July 24, 2014

OverDrive, 3M kick off 2013 with Promising Ebook Developments

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The Cuyahoga County Public Library (CCPL), Pioneer Library System (PLS), Hennepin County Library (HCL), and Mid-Continent Public Library (MCPL) were among several library systems that broke single-day ebook and audiobook-lending records this past Christmas, according to an announcement by OverDrive.

“This is a busy time for us,” OverDrive President and CEO Steve Potash told LJ last week.

Much of the traffic was driven by the popularity of tablets and ereaders as gifts during the 2012 holiday season; the most dramatic growth occurred among users of iPad, Kindle Fire, and Android Devices, according to OverDrive data. (Reviewing the year, Potash said that many of the libraries that OverDrive serves broke records in 2012.)

The holiday spike in usage was most prominent among the 22 libraries that have been testing OverDrive’s next-generation websites, including, CCPL, PLS, HCL, and MCPL.

“They had all been seeing growth since they switched [to the new websites], but Christmas Day was crazy,” he said.

For example, checkouts at MCPL rose from 677 on December 5, to 1,255 on December 15, to 1,875 on December 25. At HCL, daily checkouts hovered between 1,200 and 1,500 for most of the month before spiking above 2,200 each day during the week before Christmas. On Christmas day, the library loaned a record-setting 2,867 ebooks. The following day, they broke that record again, loaning out almost 3,500 ebooks.

“We expected that there was going to be a lot of new consumers with devices after Christmas, whether it’s a dedicated ereader or a tablet. And we’ve been growing our [ebook] collection quite a bit,” said Gail Mueller Schultz, Coordinating Librarian for HCL.

Although she noted that HCL had not yet received sufficient feedback from patrons to get a sense of their opinions on the next generation websites, HCL had not had many calls to its help desk with patrons reporting problems.

“I think it’s a little easier, a little clearer, and a little more straightforward,” she said.

Potash said that the next generation sites are designed using Responsive Web Design techniques, which optimize the site for display on any size device, whether it’s a desktop computer, a tablet, or a smart phone. The check-out process has been streamlined, and OverDrive Read, a new feature announced last summer, allows users to read excerpts of a book within the browser without checking out a title.

“It’s a combination of the new search platform, the responsive website, the browser-based reading, and one-step checkout,” Potash said, describing how OverDrive believes the new sites will appeal to users. The sites will be rolled out to all customers during the coming months.

3M Realizes Goal of Fully Integrated Ebooks

In separate news, 3M last month achieved a milestone in its goal to make ebook searching a completely seamless experience. Patrons at the Baltimore County Public Library (BCPL) can now browse their library’s physical and digital collections together and discover, check out, or place holds on ebooks without navigating away from the library’s fully integrated catalog. The new system, which went live last month, addresses one of the top user complaints about getting from records to checkout, and is the product of months of collaboration between the 3M Cloud Library Ebook Lending Service, BCPL, and Polaris Library Systems, their ILS provider. 3M and Polaris initially announced their integration plans prior to the Public Library Association’s 2012 conference in March.

The system only went live the week before Christmas, and BCPL is rolling out the system with a soft launch, so they have not yet received much feedback from patrons, Jo Pinder, BCPL assistant director of support services, wrote in an email.

But, “as a customer, I love it,” Pinder said. “My ebook reserve appeared in my Polaris account as ready to check out. I searched the catalog for a title and I had my choice of many formats –Playaway, large type, 3M ebook, book on CD or a plain old-fashion book. What more could a customer want?”

3M worked directly with Polaris to develop the Application Programming Interface (API) suite that allows these functions within the catalog, explained Tom Mercer, 3M library systems digital business development leader. Meanwhile, BCPL staff tested the system on non-public servers and provided input to both companies.

“They were the voice of the customer. They said ‘here’s how we want it, and we’re not going to release it until it’s good enough,’” Mercer told LJ. “[BCPL] has very stringent standards on how something needs to work before it goes out to their community.”

The resulting API suite will be available to all interested libraries that use both the 3M Cloud Library and Polaris as part of Polaris’ latest ILS upgrade. Mercer said he expects about 25 library systems to begin rolling out these fully integrated catalogs early next year, as they implement those upgrades. 3M has also said that this API suite has the ability to integrate with other ILS platforms as well.

In addition to simplifying ebook discovery and checkout for patrons, the integrated system will allow librarians to automatically receive cataloging records in real time as titles are purchased from 3M, without manually importing MARC files, the company explained in an announcement. All circulation reports will also reflect digital circulation, providing libraries with a more complete view of total circulation.

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Matt Enis About Matt Enis

Matt Enis (menis@mediasourceinc.com; @matthewenis on Twitter) is Associate Editor, Technology for Library Journal.

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