ensuring non-discriminatory access for library users is just as important as privacy and intellectual freedom.

  4. James Moushon Says:


    Great blog. We have to keep highlighting the restrictive nature of the Overdrive, Amazon and Library relationship.

    Although I blog from the eBook Author’s point of view, I recently posted about some of the issues you raise. Your comment about ‘reader’s having a free choice of which ebook to read’ really hits home to me. Readers don’t have a clear choice. They get to check out only what is provided.

    Not only is Amazon and Overdrive in control but the publishers should get their share of the blame. If a publisher doesn’t want readers to be able to borrow an ebook, it doesn’t happen. For example, MacMillan and Simon & Schuster have opted out of the lending program. Two of the top six.

    Of course if you are a self-publisher, good luck even showing on the radar. We know something is up when the top ebook authors are missing from a library catalog: Amanda Hocking, John Locke, and Louise Voss, all top ebook authors are missing from my local library’s catalog.

    One of the questions I raised in my latest blog was ‘Will a competitor enter the library lending arena and steal the show?’ You know someone without a vested interest in the retail side. I look for more publishers to add checkout limits like HarperCollins and their 26 checkout limit.

    eBook Authors: Is the New Kindle Library Lending Program a New Opportunity for Self-publishers?

    Sarah, keep pushing on this. A library’s life may depend on this.

  5. Sarah Says:

    @Charlotte – thank you for highlighting the accessibility issue!

    @James – thank you for sharing your posts and ideas!

  6. Dave Says:

    I appreciate your passion on this issue and agree in principle. However, as you mentioned, users don’t care about any of this – they just want easy access to content on great devices (see Amazon and Apple and their hugely successful devices and content ecosystems).

    How could Kindle lending work in any other way besides going through Amazon? Perhaps users could forget the whole wireless revolution and instead continue downloading content to their computers and using a USB cable to transfer content to devices, but that’s looking backwards and I don’t think anyone is agitating for that.

    What should we be agitating for? Wireless delivery to the Kindle through Amazon’s servers without them having a chance to give their sales pitch to the user? What does Amazon get out of this and why would they go for it? I don’t know the inner-workings of this, but is Amazon getting any money out of Overdrive? If not, the only way they’ll “play” is to get something out of the deal themselves.

  7. Jamie Says:

    To play devil’s advocate…aren’t our Kindle users already used to the practices of the data that Amazon keeps. They already purchase a product and buy books from a company that tracks their purchases and website use on Amazon. Maybe I’m naive, but I’m not sure its an issue…

    Thanks for standing up for privacy and bringing this to our attention, though. and…what other choice do we really have?

  8. Raffaello Pata Says:

    Great post. I am not necessarily a “library” kind of guy, however, I AM an information junkie. If you look close, I think I see a little smoke ascending from your shoulders. Keep it up.

  9. Linda Says:

    Makes me glad I have a Sony reader. Makes me glad too, that my library hasn’t bought into Overdrive. Makes me want to tell my patrons about all the ways to get free, current, books….as unethical as that may be.

  10. Adina Says:

    Thank you for your point of view.

    I give the caveat regarding privacy when I teach eMedia classes. Most people don’t care about their privacy, especially people used to sharing on Facebook etc. The best we can do is bring the privacy issue up and let them ingest the info or not. We are bombarded by advertising all the time, and therefore, perhaps, inured towards the Amazon pitch.

    Another concept I emphasize, free isn’t free. The users gets a ‘service’ and the ‘service’ gets your information they can use or sell however they please (do read privacy policies if you care) so they can make money.

  11. Aggie Adkins Says:

    I agree with Jamie-digital content IS the wave of the future-if libraries miss that boat, we’ll all be left behind. Kindle users ALREADY agreed to the Amazon policies and they are used to that and Amazon’s communications policies. Amazon is letting public library users use their site to deliver free content-from libraries all over the country-they don’t have to and of course, in this capitalist society nothing comes totally free and Amazon expects something in return. If privacy issues are a problem for you-then you better not get on the internet at all as data mining and information gathering are ubiquitous. This is becoming an all digital society, as such I commend Amazon for partnering with Overdrive and Public Libraries to serve all of the public.

  12. JG Says:

    I would like to see Amazon add an opt-out feature for patrons who do not wish to be tracked. My sense is that very few patrons would actually use it. A number of patrons are actually happy to be tracked, since it improves their Amazon recommendations.

    Actually, both Amazon and OverDrive told us when they signed the deal last spring that Amazon would be tracking checkout info and using it for a sales pitch. Amazon actually touted it as a beneficial feature. They went on about the ease of later buying your own copy, and how any notes or highlighting would be preserved.

  13. Anon Says:

    Great post! Excellent topics that need to be discussed and hammered out (and soon!)

    Another point to think about…..I have been working to develop my library’s eBook collection and have been noticing that some new(er) eBooks are only available in the EPUB eBook format… not Kindle.

    Perfect example – take a look at the title ‘The Night Circus’ by Erin Morgenstern, you can only purchase this as an EPUB eBook, however the same book is available through Amazon’s Kindle Store for purchase. Is Amazon denying libraries access to the Kindle edition of the eBook to generate more revenue?

    And when will this eBook become available for library lending??

  14. Bonnie Says:

    Yes, as others have stated here, digital content is the wave of the future, but I disagree that it is the key to the future of libraries, as I stated here: last month. I don’t think libraries will ever be able to be competitive in the ebook market. Things are changing too fast and will continue to change rapidly. We must make digital content available, yes, and that is where all of this nasty business comes into play and makes it difficult. However, if we rely only on building a future balanced on ebooks, I do not think libraries will survive. We must reinvent ourselves and rethink at least some of our traditional services, etc., in order to secure our place as a necessary and desirable part of every community.

    Thanks, though, for posting this video. I shared it with member s of my System who are currently working on our ebook task force trying to determine whether to move away from OverDrive and, if so, which vendor to choose. This is important information to consider.

  15. Sean Dillon Says:

    I am not a librarian, so I really don’t know, but… don’t the computer systems that libraries use already keep track of everything I’ve ever borrowed? If so, isn’t there equal risk in violating my privacy if a library is subpoenaed to turn over those records, as there would be if Amazon or another service was subpoenaed to turn over theirs? I don’t understand the difference, other than perhaps intent.

  16. librarydonna Says:

    I do agree almost totally however with some questions/points

    a) I think Overdirve are also getting screwed by Amazon, Libraries are demanding Kindle loans above all else. Overdrive are a tiny company compared with Amazon, I don’t think they had much relative bargaining power.
    b) How does this fit in with lending to children? I would assume that US law protects them? Or not? Will their data also be held?
    c) I think most Kindle owners do not see privacy as a problem, in fact they like the recommendations Amazon give them. Of course we think this is terrible but to them borrowing a book via Kindle will be the same as buying a book via Kindle.

    We haven’t got this service in Europe yet, will be interesting to see how it pans out over here…

  17. Kate Fitz Says:

    “I am not a librarian, so I really don’t know, but… don’t the computer systems that libraries use already keep track of everything I’ve ever borrowed”

    No, we do not track everything you’ve ever borrowed. At least at our library (Sacramento County Public Law LIbrary), here’s how it works:

    Our system (Horizon) is set up to show books you currently have out. When you return them, that record is automatically deleted. We do keep data if you currently have fines owing, even if you return the book without paying them. When you call and ask why you have a fine, we can tell you which book was returned late or damaged. Once the fine is resolved, that record is automatically deleted.

    Your record otherwise has no indication of what books you’ve checked out or even if you have checked out one or 1,000. Individual book records show the last person who checked them out (in case they turn up damaged, I guess), but there is no standard search to find “books with Sean Dillon as the last borrower.” Once the next person returns the book, their name replaces yours.

