Thursday, June 03, 2021

Libraries and E-books


I don't know about you, but I'm getting more use out of my public library lately--and entering its doors less.  Yes, I'm a digital content junkie.  Through the magic of a couple of apps on my phone or Fire, books can be in my hand as quickly with my library card as with my credit card.  Definitely a win for my wallet.  Let's take a look at some of the choices:

Library-Purchased Ebooks and Audiobooks

With Overdrive and some other platforms, libraries create custom collections (a fancy way of saying they choose which books to purchase the rights to lend). The library decides how many copies of each book to purchase. This means that even if Overdrive has the title you want, your library may not.  Even if your library has the title, you may have to wait in line to read it.  Even if your library has the book today, it may not have it next month as what the library purchases is access for a certain number of months, or a certain number of borrows, whichever comes first. 

In my experience with my library, which may or may not be typical, Overdrive is where the "hot" titles end up.  

Overdrive offers digital books, magazines and audio books.  

Pay Per Borrow

Hoopla is another digital platform to which libraries can subscribe.  Instead of purchasing books, libraries subscribe to the platform and then they pay per borrow for the books you read.  This is one reason they limit the number of books per month--though HOOPLA offers bonus borrows most months which I presume are those for which they do not charge our library. 

Besides books, HOOPLA offers audiobooks, Comics, Movies, Music and Television shows. 

While I borrow a lot of books from HOOPLA they tend to be older books, new authors or less popular genres.  

Being a Good Citizen

If I go to  my local library, borrow an armful of books and then never touch them once I get them home, unless I'm talking about a handful of "hot" books, I'm probably not hurting anyone.  The books spent three weeks stored at my house rather than sitting on the library shelf.  However, e-books are different. 

Hoopla has the advantage of being able to make a huge catalogue available to any library without big upfront costs but every borrow costs your library money (one site I reviewed said $0.99-1.49; others have said more). Some libraries have found the service to be so popular that they have had to cancel it as it was costing too much.

With purchased books, such as those accessed through Overdrive, the library has control of its budget.  However, unlike physical copies of books which can be kept for many years (and which are often discarded in "good" condition once the demand for them falls) e-books and audiobooks are licensed for a certain period of time or a certain number of borrows.  They are also limited to one check-out at a time per copy purchased, and no, despite the fact that there are no physical items to manufacture, ship and store, they are not inexpensive for libraries to purchase.  

Until I ran across a website on these platforms I honestly figured e-books were like physical books in that libraries bought them and then had them forever if they wanted them.  I figured that if I didn't monopolize a bunch of "hot" books if I had books I never read, then no harm, no foul.  Now that I'm aware of the pricing model I do try to be more discerning in my check-outs.  

Did you know how e-books were priced for your library?  If not, will this knowledge change your borrowing habits? 

This post is part of the 2021 Discussion Challenge.  Check out everyone's posts this month. 


  1. I remember when I first learned about the cost to libraries when it came to ebooks and audiobooks. Before that, I wasn't particularly careful about my borrows, but now I try really hard not to leave a digital book unread (or, more often, an audiobook unlistened to).

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

  2. I remember hearing about the cost to libraries re digital loans when they were first offered several years ago. I think if it gets too expensive for libraries they'll have to stop. I've made good use of Hoopla for audiobooks but I don't always meet the limit of 4. I still borrow print books occasionally but only after I've reserved online. I don't go to the library to peruse the shelves.

  3. What an interesting and enlightening post!

    To be honest, I haven't yet gone to the trouble of learning how to borrow e-books from the library! I still request print books through the library. In fact, I rarely use my Kindle at all. What I knew about Overdrive and Hoopla is from the author's side of things! I know I get paid tiny amounts (like you said $0.98 to $1.49) from each of the services once in a while, so it was interesting to learn about how the whole thing works!

    Thanks -


    2021 Big Book Summer Challenge


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