OverDrive's Big Library Read pilot start

Today marks the start of OverDrive's Big Library Read experiment, where for two and a half weeks The four corners of the sky by Michael Malone will be available for unlimited, simultaneous access through participating libraries' OverDrive collections.  Similar to a Community Reads event or perhaps a 'global book club,' this is described as the "first" Big Library Read by OverDrive.  During this pilot run data will be collected and tracked relating to this book and others by Michael Malone, including check outs and purchases.  Many of us are hoping that this data will showcase a positive correlation between library discovery and book sales.

I've never heard of Michael Malone before, so I cannot comment on his writing from my own experience.  I read prolifically, but still don't hear of every author, particularly as I tend to read non-fiction and genre fiction.  He seems to be well regarded as an author of literature based in the southern United States with a solid collection of published novels.  The Kirkus review on The four corners of the sky seems favorable, though rather tongue-in-cheek, and ratings seem to fall in the 3-3.5 out of 5 stars range. 

Regardless of how the numbers come out, both OverDrive, Mr. Malone, and Sourcebooks (the publisher) stand to benefit from this pilot run.  If every library in my consortium advertises this first Big Library Read that makes for 155 libraries alone promoting this single title, and then scale up to the higher population areas with their own networks and libraries.  During the pilot, this title is available for free to participating libraries.  Not only has a copy been purchased of this title for our ebook collection, but so have several of Mr. Malone's other titles.  Other libraries and networks will also take similar action.  Studies out there already show a positive correlation between discovery in a library and purchasing of books and other media, so I predict an upswing in sales for the author and publisher as this pilot Big Library Read acts as an exploration start point for patrons.

OverDrive benefits from more than just sales, they benefit from goodwill.  Borrowing library ebooks, while slowly improving, is not a frictionless process.  The process often confuses or frustrates users, and librarians try to provide the best collection possible while navigating prohibitively priced ebooks and absurdly restrictive DRM.  Not all of the responsibility for these frustrations lies with OverDrive, but as the middleman and vendor they are closer to our complaints.

I like the possibilities this opens, regardless of any cynicism that I also possess.  I'm not exactly happy at the big data aspect of it, but it's not like this data was not already being collected.  It opens the possibility of movement, or at least more productive discussion, towards a more favorable lending model.  Right now most discussions involve much beating of heads against the wall on both sides of the argument.  It also opens the possibility of future opportunities of similutaneous access outside of this one program.  Maybe it brings us closer to the ability to actually make use of a popular content platform for summer reading or book clubs.  Regardless, I am happy about the exploration of options.

For those whom find this very exciting more can be found through the OverDrive Facebook and Twitter, with the author chiming in.  Other discussions can be found through #BigLibraryRead.


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