    I don’t know how thoroughly the info is scrubbed; probably if someone did forensics on our server, some data would be there. And if you’re a repeat borrower at our little library the circulation clerks probably know your name and the types of books you tend to borrow. But we won’t tell :)

  18. Jean Costello Says:

    Sarah – kudos, kudos for the substance and delivery of this video. I’ve sent it along to two of the public library directors in my area.

  19. Thoughts from Internet Librarian 2011 | Laurel the Librarian's Blog Says:

    [...] the smackdown (well, more politely, since it was a professional conference and all). She argues here that Amazon and Overdrive have done wrong by libraries and that the current state of affairs needs [...]

  20. mike s Says:

    I think that you are making a mountain out of a mole hill. What Amazon does with the library titles is no different than what Amazon does with titles Kindle users purchase off of Amazon themselves. Kindle users will see no difference than any other title they purchase.

    In the 21st century we live in, people seem to care more that everyone actually knows what they are doing (facebook, twitter etc). Also, a counter argument can be made as to what is more important, protecting the right to privacy when the patron may or may not care, or protecting the right to access the information. I have heard 100% satisfaction from every Kindle user I have spoken to.

    Plus, when using the internet, the maker of the internet browsers collect more information about you than this so this becomes moot just from this point.

    I think you may be fighting a battle no patron asked you to fight.

    I can’t wait for my Kindle fire to arrive.

  21. Tom R Says:

    I posted this to another blog in error and because of the comment I received and reading over what I said I realized I need to make clear my concerns so it doesn’t come across as criticism rather than questions of concern.

    I’m not a librarian but I’ve read two other blogs on this topic and it raises several questions. There is much about what is feared in the blogs but no actual facts about the agreement (between Overdrive and libraries).

    On the Overdrive/Kindle arrangement you state: “I think there is a lot going on here that I think libraries are not aware of or haven’t necessarily thought through because of our greedy attempt to get content into our users hands we have failed to uphold the highest principles of our profession which is intellectual freedom.” My questions are why don’t you or the other librarians know what’s in the agreement?

    I mean this in the sense that libraries have entered into a legal agreement with Overdrive that, no doubt, states what Overdrive can and cannot do with user information. But in your blog or the others I’ve read there isn’t any attempt to tell readers what was agreed to. What information can Overdrive use and what can it legally pass on to Amazon? What’s prohibited? The suggestion here is that libraries haven’t a clue or that they gave away privacy rights for access to a service? What are the facts of the agreement?

    1) Was there no prior discussion?
    2) What institution signs a contract without reading and knowing what in it? Are you saying the libraries have a contract with Overdrive but don’t know what the privacy policy is?
    3) Are you saying the libraries know but have thrown library users under the bus, so to speak?
    4) Are you saying the administrators of the libraries are so incompetent they don’t know or understand the privacy policies they have signed with Overdrive? It’s not a technology issue but a legal document that’s at issue.

    It seems you, yourself, should know this. What are the privacy stipulations between Overdrive and libraries? You say libraries will sign just about anything to get digital content. You are a librarian can you not read the contract to actually quote what it says or will your library not give you access to the document? I have to assume without any actual wording of the contract you haven’t seen it or the library won’t allow you to read it? Without the wording of the contract you are just stating your fears without any substance for them.

    I’m not asking this as an attack on you personally. I’m asking in the sense that this is important information for the reader to understand the level and the nature of the personal information that is passed on to Amazon. Without some actual wording of the contract, we are left to imagine what the treat is. Without some actual wording we are left to think the worst of libraries as an institution when it comes to entering into legal agreements. Or that the agreement is so bad for users libraries have opted not to disclose what’s being given away and, therefore, you have avoid addressing what directly.

    I think this is basic information all readers need to make a judgement about the situation. I assume you know the key wording of the contract and why what’s happen pose a treat to our privacy. Tell us what it is so we have something concrete to go on. How does Amazon through its link to Overdrive have legal access to more private information than Overdrive to use?

    Or to ask this in another way, are you saying the contractual arrangement with Overdrive doesn’t bar it from having access to or passing on more personal information than is allowed Overdrive? What I’m trying to do is get some sense of the issue and without some information on what the agreement with Overdrive is it is impossible to make a judgement. I am and I suspect other readers are only left with the fears expressed.

    I write this as someone who has admired the historical stance of libraries to protect the privacy rights of its users. But so far all I’m hearing is what is feared without actual evidence. What is Overdrive allowed to do with user information?

    I stress Overdrive here because my last reading on this issue said the Amazon agreement is with Overdrive, not the libraries and that the link runs from Overdrive to the Amazon Kindle. If that is so, one must conclude Overdrive can only pass on to Amazon the personal information it’s allowed to contractually collect? And if this conclusion is correct the real question of personal information privacy is what has the libraries over the years agreed to Overdrive collecting and using?

    (I should add again that I’m not a librarian so your blog may be intended for people who already have access to the information and therefore you rightly didn’t feel the need to include it as part of your article/video. But as a library user I’m left wondering what’s going on and if libraries enter into contracts without knowing their full implications or made a conscious decision to forego user privacy.)

    Tom R

  22. Seer Says:

    As a lifelong reader, I have to agree with most of the folks here. We were desperate for content and frankly, I’m not that concerned about the privacy issues as Kindle already has plenty of info. Maybe, I will be in the future, but today I’m much more concerned about the relative price of ebooks, the lack of titles for libraries and the lack of lending rights for ebooks that I have purchased, (or should I say Right to Use, since I paid for ebooks but don’t really own them?) I’m also frankly disappointed that the government library system did not join together much, much earlier to have a strong, combined voice with the book publishers. It’s feels ridiculous to me that individual libraries must all purchase individiual titles and that they are overcharged for them and that some have limited life. That’s truly outrageous. Libraries are there to lend books. Digital content should have made that much, much, easier. There should be statewide or even national ebook libraries with pooled funds. Frankly, I’d be happy to pay my local library some sort of monthly fee to have more unlimited borrowing rights. Unfortunately the library system seems to have been totally swallowed up between Amazon, Apple and Google’s fight for control. And as readers, we aren’t able to count on our library system to stand up for our rights to free access to ebooks. That’s really what I’m more concerned about. Kindle has the most titles, and a very easy checkout system. Their user interface is well above Overdrives. I use an iPad, so I really don’t care that much about format, but I’d prefer to have some universal way of tracking what I’ve read, what I want to read and what I’m waiting for. If Kindle hadn’t started library lending, we’d have no choice but to buy books or use one of the lending sites that allow the very few titles that are enabled. I think pirating would have become popular as well since folks had so very few options and ebook pricing is such a relative rip off. I’m more irritated at the publishers for the outragious pricing and limited use. I was hoping that libraries would be able to mitigate this.

  23. Loose Cannon Librarian | I’m just a nonprofiteer in a for-profit world Says:

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  24. Stephen Says:

    Thank you! All valid points. I’m sincerely glad you’re a librarian.

  25. Amazon, Overdrive, Ebooks … and YOU. | David Lee King Says:

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  26. Dan Nieman Says:

    Excellent post! I am glad there are librarians like you who have put some thought into this situation. I haven’t done the background you have, but when I checked out a Kindle title, I knew we were in trouble when I wound up on the Amazon site. Thanks again for the rant. We needed the wake-up call.

  27. Jean Costello Says:

    After thinking about the video awhile, I wanted to add a few comments that may echo what Tom R. had to say.

