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eBooks Coming Soon (read Someday) to a Quebec Public Library Near You

Please excuse the long absence – Canadian Library Month and the Semaine des bibliothèques publiques du Québec have been lots of fun, but (being short staffed until just last week, when a new librarian joined our team) it’s meant 6 day work weeks and a few 12 hour days.

Find out more about what I’ve been up to by checking out the Gatineau Municipal Library website at bibliotheque.gatineau.ca.

Learning about eBooks

Yesterday, my colleagues and I attended a training session that discussed the integration of eBooks in libraries. (Find out more about the training session here.) As I mentioned in an earlier post, public libraries in Quebec don’t lend eBooks. Hopefully, this won’t be the case much longer – a pilot project is underway and a handful of public libraries in the province are working to develop a model to offer eBooks to their users.

Photo from James F Clay on Flickr

DRM (digital rights management) and OverDrive

A quick refresher about eBooks and libraries…

In order to lend downloadable eBooks to users, libraries need to ensure that the digital content can only be used (and shared, printed and copied) in accordance with the limits set out by authors, editors and distributors. If libraries don’t take into consideration these limits, then authors, editors and distributors will not sell eBooks to them. That’s why American and Canadian public libraries use OverDrive.

OverDrive is an eBook distributor that manages eBook collections and ensures digital rights management protection for libraries. OverDrive sets up the DRM protection with publishers and authors when purchasing eBooks.

By signing up with OverDrive, public libraries don’t have to worry about managing the digital rights of their eBooks – OverDrive does it for them. All the libraries have to do is select eBooks from OverDrive’s collection and link to their library’s OverDrive website, which is managed by… you guessed it, OverDrive. (Of course, public libraries do have to pay OverDrive a bunch of money for all these services).

Why OverDrive Doesn’t Work in Quebec

Voilà! Just like that, with OverDrive libraries can offer eBooks. So why are Quebec libraries taking so long to jump on the eBook bandwagon? For two reasons:

1) Bill 51 states that public libraries in Quebec must purchase books from accredited bookstores – OverDrive is not an accredited bookstore.

2) Even if Bill 51 didn’t apply to eBooks (libraries are still waiting for the law to be clarified), the French (and Quebec) content provided by OverDrive leaves something to be desired.

And so public libraries in Quebec need to figure out an alternative to OverDrive – a solution that allows them to buy directly from accredited bookstores (not from a distributor) and to offer content of interest to its users. This is what public libraries in Quebec, DeMarque, and accredited bookstores including Archambault are working to develop:

pretnumerique.ca (an alternative to OverDrive) Coming Soon (read Someday) to a Quebec Public Library Near You.

Of course, the real question isn’t how can libraries use DRM to lend eBooks to their users. Although, libraries are devoting a lot of time and money to make this possible…

We should be asking ourselves, is DRM the right answer for our users? Find out how a web illustrator views DRM here. More on this in my next post.


About Kayleigh Felice

I am a 20-something public librarian trying to find my footing as I start my career, take on new challenges, and enter adulthood (whatever that means). I live in Ontario, and I work for the Gatineau Municipal Library in Québec. Disclosure: The views expressed in this blog are solely my own, not those of my employer.


2 thoughts on “eBooks Coming Soon (read Someday) to a Quebec Public Library Near You

  1. Hi Kayleigh,

    Just wanted to add to what you were saying about the low penetration of ebooks in Quebec public libraries by mentioning that the weak ebook offering from Quebec and French publishers is probably a bigger reason why libraries with mainly francophone patrons haven’t taken a big interest in ebooks.

    I didn’t mention it on Friday, but you should see a large institution in Quebec (not MPOW) announce that they’re adding Overdrive to their ebook offering.

    Thanks for participating on Friday. You guys were a great crowd. 🙂

    Posted by pmlozeau | October 31, 2011, 11:39 am

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