December 8, 2022

OverDrive, Amazon Privacy Disclaimer Pops Up in Wisconsin; in Virginia, Questions About Catalog Disparities


(This story has updated from an earlier version to include comments from Jane Richard which refer to a similar notice on the King County Library (WA) system’s site.)

The Wisconsin Public Library Consortium (WPLC) posted a notice on its website on Wednesday announcing that OverDrive had added a disclaimer to the consortium’s site which warns a patron downloading a Kindle book “that they are leaving the library’s digital site AND that the commercial site (aka Amazon) doesn’t have the same privacy policies as the library.” According to Jane Richard, a manager at the consortium, the wording for this pop-up window was settled on by OverDrive and Amazon.  The text reads:

Attention Kindle Book User:
By clicking “Accept to Continue” you consent to being linked away from the library’s download platform to a commercial service. This third party service does not have the same policies used by the library for your session privacy or use of your user information. If you continue, you are advised to consult the commercial website’s privacy policy for additional information. Click “Accept to Continue”

“At our board meeting November 9, someone brought up the King County Library System’s Kindle notice on their library site, and considering the concern in the librarian-o-sphere both in this state and nationwide, we agreed to adopt a message,” Richard said. “We liked the KCLS wording so well we just substituted WPLC where appropriate, but we felt that it would have more impact if the patron could see it at the point of need, so we asked OverDrive if it could go on our actual download pages, suggesting our (King County’s) notice. They offered this alternate wording which they said was acceptable to Amazon as well. That’s why we have two versions of the disclaimer– we still like the other and would like to use it on our other documentation,” Richard said.

The notice, which David Burleigh, an OverDrive spokesperson, said he had not heard about, is an explicit acknowledgement that neither a library’s nor OverDrive’s privacy policy applies to library patrons accessing titles via the Kindle. After Kindle compatibility was launched in September, OverDrive posted a note on library patron privacy on its Digital Library Blog in an attempt to allay growing concerns among some in the library community that the relationship with Amazon could compromise privacy principles followed by many libraries.

The WPLC board also voted in November to accept the following statement for optional use on other WPLC and individual library/system pages, which is the alternate wording on the King County site that Richard mentioned above:

You may receive renewal or purchase messages from Amazon regarding your OverDrive download of library eBooks to Kindle readers. These messages are not from WPLC or your local library, and do not affect the terms of your library download. WPLC never solicits purchases, or charges any fees for the use of digital material.

In a separate matter, Ryan Claringbole, the digital branch librarian at the Chesapeake Public Library in Virginia, has raised a question (via the Librarian in Black blog) whether different libraries see different catalogs of ebooks available in the OverDrive Marketplace depending on whether their OverDrive contract limits access to patrons within the library’s service area (which, according to Claringbole, an OverDrive representative defined as the area that provides the majority of funding to the library system). Claringbole wrote:

OverDrive … informed me it had to do with our non-resident cards. Since the Chesapeake Public Library System allows reciprocal cards and purchased full service cards for patrons outside of the City, certain publishers won’t allow access to their eBooks at all, according to OverDrive. And by “no access” it means that those items won’t show up in our Marketplace.

The concern about lending limitations for large consortia and shared collections is not new, as OverDrive’s CEO, Steve Potash, had already said in Februrary, in the wake of HarperCollins’ decision to limit ebook circulations to 26, that publishers had definite concerns about the card issuance policies of libraries:

Our publishing partners have expressed concerns regarding the card issuance policies and qualification of patrons who have access to OverDrive supplied digital content. Addressing these concerns will require OverDrive and our library partners to cooperate to honor geographic and territorial rights for digital book lending, as well as to review and audit policies regarding an eBook borrower’s relationship to the library (i.e. customer lives, works, attends school in service area, etc.).

But Claringbole interestingly documents the disparities in his library’s collection that result, and which other librarians may not be aware of. He also cites the relevant clause in the OverDrive contract:

Access to the Application Services shall be limited to those patrons of the Library that have the required relation to the Library to receive a library card (“Authorized Patrons”). Library shall not provide access to the Application Services to any end users who are not Authorized Patrons. Authorized Patrons shall be defined as individuals who can provide proof of residency, employment, or enrollment in school or similar institution in the Library’s service area. Online library card applications and issuance, with or without any fees, that provide access to the Application Services without proof of the required library relation (as referenced in the foregoing sentence) shall not be permitted. OverDrive reserves the right to immediately terminate this Agreement if Library provides access to the Application Services to end users who are not Authorized Patrons.

Michael Kelley About Michael Kelley

Michael Kelley is the former Editor-in-Chief, Library Journal.


  1. We’ve had a privacy statement re Kindle and our OverDrive ebooks on the CLAMS Digital Media page since Kindle compatibility was introduced.
    but we would like to have it too on our CLAMS/OverDrive page. I requested this from OverDrive but have not had a response to date.