    Addressing Amazon, OverDrive, FreeGal and other suppliers (of paid or ‘free’ services like Facebook) won’t be productive. They’re doing a great job for their respective companies and shareholders and have no incentive to change their policies or offer better products as long as libraries collectively spend millions of dollars with them, unwittingly hand over patron data and provide them with free advertising.

    The focus needs to be on the inability of libraries who are entrusted to spend public or institutional funds wisely, protect patron privacy and abide by the law, to operate sucessfully in the digital realm. Evidence is mounting that they’re over their heads. I refer to the topic of this post; the widespread adoption of FreeGal in public libraries despite its high cost, limited value and security flaws; and libraries violation of Netflix’s terms of service as examples.

    My point here isn’t to diss libraries. It is to suggest that libraries and the people that work in them aren’t set up to be successful in the digital age. Across the United States, there are tens of thousands of autonomous libraries & consortia all re-creating the wheel and working to solve the same problems. Each library is a relatively small fish pond and none have the managerial, technical or legal resources to operate successfully in the rapidly changing, rough and tumble world of digital information and commerce.

    I’ve proposed creation of a National Library Corporation, similar to our public broadcasting and national park system in order to centralize where it makes sense while at the same time maintaining local autonomy and authenticity. Such an organization, representing all libraries, would be able to do things like work with suppliers like OverDrive and ExLibris on requirements for better library management systems. It would also be in a better position to negotiate with large non-profit and for-profit entities like Amazon.

    This can’t happen today, even if there was a Sarah Houghton in each and every library across America.

  28. thoughts on revealed preferences from #il2011 Says:

    [...] from Ingram and OverDrive, and Michael Porter representing Library Renewal, and Sarah Houghton-Jan representing, full stop. Diverse perspective, lots of audience interest; good [...]

  29. Steven Bell Says:

    This can be solved in one fell swoop. Get the Kindle to accept non-proprietary ebook formats that lock the users down to Amazon/Overdrive only. It is incredibly old and useless technology but all ebook providers, and library vendors, can then provide content that the bulk of end users can use. It is an anti-competitive stance. It is anti user. Overdrive is too expensive. Amazon is a corporate who only serve the shareholders. We need choice – I refuse t use either henceforth. Thank you Librarian in Black. I am afraid of reprisal, I am afraid of the American corporate legal machine. Thank you for saying this. There are options but we seem to have none.

  30. Charity H. Says:

    What about other ereaders like Nook and Kobo?

    I am a public school librarian and my district has ONLY approved Kindles because they are 508 compliant (text to speech) option.

  31. Jon Cog Says:

    Here’s a complete transcript of Sarah’s video! (Speaking of text-to-speech…) :)

  32. François Says:


  33. Anonymous Howard Says:

    What I got from this video:

    1) Sarah’s favorite type of hat is the tinfoil type.
    2) Sarah is worried her job will be obsolete.

    If you don’t like the program, DON’T USE IT. Problem solved.

  34. Andrew Murdoch Says:

    I just have one question, when you scan my library card and you can see my list of books I’ve checked out then how haven’t you violating the same thing your blaming amazon on?

  35. laura k Says:

    I think you’re right to be concerned about privacy issues, absolutely. I think you and Bobbi are right that we got screwed, because in the negotiations between two corporations about what can be offered to libraries, there were no librarians there.

    However, I also agree with a few commenters who’ve pointed out that Kindle users have already “signed” agreements with Amazon that relinquish some of their privacy. I think our biggest job now is to let users who check out Kindle formats know what they’ve already agreed to. We should keep copies of the Amazon Kindle terms of service, or perhaps create documents that put those TOS in more reader-friendly form. I’m a Kindle user (and a librarian) who’s been checking out Overdrive Kindle books, and personally, I love it. But I already know and agreed to their policies. (I also really appreciate the Buy This Book link, because once I’ve read it, there’s a good chance I will want to buy it, and that makes it easy for me.)

    I don’t want to diminish the concerns you raise; I have them, too. And I think we should keep fighting, perhaps legislatively rather than with our vendors, for better privacy and better digital use rights. But I also think we should offer patrons what they want, while giving them the information they need to make informed choices.

  36. Cybrarian Says:

    Andrew Murdoch: Your question has already been asked and answered. See comment number 17.

    As a librarian, I *AM* concerned about my customers’ privacy, even if they aren’t. However, as “mike s” points out, Kindle owners have already made the decision to share their personal information with Amazon. To quote a popular phrase from a soft drink commercial, “you’ve made some choices to begin with.”

    Librarians must inform their customers of the consequences of their actions. But in the end, each customer is responsible for her own actions.

  37. Spencer Says:

    NOT a big deal. This is the definition of a first world problem. People who buy kindle’s don’t care. People who want to read it don’t care. It’s another avenue of providing materials to patrons- nothing more and nothing less. It’s not our job to be the nannies for our patrons’ privacy. They should read the agreements they sign and take personal responsibility for what they choose to use.

  38. Dan Will Says:

    In the 21st century we live in, people seem to care more that everyone actually knows what they are doing (facebook, twitter etc).

    @Mike, I’m the Technology Supervisor for a library. Am I supposed to not care about my patrons’ right to privacy just because, they don’t seem to care? If the data collected by Amazon just happens to cause some type of harm, I’m sure my patron will say.”oh that’s okay, it was my fault that that happened”. Boy, I wish we lived in a world where that still happened. Unfortunately, most people won’t own up to their own mistakes. This is a sue first, soul search never society.

    I think you may be fighting a battle no patron asked you to fight.

    @Mike, you might be right but, I like to think there are a lot of us that silently thank our lucky stars that there are people who give a sh*t about what is right and what isn’t.

    My 2 cents worth (my comments are mine & mine alone)

  39. Matthew Says:

    @Andrew Murdoch
    The difference is that when the cops come knocking on their door, warrant or no, libraries will fight to keep your information private. Amazon will bend over backward to give them anything they ask for, warrant or no.

  40. Dan Says:

    The hottest librarian I’ve ever seen. I’m going to my local library right now.

  41. Name (Required) Says:

    The Kindle and Amazon totally suck. Like Stalin.

  42. Carolyn Branch Says:

    I commend your courage and your passion – libraries need leaders like you who are not afraid to speak out.

    However, on this point, you may be overstating the problem. I’ve been a Kindle user for almost two years. Many of my friends and family are also avid Kindle users . We all are aware that Amazon keeps track of what we buy, makes recommendations based on our past browsing history, and keeps a copy of everything we buy “in the cloud” in case we ever need it again. (I always know when my son has been using my computer, because Amazon suddenly thinks I’m a Science Fiction reader.) In all the discussions about Kindle I’ve had with library friends, writers, and family, I’ve never heard a single person express any reservations about that aspect of it. Adding our library checkouts to the list is not a big deal. We don’t care.

    Libraries must serve all kinds of people, of course, including those who DO care. Those patrons need to stick to books printed on paper and carried out in a zipped up book bag and not do ANYTHING online, because sooner or later, if it’s online, other people are seeing it.

  43. Marshall Says:

    Sarah, many thanks for the thoughtful overview of this situation.

    It seems closely related to the issues involving the US Patriot Act and libraries. Any chance we can get you to give another great post updating us on the current situation.

  44. Mr Steps Says:

    Totally with you on the incredible potential for abuse with regard to the current ebook market. I prefer my books printed on dead trees until some major privacy/digital rights legislation is passed in this country.

    My ex-girlfriend was flagged back in 2007 for checking-out foreign policy books for use in political science courses, books that were on the Patriot Act watch list. I still find it really disturbing.

    Also, for the record, and this has nothing to do with libraries, the sale of (now defunct) Borders customer information to Barnes and Noble was absolutely shameful on both ends.

