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

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

  2. 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.

  3. 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 […]

  4. 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??

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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 […]

  8. 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.

  9. 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 […]

  10. 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!

  11. 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 […]

  12. 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" […]

  13. 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 […]

  14. 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.

  15. 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 […]

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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 […]

  19. 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

  20. Leslie Says:

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

  21. Sarah Says:

    This specific issue is for Amazon/Kindle users only.

  22. 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 […]

  23. 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 […]

  24. 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 […]

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. 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 […]

  28. 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.

  29. Reflection on Ethics and Professional Values in Librarianship | My Chartership Journey Says:

    […] non-librarians, or even librarians who do not value this-see the comments under the brilliantly passionate video by Sarah Houghton on the Overdrive/Amazon issue in American public libraries from 2011 for examples […]

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