Downloadable Books, Audio and Video: One Experience

Users of downloadable eBooks and audio books want many of the same titles as print readers, according to Michelle Jeske of the Denver Public Library. In her presentation Downloadable Books, Audio, and Video: One Experience, she reported that DPL is a large customer of downloadable materials and it foresees an increasing demand for them. Being one of the first customers of eBooks from netLibrary, starting in 2000, DPL has found that service both useful and frustrating. At this point DPL owns most of the netLibrary titles, but it will not be adding any more; the difficult user authentication process and the inability to customize the service to DPL’s needs has led the library to decide that there is little future in the contract. DPL has signed on with Overdrive, which has more bestselling materials and is more user friendly; users can enter their library card numbers and do NOT have to create accounts to access eBooks; users can also download Overdrive materials onto their PCs or PDAs.

Jeske said that another reason that DPL signed with Overdrive was to get the downloadable audio books. When DPL began offering the downloadable audio books on January 3, 2005, every title was checked out within 24 hours; the library went back to Overdrive and bought more copies and negotiated unlimited checkouts for 50 titles. Many users either load these books onto their Windows Media pocket devices or burn CDs; the product does not work directly with Apple IPods.

There is a workaround for loading to IPods. Users first download the Overdrive audio books and then burn them to CDs. Then the users reload the audio books into ITunes and from there into their IPods.

There are some problems with the downloadable book and audio book market. Some publishers are resisting the movement, fearing that their content will be pirated. Other publishers that are producing downloadable books are signing exclusive deals with vendors, making it necessary for libraries to use multiple vendors if they want all the popular titles. The technical standards vary among publishers, too.

Libraries who chose to offer downloadable media must consider training numerous staff members to assist users.

Surveys and statistics at Denver Public Library show downloadable users want the same titles as print readers. Top circulating titles are the same as those on print bestseller lists – if they are available. If not, almost any downloadable books will do; classics circulate especially well; the demand is so great.

To see recent titles added to the Denver Public Library downloadable books collection, click here.