  45. Amazon, Overdrive, and Other Reasons to Be Pissed « Agnostic, Maybe Says:

    [...] and Overdrive are back in the online librarian conversation (again), this time lead off by a video rant by Sarah Houghton along with posts by David Lee King and the Annoyed Librarian. (There was a post by Bobbi Newman on [...]

  46. Chris Coles Says:

    May I say, this is by far the best video blog I have ever had the pleasure to watch and listen to. Wonderful! Free thinking without a script. Great stuff!

    The problem is one of monopoly. In the past in every town, let alone city, there were once several suppliers to any particular marketplace. In which case, there was always choice and always the capital available to enable competition. Today, you are faced with total monopoly from a single corporation. This was why, in the past, your nation, (I am British), conceived anti-trust laws.

    Until you all, as a nation, face the simple fact that your economy has become a feudal mercantile economy, dominated by monopoly, you will not get to grips with the underlying problems.

  47. My my…..librarians and their concern | IT, management and secinfo Says:

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  48. Marija Says:

    Sean Dillon Says:
    don’t the computer systems that libraries use already keep track of everything I’ve ever borrowed?

    Sean – it varies from library to library, but most libraries do not keep track of what is borrowed. With our circulation system, no history is kept unless someone specifically asks for it to be kept. Libraries are at the forefront of protecting privacy.

  49. Amazon, Libraries and Ownership in the Digital Age | Guy LeCharles Gonzalez Says:

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  50. The Corkboard | The Power Shift in Patron Privacy Says:

    [...] response and extension of Sarah Houghton’s livid take on the patron privacy in the wake of the Overdrive and Amazon eBo…, I suggest that we use the opportunity not to reform commercial privacy issues but instead to [...]

  51. Jazzmary Says:

    My question is… is there an opt-out for Kindle (or Nook, or any other tablet) owners who check out Amazon materials.. can they delete the tracking cookies? If not, maybe there should be.. then you would have more control over your privacy.. I point you to the current class-action lawsuits mounted against supertrackers like Kissmetric as a way to curb this desire for information. It seems to me that a good workaround to this is to place the issue of privacy importance on the individual user.. then it would be their job to be vigilent, no? I do not mind the Amazon buy recomendation, as long as it is deletable.

  52. Katy M Says:

    Excellent post, thank you! I’ll be bringing this up at work.
    One mention – to clarify for those that are wondering “What’s in it for Amazon?”: the answer is that libraries do in fact pay (and plenty) for titles to be included in their Overdrive service. It is in no way an act of charity on Amazon’s part to offer these ebooks through libraries, and including their “Buy it Now” option is added advertising on top of a service already purchased.
    I’m wondering, too, what the privacy policy looked like in the Overdrive contract (which I personally didn’t see); or if there was one.

  53. Deb Czarnik Says:

    I agree that patron privacy is the responsibility and right of the library and librarians to protect. But I think there is one large misunderstanding here.

    1. OverDrive does NOT pass patron information (not even the barcode) to Amazon, when the patron is directed to Amazon for the Kindle ebook.

    2. It is the patron who selects what Amazon account to use. They do not need to use their retail Amazon account. The patron can create an anonymous account for their library checkouts if they do not want their Kindle eBooks to be tracked.

    Can we do more to explain this to patrons? ABSOLUTELY, but it is the library’s responsibility to the users, and the library community can make suggestions to OverDrive in a civilized manner to make improvements to the process to explain this to patrons. OverDrive *is* responsive to library concerns.

    OverDrive has been an advocate for libraries from the day they launched their ebook service for libraries, allowing us to provide popular eBooks to our library members in a way no other company has. They have jumped through the hoops of an industry behemoth on behalf of libraries to bring eBooks to Kindle patrons WITHOUT charging for this additional format. Along with this deal, OD decided to consolidate and provide all formats for one purchase, when they could have made more money by continuing to charge for each format and adding a charge for the Kindle copies to boot! They worked hard to get us Kindle eBooks, and libraries should be thanking them for their continued efforts and give them constructive advice on how to make the service better.

    I’m frustrated that OverDrive is constantly attacked when I know how hard they are working on behalf of thousands of libraries in this rapidly growing and constantly changing market.

    P.S. Don’t forget that OverDrive also subsidizes 100% of the cost of Bookshare eBook accounts for print disabled library patrons as well.

  54. Has Amazon and Overdrive 'screwed' the libraries? Maybe, maybe not | ZDNet Says:

    [...] librarian Sarah Houghton has recorded a video in which she Amazon and Overdrive’s library lending program ‘anti-user, [...]

  55. Libraries Got Screwed by Amazon and Overdrive - Loss of Privacy Says:

    [...] Librarian in Black: A call to action for librarians about the disturbing side effects to library users of the Amazon [...]

  56. M. Bear Says:

    Thank you for not being a coward.

  57. Will Librarians Revolt Over Amazon’s Kindle Lending Program? | Disinformation Says:

    [...] California librarian is urging librarians to complain to Amazon over issues with privacy and advertising in Amazon’s new Kindle ebook lending program for [...]

  58. Will Librarians Revolt Over Amazon’s Kindle Lending Program? | Vercund Says:

    [...] Revolt Over Amazon’s Kindle Lending Program? October 22, 2011By adminA California librarian is urging librarians to complain to Amazon over issues with privacy and advertising in Amazon’s new Kindle ebook lending program for [...]

  59. I bibliotecari americani adirati per Amazon Overdrive - The New Blog Times Says:

    [...] particolare Sarah Houghton, bibliotecaria californiana, ha deciso di rompere il ghiaccio e ha pubblicato un video in cui – senza trascendere ma pur notandosi un parlare concitato – racconta il [...]

  60. Librarians are Up in Arms Over Amazon - The Digital Reader Says:

    [...] video is a rant by Sarah Houghton of the Librarian in Black blog. She’s pissed over the manner in which Amazon and OverDrive set up the Kindle library [...]

  61. Wendy Says:

    I tried posting on Kindle’s Facebook page about this issue only to trolled by a “concerned” commenter, who advised me to “let it go” because I was “over reacting” and it was a “non issue.” They have now commented a dozen times (and counting) over this “non issue.” More times than me! I find it frustrating to engage with someone who refuses to disagree politely. Using caps, and telling me that everyone else would disagree with me because she does or that the Facebook page is inappropriate because only fans go there (because people who use Kindles aren’t being affected by this?). So if you try to comment via Facebook, please be prepared.

  62. LeeGee Says:

    It is very disturbing and I thank you for bringing up these points. I live in CT and you may remember the case in 2005 where the government tried to bully the library consortium to hand over personal information to the government- The USA Patriot Act vs. the Four Connecticut Librarians who refused to give the FBI names of every single person who used their computers in their libraries.

    And here we are, handing over private and personal information of our patrons to how ridiculous!!

    Of course, I have heard people say that well, if you have nothing to hide…….. it’s not about guilt or innocence, it’s about privacy. And no one should have to be subjected to advertisements and pushes to buy buy buy when borrowing a library material, It goes against the public library’s very purpose.

  63. eBook Link Round Up from Internet Librarian #il2011 | Librarian by Day Says:

    [...] Sarah’s video rant [...]

  64. Dale Copps Says:

    Amazon is a company which I have always respected and which I continue to respect it. It is a well-conceived and excellently run business. It will not (and should not) act against its own interests, which include knowing as much about its customers as possible. Many of its customers, as the comments above affirm, are quite happy with that arrangement. So long as customer data is only used in the interests of the company’s business, it is relatively benign, even as manifested in those annoying emails we receive about checked-out items.

