Leading library ebook distributor OverDrive was sold to Rakuten on March 19 for $410 million cash, more than 16 times OverDrive’s annual earnings of $25 million. The purchase from private equity firm Insight Venture Partners, OverDrive’s majority owner since 2010, is scheduled to close in April. OverDrive will become a subsidiary of Rakuten USA, the U.S. arm of Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten. CEO Steve Potash will continue to lead OverDrive, and its headquarters will remain in Cleveland, OH.
Officials at Amazon believe subscription-based ebook consumption is an inevitability, and will continue to invest in and build the company’s Kindle Unlimited service as part of an effort to stay ahead of the emerging trend, Russ Grandinetti, senior VP, Kindle, at Amazon explained during a candid general session interview on January 14 at the Digital Book World Conference and Expo 2015. In a separate panel, publishers expressed enthusiasm for Oyster and Scribd as discovery platforms.
Public and school libraries that are part of OverDrive’s global network circulated 137 million ebooks, digital audiobooks, and other digital media in 2014—a 33 percent increase compared with 2013, according to statistics released by the company. Ebook circulation rose 32 percent, to 105 million, while digital audiobook circulation grew 38 percent, to 32 million. The OverDrive network also recorded 401 million visits to public library and school library websites powered by OverDrive, a 77 percent increase.
SELF-e is the partnership between Library Journal and Charleston, SC’s BiblioLabs. A BiblioLabs product, Biblioboard, is a platform that seeks to bring (among other things) self-published works into the library ecosystem. I spoke recently with Hallie Rich, Cuyahoga County Public Library’s communications and external relations director, about the library’s pilot project with the platform.
Simon & Schuster (S. & S.) last week announced that it will no longer require libraries to offer a “buy it now” option with the publisher’s ebook titles. In June 2014, following the conclusion of an extensive one-year pilot program, S. & S. became the last of the big five publishers to enable libraries to license its ebook titles. However, in a move that elicited criticism from many librarians, the publisher required participating libraries to make S. & S. titles available for patrons to purchase through the library’s website via OverDrive’s Library BIN (Buy It Now) option, 3M’s Buy and Donate option, Baker & Taylor’s MyLibraryBookstore customized ecommerce sites, or links to S. & S.’s website.
Ninety-five percent of public libraries currently offer ebooks to patrons, up from 72 percent in 2010, and 89 percent in both 2012 and 2013. However, money remains the biggest impediment for libraries looking to add ebooks or expand collections, according to Library Journal’s fifth annual Ebook Usage in U.S. Public Libraries report, sponsored by Freading. The growth in demand for ebooks has cooled during the past four years, although as the report notes, this “is only because [ebooks] have become less of a novelty and more mainstream.”
Privacy around what students read, along with other personal data, may be at risk due to software giant Adobe’s transmission of the data without encryption. Student rights are protected under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which protects the confidentiality of student records.
OverDrive is currently processing 350 million API server calls per month, and has supported 1.3 million checkouts via APIs to date in 2014, according to internal data given to LJ. API use has also risen steadily each quarter, with almost 233,000 checkouts during the first three months of the year, more than 529,000 in Q2, an estimated 692,000 in Q3, and a projection of at least 1 million during the final three months of the year.