    The problem arises, however, when that data is misused for purposes other than advancing Amazon’s business model. And unfortunately it is far more likely to be misused by our own government (see, e.g., the Patriot Act) than it is by Amazon.

    A more dire threat from Amazon, to my mind, comes from its plans to offer e-lending through its Amazon Prime service. If they pull this off and implement it properly, it is absolutely life threatening for public libraries, as I have written about on my web site.

  65. Julie Says:

    I came across this video by accident. I am not a librarian, but I am a Kindle user. I am already aware that Amazon stores my purchases and rentals so I can download or share them later. I have the option of removing the material from storage at any time, but I will have to purchase or rent it again if I want to read it again. I suppose most Kindle users are aware of these details. I appreciate your opinion, however, since I take privacy and intellectual freedom seriously myself. I’ll have to think about this whole issue some more. Quite enlightening.

  66. Paul Nielsen Says:

    Did we really? From what I understand titles Kindle users borrow will be recorded – in the same way that all Kindle use is recorded. As mentioned by a few commenters, what is and isn’t collected is a matter between Amazon and Kindle users. Amazon does not get access to patrons’ other library history do they? That would be something to be scared by. Plus, the Kindle lending arrangement is completely different to other library ebook lending just to accommodate the way it works. And Kindle lending was something libraries had been calling for for some time and Amazon’s approach to customer privacy was well known. I kind of agree with you on the potential of being perceived to be pushing their retail part, but I’m guessing that Kindle users are used to that.
    Disclaimer – I am a librarian and have helped to introduce Overdrive to a bunch of libraries in New Zealand. That doesn’t make me an OD cheerleader. Through the process of getting to where we are I’ve found your blog to be really valuable in educating myself on what has/is happening in the digital space in the US, but I have to disagree with you on this one. Of course Kindle lending isn’t available in NZ yet.

  67. el rey Says:

    It’ s probably been mentioned above somewhere but if you own a Kindle you most likely have purchased books from Amazon there fore Amazon already knows what you are reading. Or, if you download mp3′s from Amazon they know what you are listening to on your mp3 player or iPod. Therefore, don’t really get the rant. I’m a librarian and I get the privacy issue you are concerned with, but we are offering a free service that patrons want. If some are concerned about the privacy issue then they should not use the service but I’m willing to bet most don’t. Did you use Facebook, does your library use Facebook or similar programs? Talk about privacy issues, Facebook has to be the worst.

  68. iLibrarian » Amazon, Overdrive, and Other Reasons to Be Pissed Says:

    [...] and Overdrive are back in the online librarian conversation (again), this time lead off by a video rant by Sarah Houghton along with posts by David Lee King and the Annoyed Librarian. (There was a post by Bobbi Newman on [...]

  69. Amazon, Overdrive, and Other Reasons to Be Pissed - DaringSearch - Free to publish Says:

    [...] and Overdrive are back in the online librarian conversation (again), this time lead off by a video rant by Sarah Houghton along with posts by David Lee King and the Annoyed Librarian. (There was a post by Bobbi Newman on [...]

  70. Beth Wheeler-Dean Says:

    I’m glad to see these concerns stated. I am worried about what happens next. I do not feel that Overdrive or Amazon see libraries as anything but a fatted calf. It’s also hard to explain to users why all of this is more than a little scary. My favorite comment from a Kindle user was, “Great, now all the Kindle books will be free!” RIIIGGGHHTTT!

  71. Amazon podría estar violando la privacidad del usuario en las bibliotecas de Estados Unidos | BiblogTecarios Says:

    [...] Libraries Got Screwed by Amazon and Overdrive por Librarian in Black [...]

  72. Anonymous Says:

    Yea, I am a librarian and I don’t give a rat’s ass about Amazon keeping data on me via Overdrive. What harm is there even if it is a violation of privacy? Got to pay to play- if Amazon is going to be a partner in this, they of course will want something out of it in terms of marketing data. Overdrive wouldn’t be as good without Amazon. And anyway, when was the last time someone was discriminated against/ mistreated because of what they checked out? Although it can and does happen, I think these incidents are rare. It’s not 1950 anymore. I know that many libraries have in their mission statement language that states they seek to facilitate intellectual freedom. If I judged a patron for what they checked out, say I said “ewww, that’s weird” to a patron checking out a book about transgender issues and my supervisor got word of it, I would lose my job. So my response is, so what? This isn’t the issue she is making it out to be.

  73. Observer Says:

    What’s with the S&M-ish attire? You could dress a little more conservative, considering the topic and the audience.

  74. libn Says:

    The video seems to imply that Amazon will get and keep all your checkout history. Nope, it’s just your Kindle ebook history – not even your full OverDrive history. I saw one brief mention of this in another post. We could not provide a user’s history even with a subpoena. Unless there’s a fine or damage, we simply don’t keep it. We won’t even speak to a police officer or federal agent without a subpoena. Also, Tom R., we don’t re-sign our contracts each time a new format is added. We are given the option not to take part in offering it though. EPUBs require Adobe Digital Editions and everyone must create an account at Adobe to access EPUB titles. But we don’t get solicited by Adobe so no uproar. Privacy is a big issue but people that use Amazon want that interaction. I don’t have a Kindle but I shop on Amazon and I want to them remember what kind of toner or toothpaste I bought from them. I expect that level of service. Libraries do not have to offer Kindle books in OverDrive but what is so wrong with giving our patrons the option? If they have a Kindle they know what to expect from Amazon.

    Here’s the part where I contradict myself :) Patrons also know what they expect from libraries. With that choice we need to communicate the risks. OverDrive needs to spell this out and they do not. By saying your notes and bookmarks will be kept is a red flag to librarians but not necessarily to the masses. They need to know that their Kindle reading history is being kept – and not just the purchased books from Amazon. They may choose to use it anyway but at least they made an educated choice.

  75. big reader2011 Says:

    Hey everyone…if I said to you that I am going to track everything you buy, rent, check out at the library and keep those records for my own use, without telling you I was doing it AND charging you to do it, WOULD THAT BE OK WITH YOU????? Basically that is what is happening with the Kindle program. We all seem to value our privacy and yet this doesn’t bother anyone. Really?? Really? America ….where are you?

  76. Silk Isn’t Enough: Amazon and the Library Book Borrower « An American Editor Says:

    [...] Houghton, a California librarian and blogger at the Librarian in Black blog, posted this video of her rant regarding Amazon, Overdrive, and privacy. I think everyone [...]

  77. Silk Isn’t Enough: Amazon and the Library Book Borrower - The Digital Reader Says:

    [...] Houghton, a California librarian and blogger at the Librarian in Black blog, posted this video of her rant regarding Amazon, Overdrive, and privacy. I think everyone [...]

  78. Marianne Says:

    Much ado about nothing. Is California really so paranoid that the “guv-ment” is going to be spying on what they read? I am ecstatic that I now can borrow books for my Kindle. As for telling me I can actually buy the book from Amazon if I wish – hurray! I many times borrow a book first, read it, and then decide if I want to add it to my permanent library. It’s great that I now can do this easily. As for Amazon not answering all your questions, what happened to your sense of their need to protect their own intellectual property, including details as to how their system works?

  79. TKR Says:

    Is Amazon getting any more information from a book checked out than they are from a book that I purchased? If not then I don’t see what they issue is. If I didn’t want Amazon to have this information I would not shop on their website or own a Kindle in the first place.

  80. Michael Says:

    First of all, I realize that you are trying to provide a service to alert others about issues that concern you. I applaud that. I’m sure that some others will agree with your concerns. Convenience often has a price, and sometimes that price includes some of our privacy. I know that some folks try to stay “off the grid” as much as possible, minimizing the record of themselves in the digital world as much as possible. Others go to the extreme of posting every mundane thought and picture of their existence via social media sites. I think most of us fall somewhere in the middle of these two extremes and we constantly have to make choices about what information we want to share with others.

    Personally, I am not concerned about this at all. I applaud Amazon for their Kindle and cloud storage of my purchases and lending history. I did notice that when I borrow a library book via Kindle, it ends up on the Amazon site under “My Kindle Library” along with all the books I have purchased. Library books are noted here with “public library” next to the title. I don’t have a problem with this. I find this digital record of my reading helpful and convenient. If someone feels otherwise, it is possible to delete any record from “My Kindle Library” by using the “Delete from Library” action button on the right.

    As far as the legal questions go, I would assume that Amazon and their team of lawyers have done enough research to know that they aren’t breaking some kind of privacy law here. I would frankly trust that this has happened more than I would trust a librarian blogger to know that laws are being broken.

  81. Denise Says:

    This librarian is obviously not thinking this issue through. For instance she complains that it’s a marketing tool that Amazon sends out a warning notice a couple of days ahead of the loan being up and reminds people that they can buy this book if they would like and keep any notes and highlights they made in it. That might be extremely important for a student who is writing a paper on the book and needs more time and the option to keep any notes they made in the book.
    Amazon has to store those notes and since that library book does not become a permanent part of the persons library unless purchased, why would Amazon take up server space storing notes on a library book a person may never pick up again let alone look at their notes on the book. Why would Amazon use server space to keep notes a person may never use again?? Just think of all the book club people that may make some notes on a borrowed library book and never use that again. If Amazon just started keeping all those notes they would use vast amounts of server space for very little value.

    IE They let people know if you want us to keep your notes buy a copy of this book.

    Secondly the choice of language alone this so called librarian uses is enough reason to make one wonder about her credibility. No need to be vulgar, and certainly librarians should have a better use of language than this person exhibits.

  82. Cara Says:

    Kindle owners have bought a Kindle, therefore they know Amazon policy, and are fine with it.

    “Kindle has allowed Amazon to harvest all this borrowing data…”
    Last I checked Amazon created the Kindle, it is their device. Duh Amazon knows what the Kindle is doing!

    “jeopardizes intellectual freedom” “reading rights”
    Last I checked Amazon was a cooperation, not a government run entity, meaning they are allowed to filter what they don’t want to sell, meaning there is no jeopardizing going on!

    “charging premium prices for digital content” right after you bad mouthed the advertisement to buy the book from Amazon…
    I would hate to see the price is Amazon didn’t put there little ad in there!

  83. Ricki Says:

    what you aren’t considering is that “we” Kindle readers have already accepted the Amazon/Kindle environment and we like it.. I don’t have any issues with it.. and nobody is forced to buy one.

  84. William Says:

    I’m an ebook user, local taxpayer, and handle the ordering for our library system and this just adds to my dislike of the OverDrive model for libraries. I personally feel that eventually OD will turn out to be a huge waste of money since you don’t actually OWN any of the content. What you have is a temporary license for the ebook that is good as long as you have an OverDrive account and not one day longer (at least according to the abbreviated TOS I was shown by our director). If we were paying the same or less than what we pay for the physical books/audiobooks I wouldn’t fine this so troubling, but the prices are usually the same or higher that what we pay from our vendors.

    Another side effect is that OD can pretty much team up with Amazon, or anyone else, and you really don’t have much you can do other than complain. You don’t know what information is being exchanged, what is being tracked, and where they intend to go in the future. You could walk away but the loss of the current ebooks in your catalog and the money invested in them makes that a very unattractive option.

    I noticed an earlier post about Amazon having good lawyers and knowing what they can and can’t do. Personally I have my doubts about that. You have Federal laws and regulations, State laws and regulations, consortium regulations and agreements, local laws or regulations, and the individual policies of different library systems. I would be very surprised if Amazon has investigated all the possibly relevant laws, regulations, and policies.

  85. GOOGLE SØK: video post Says:

    [...] Libraries Got Screwed by Amazon and Overdrive | Librarian in Black …  - Oversett denne siden [...]

  86. Worst Kept Secrets › Library School Blues Part II, In Which I Rediscover the Internet Says:

    [...] that I absolutely love Twitter. And the internet. And all this stuff on the internet. The Librarian in Black just helped me clarify my professional goals – I am now positively driven by the ambition to one [...]

  87. Patricia Sierra Says:

    I don’t understand the upset you’re feeling. Kindle owners trust Amazon to store their reading material on their accounts, and now they’re sending their books, music, films, and personal docs into the Amazon cloud for stage. We’re not afraid of what Amazon will do to us now that know so much about us, and we certainly aren’t going to be disturbed when they have access to the titles we borrow from the library. What makes the library a better guard for our privacy? And how many or your patrons have a realistic concern that their reading preferences need to be hidden and private lest they fall victim to a police state? It must take a terrible case of paranoia to get worked up about that far-fetched notion. I don’t care who knows what I’m reading and I don’t care what others are reading. Nor do I mind seeing advertising for the items I’ve read or that I might like to read. Just relax. Let us enjoy this convenient and welcome new service from Amazon.

  88. in forming thoughts » Blog Archive » so much awesome Says:

    [...] Houghton’s video looking at recent Amazon loans bullshit (go watch it. [...]

  89. Anonymous Says:

    I get what you are saying, but I think you miss a couple of key points. The first is that the real victim in the situation is not the librarian, but the library user. Please do not make this about you. The second is that, yes, this COULD become an issue in a police state and totalitarianism is not something I take lightly, but how many other issues right now are making us inch toward a totalitarian government? This is small beans compared to forcing Americans to purchase products and services that they do not want to buy or enacting laws that essentially reinstate drafts in an unconstitutional way, as long as they are “happy drafts” like mandatory volunteering at a whirligig festival (and I could go on and on with how much freedom we lose everyday, especially in the area of privacy- facebook, anyone?). But by biggest beef by far would have to be that you are forgetting that kindle lending is a huge benefit for a lot of people. Some people do not have the opportunity to actually go to the library, but don’t necessarily have the financial means to purchase every book that they could want to read. My library does not always have all the books that I want to read, but now I can purchase a library card from any number of libraries and read books for a fraction of the cost of purchasing them all. So, it is not something I would want to lose now that I just got access to something that has been a convenience for me. As far as privacy goes- yes, this may be a concern. I am a long-time Amazon user, though, and I am fairly confident that they would not give up my reading history without a warrant, the same warrant that would force you to give up a person’s history as well. That being said, while I don’t want libraries to stop lending e-books, and hope they expand to other forms of digital media, I do commend you for pressuring Amazon and Overdrive to implement a sound privacy policy (I believe they have already have one in place, but maybe they should be a little more transparent). Instead of cursing at them, perhaps you should instead state that those who use the material (the library users, NOT you), should have their privacy rights protected. This may get you much farther than the route you are taking now, which will really just scare Amazon and Overdrive out of the lending venture to begin with (because, really, did you think Amazon wanted to lend a book instead of forcing the user to purchase instead? This was not about profits, but rather a strong demand from Amazon users).

  90. Announcing the Kindle Lending LibraryLibWIT Says:

    [...] is bundling content in a way that is just about irresistible. I know not everyone is happy with Amazon and Overdrive [warning: NSFW (language)]. As a librarian I share the comments expressed by Ms. Houghton, but as a [...]

  91. David Says:

    This isn’t news. Electronic Service vendors consistently cluck defiance when it comes to the services they sell libraries. They get away with it because libraries keep purchasing their products regardless of what they do. If you don’t like their business model for any reason, cancel you subscription and put them out of business. You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars of taxpayer’s money every year on exploitative vendors. Problem solved.

  92. “I’m not dismissing the Kindle. I’m angry at Amazon/Overdrive for collecting patron data. Trade-off isn’t worth it.” « Siouxsie Law Says:

    [...] self-described rant regarding Amazon/Overdrive’s privacy policies is worth watching.  The video is great.  Plus, Ms. Houghton looks fabulous in black with a lovely [...]

  93. Dave Jordan Says:

    Kindle users make the decision to trust Amazon with their personal information (including reading habits) when they buy a Kindle. If you don’t trust them, buy a Sony or a Kobo or a Nook (and trust BN).

  94. Drake Says:

    LOL You DO realize that public libraries keep records, right? You DO realize that because of the patriot act they are required to turn over that information to authorities when subpoenaed, right? You’re a librarian bitching about amazon doing the same thing you *rolls eyes*

  95. Megan Says:

    Drake, You DO realize that it has been mentioned at least twice now that libraries’ software automatically deletes those records when you return your books, right?

    I am a librarian. Library software used to keep such records, but then the Patriot Act happened, and we realized that if we didn’t keep any more than the bare minimum, there wouldn’t be a whole lot to turn over in the case of a FOIA request. It is the norm now for libraries to delete these records once the book is returned, and this is done for the express purpose of protecting your privacy. Librarians as a profession are VERY concerned about privacy, just like your doctors are.

  96. Curtis Says:

    I think we can all agree that library ebook lending can be improved. Just because our ideal service or vendor is not available now, does not mean we should abandon the current choices (Overdrive). Competition will eventually produce a service, or variety of services, to please all libraries.
    I appreciate that you’re raising awareness about these issues, but I don’t think patrons care. Why the don’t care doesn’t really matter. Libraries are falling behind in delivering electronic content and anything we can do to compete with Netflix, Amazon, etc., is better than nothing. Focusing on (imo) insignificant issues such as advertisements in Kindle books is a waste of time.
    And, as further evidence that patrons have a much different opinion on privacy issues than librarians, is this (and I’m sure all librarians have heard this, too): they WISH we kept a record of their reading history! I hear a lot of older patrons lamenting that they can’t remember which books they’ve read already. Let’s be more realistic, and less idealistic.

  97. EarlyWord: The Publisher | Librarian Connection » Blog Archive » Penguin and Libraries; Common Ground on Kindle Lending » EarlyWord: The Publisher | Librarian Connection Says:

    [...] have expressed concern about sending users to Amazon. California librarian Sarah Houghton recorded a comment on the subject in October, in which she states, “when you check out a Kindle book from Overdrive, it dumps [...]

  98. Madeleine Says:

    Thank you for posting this important message. I recently bought a Kindle to use with my public library. I too was troubled when I was directed to Amazon’s website to send my books to my Kindle. I had assumed that when my public library offered kindle downloads they would not be any different from the other e media I have downloading regarding privacy. I cannot assume Amazon is so helpful and innocent about the government and censorship. Didn’t they stop letting Wikkileaks use their server after they were questioned about it by the government….

  99. Sarah Houghton – Imagine Cells hero for noticing, speaking out and calling other librarians to step up to protect intellectual freedom. | Imagine Cells Mastermind Productions Says:

    [...] You can see more of Sarah on her blog… The Librarian in Black…. [...]

  100. Penguin et les bibliothèques: ce qu’il faut savoir « Du cyberespace à la cité éducative… Says:

    [...] Libraries Got Screwed by Amazon and Overdrive [...]

  101. Penguin et les bibliothèques: ce qu’il faut savoir « Du cyberespace à la cité éducative… Says:

    [...] Libraries Got Screwed by Amazon and Overdrive [...]

  102. Susan Says:

    This is my view as a Kindle user and library worker: I understand and agree with the disappointment in Overdrive and Amazon’s lack of openness in the use and sharing of patron information, however, I do not see this as something to merit such enormous anger. They may not have been so forthcoming with the details of their agreement where libraries are concerned, but I agree that most Kindle users are aware that Amazon has access to their information (with or without Overdrive’s help), and that it is certainly used for marketing purposes. I disagree with the characterization of the Kindle user experience as being bombarded with advertising and high pressure sales hype. I understand the concern over not wanting to promote any one brand or publisher over another in a library setting, but in some cases one brand standing out is unavoidable, no matter what the format. For the Kindle, it’s necessary to connect to Amazon to transfer the file to your device and to manage the list of books. Nonetheless, it’s Amazon’s website, and just like any business website, it contains links and offers for purchasing from them. I regularly check out ebooks on my Kindle, and I consider the page where you send the book to your device to be pretty low key. Yes, there are a few suggested titles there, but you can choose to buy or not. The suggested titles in no way obscure the purpose or function of the page. As an avid Kindle user, I have never been hit with unsolicited Amazon emails or obnoxious Amazon ads, and I am not at all offended by a “Buy the Book” button appearing on the courtesy emails that are sent when library ebooks are coming due or have expired. These emails come directly from Amazon, so it’s not the library suggesting that you buy the book. The statement about if you buy the book or borrow it again pertains to the fact that your notes and highlights are preserved. I view that as helpful, not a breach of my privacy. I also don’t view that as any kind of pressure to buy just because buying is mentioned first. I, just like any user, can choose to click the button or not. Physical books also have a form of advertising in them and on them that promotes other books, and people also have the choice to read them or not, or to buy them or borrow them. Libraries loan magazines that are full of ads, yet no one seems to be offended by this.
    I work in a public library where I am the Technology Coordinator, so I see how people use their ereaders and I am familiar with all of the major brands. I have viewed the privacy policies of the Sony Reader Store and also Barnes & Noble, and both of them state that they have the right to glean information wirelessly from your device. Both sites will produce suggested purchases based on your reading habits, just as Amazon does. I have to say that I’m confused as to why Overdrive would provide any patron information to Amazon because they already have access to what you are reading by retrieving the info from your Kindle. I am sure that since the others can also get the info from your Sony Reader or Nook, that they are also aware of what ebooks you are checking out from the library because those titles would appear right alongside your purchased ones. I think all of the stores associated with a specific device are participating in such use for marketing purposes, but Amazon is the biggest target, so they are taking the brunt of the anger.
    This all really does boil down to choice. People can choose the ereader they want to use. They can choose whether or not to participate in offers, whether they are from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or anywhere.
    Libraries have a choice, too. I don’t claim to understand the entire scope of the business practices of Overdrive, but if Overdrive is not conducting business in a way that libraries and librarians agree with, then maybe it’s time to choose a different provider for ebooks in libraries.

  103. eBooks are Broken but It’s Not a Complete Disaster | Christian Sheehy Says:

    [...] it, terrible. They are complicated for customers to use, have restrictive DRM, and in some cases, severely violate customer trust and privacy. One vendor does not even allow customers to download library eBooks from any library location at [...]

  104. liz friedel Says:

    totally confused about all these statements about libraries not keeping records. i log into my account at Smithtown NY public library and my entire lending history is on display. I havent even renewed my card yet or started with ebooks, i just started googling the process and ran into this video. is my library unusual?? this is a large suburban library system in New York, no tiny hick town. so is my library doing anything illegal??

  105. SCout Says:

    Waiting in Canada to see if and when the Kindle- Overdrive partnership will come into our libraries. I will see if there is any buzz at the upcoming Ontario Library Conference in February. I will share some of the knowledge on this site.

  106. Ed Says:


    Not illegal, and probably not unusual. I’ve worked with three different circ systems:

    One kept patrons’ full histories, although this could be and was routinely cleared.
    One didn’t keep anything except your current checkouts, anything you had a fine on, and anything you were the last borrower of.
    One let the patron choose whether to store the history or not.

  107. Librarians, Tell Amazon to Piss Off And Go Buy Nooks! | PC Sweeney's Blog Says:

    [...] If you want to see reasons why you shouldn’t bother with Kindles, then you should watch this video from Sarah Houghton But I’m not going to make that argument myself. I’ve had enough with all that. Instead I’m [...]

  108. rob Says:

    If you’re really interested in my privacy, how about offer me a digital-lending only library account that doesn’t include my name and address? That’s certainly feasible with digital materials that self-destruct, there’s no need for you to know where I live or even my name. Most public libraries need proof of local address for funding purposes but surely there’s a reasonable workaround for that.

    Have you done the nook/sony library lending process, where you register with Adobe Editions and decrypt your books there before loading them on the device manually? It is a terrible process. Do you think Adobe has any less of your personal info when doing it that way? It seems unfair to blame amazon for making the lending process easier, particularly when the library could be reacting to this in more constructive ways. Your patrons’ privacy is being violated? I suppose you’d better start thinking of some creative ways to protect them, right?

    Nah, it is much more fun to curse and make youtube videos than to actually work on solutions.

  109. 2012 Predictions: Turning Points for the Web | Liblogs Says:

    [...] (*) to McCarthyist policies around Wikileaks (*) to tax opposition (*) to screwing libraries (*), this company has done everything it can to demolish the image of the Internet as a source of [...]

  110. Ota Cervenka Says:

    I rarely agree with every single point when someone speaks to me for even five minutes. I couln’t find anything wrong with ANY of your recommendations and observations after listening to you for ten minutes.

    Please keep protecting your patrons (and subsequently all the ‘endangered’ library readers around the world) by making your observations available through your excellent blog.

    Thank you for doing this!

  111. Les bibliothèques numériques dans les nuages sont-elles compatibles avec les missions de lecture publique ? La veille apprivoisée #13 « La bibliothèque apprivoisée Says:

    [...] proposés par des prestataires privés et financés par de l’argent public. Pour mémoire cette autre vidéo de Sarah Houghton  déjà évoquée ici : Overdrive a essentiellement permis à Amazon de vendre leurs livres sur le [...]

  112. Library eBooks for Amazon® Kindle | Stay Up With The Hottest Tablets ! Says:

    [...] demonstration purposes only. The website process may vary slightly by each OverDrive hosted library. Learn how to browse, checkout and get library eBooks on Amazon® Kindle. This video is for demonstr…gKbyhuqxuU?fs=1" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="425" height="355" [...]

  113. Non-Amazon Resources Post! « extribulum Says:

    [...] lastly, Seventy has more news about Amazon: they’re collecting data on library ebook use. This might not seem at all strange to some, but most librarians are horrified at the idea of [...]

  114. Spartacus Says:

    Do video stores keep our records of what we rent? Do cable television companies keep track of what we watch and when? Give ‘em an inch….. I get why this librarian is so concerned about privacy. We all should be.

  115. The World Turned Upside Down | Peer to Peer Review Says:

    [...] patrons were reading (down to which pages they look at). Sara Houghton-Jan, the Librarian in Black, summed it up nicely as an unacceptable insult to our principles. Jessamyn West has just shared a patron’s [...]

  116. Deb Smith-Cohen Says:

    OK, just seeing this video and struggling with the issues you raise, which I have struggled with over the last year. Your content is not news to me, of course. I’m still struggling with customers who don’t think they care about privacy and a library administration, like most, that doesn’t want to challenge OverDrive in the face of demand for eBooks with Kindle compatibility. I can direct customers to Adobe Digital Editions but that won’t work for folks who think that their eReader choice was neutral and don’t get the privacy price. Heck, without that issue, the service ease and responsiveness of Amazon would be the ideal scenario. How do we raise the privacy issue above the convenience issue? Is it a losing battle? Who has any ideas about how to, at the very least, insist that client library systems are part of the corporate contracting process at OverDrive in the future? (Yes, I appreciate that OverDrive, like many companies, started as niche companies with a conscribed market that unexpectedly grew out of control.) They may not be evil, but they are behaving evilly and we owe our public to label them as such.

  117. Sam - Adelaide Mortgage Broker Says:

    I agree! I must admit i haven’t been to a library in years! But I have bought books from Amazon.

  118. Librarian Attacks Amazon’s Kindle Lending Program | JetLib News Says:

    [...] to the RSS feed for updates on this topic. destinyland writes “A California librarian is urging librarians to complain to Amazon over issues with privacy and advertising in Amazon’s new Kindle ebook lending program for [...]

  119. Phil W Says:

    I just got a Kindle and totally and completely agree with your rant. I was given my kindle as a gift from my sister, whom I love. I cannot check out anything without making a purchase from Amazon i and everything i have uploaded so far has been considered the property of Amazon. I already talked to my librarian about the privacy issue before seeing your site. Now I know at least I am not alone in this.

    I have been a journalist for 25 years and have seen nothing like Amazon’s invasion of privacy. i tried to write a comment on THEIR site even though I had a Kindle Fire, they said I had to buy something before posting.
    So here was the gist of my post to them:

    How do you spell Orwell’s “1984″? A-M-A-Z-O-N.
    Thank you so much for letting me know people care about this.

    Phil W

  120. Leslie Says:

    Is that problem only with Kindle users? Are is this a problem with all overdrive users?

  121. Sarah Says:

    This specific issue is for Amazon/Kindle users only.

  122. Les bibliothèques numériques dans les nuages sont-elles compatibles avec les missions de lecture publique ? La veille apprivoisée #13 · Omnimata Says:

    [...] proposés par des prestataires privés et financés par de l’argent public. Pour mémoire cette autre vidéo de Sarah Houghton  déjà évoquée ici [...]

  123. Adding Transparency to the Ebook Transaction | LJ INFOdocket Says:

    [...] this happened I raised that concern (as did others). Sadly, nothing has yet been done about it. Over the past couple of years I’ve learned that [...]

  124. Amazon podría estar violando la privacidad del usuario en las bibliotecas de Estados Unidos - Says:

    [...] Libraries Got Screwed by Amazon and Overdrive por Librarian in Black [...]

  125. Jae Oh Says:

    Well almost two years later, there hasn’t been much progress on the library/overdrive/book publisher issue and in the mwanwhile , moves forward. Don’t be surprised if they expand the kindle lending program just a bit, combine it with Amazon prime, and the consequence of the inaction by libraries to actively address this issue may become painfully clear. Think spotify for books using prime. Libraries must control more of this dialogue and not via “negotiating” with overdrive and the big 6. Given the relative leverage, it is.called begging not negotiating. Meanwhile amazon marches on….
    Good post good comments but not much tangible progress on this issue from what this self published author can see.

  126. Pamster Says:

    It would be easier for libraries to resist the Overdrive trap if most libraries were not jumping on board nearly universally. It makes the hold outs seem out of touch and antiquated.

  127. Confessions of an Anarchist Library Assistant | Enlightened Self-Governance Says:

    […] library users to check out digital books – despite the fact that the service has drawn fire for privacy issues, and suffers from some of the same ailments that physical books do, namely hold lists. With […]

  128. lee Says:

    OverDrive is a scam! I am so sick of them changing things around all the time and not being fully tested through Q/A. We pay a ton of money for a half ass product…it is very frustrating! I am happy to see 3M starting to come out of the word work. I hope they can shed some light on a decent product for our patrons.

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