Monday, April 4, 2011

Experiments in Digital Lending

Today's post is brought to you by Julie Eshbaugh, fab client and author extraordinaire.

She mentioned to me during a recent conversation that she'd started borrowing digital books from her library, and I couldn't resist asking her to do some experimenting to see just WHAT you can and can't do with these copies.

With all the hooplah over library digital-lending, I wanted to know for myself: is there really just cause to prevent this sort of thing?

Take it away Julie!

I first “borrowed” an audio book through my public library about two weeks ago. I just happened to click on “OverDrive” on the library’s home page, not knowing what it was. I learned that I could install an application called “OverDrive,” on my laptop, and through the “OverDrive Media Console,” which it set up on my desktop, I could download audio books to “borrow” from the library.

I was able to customize my lending period. My choices were seven or fourteen days. I chose fourteen.

The first book I “borrowed” was INCARCERON by Catherine Fisher. I wanted to take out a different book, too, but the other book was not available. Apparently, only a certain number of downloads can be “lent” by the library at a time, and all copies had been “checked out.”

Once the book was downloaded, it existed on my laptop in OverDrive. However, when I selected the book from my library’s website, it stated that I could transfer it to my iPod up to three times.

I transferred it to my iPod via OverDrive. I’ve listened to it exclusively on my iPod, although it was available on my laptop, as well.

After the expiration of my lending period, I got the following warning on the OverDrive Media Console on my laptop:
One or more items in your media library has expired.
-Incarceron Series, Book 1
Under the terms of the license agreement and terms of use, you are required to delete/destroy all copies of expired titles, including those transferred to portable devices and other media. Click “OK” to delete expired title(s) now.

I clicked “Cancel,” then tried to play the expired audio book. It wouldn’t let me, gave me a similar message to the above, and deleted the file.

However, I still had it on my iPod. So I hooked my iPod to my laptop to see if that would delete the book from my iPod.

It didn’t.

I downloaded a new book to my OverDrive console. It wouldn’t let me transfer it to a USB drive. I got an error message that the format – WMA Audiobook - was incompatible with the USB.

When I chose “Burn” from the OverDrive Media Console menu, I got an error message: “Unable to burn the selected title because the license prohibits burning to CD.”

However, I WAS able to email part of the book to a friend. (The book is in six parts, each one a huge file. I was able to email one part as a .wma file. I’m sure I could have emailed the other five, as well.)

But wait! When my friend tried to listen to the audio file, he received the following error message: Windows Media Player is unable to play DRM protected media.

So basically, there seem to be plenty of protections in place to be sure that I don’t share it, and I can’t keep it on my laptop. It doesn’t seem to be able to force me to delete it from my iPod, but since I don’t know how to share a file that’s on my iPod with someone else, I guess it won’t be of any value to me once I finish listening to it. I’ll probably just delete it to free up the memory.

I should note that not ALL the books available for audio download from my library can be transferred to an iPod/iPad. Some are only for Windows, some for Mac, some just for non-Apple mp3 players, but I have to say that MOST are available for the iPod/iPad.

So that’s what a few minutes of very non-scientific research unearthed.


  1. Hmm. Interesting. I'd wondered how that worked. I have to say I've never borrowed e-books or audio books from the library (or any other source), but it's interesting to know how it works. Thanks, Julie and Natalie.

  2. Yeah, I've learned the hard way that the iPod is where electronic media goes to die. Thanks for sharing your non-scientific research!

    - Liz

  3. I download ebooks for my Sony eReader from my library all the time. I love it! It's very similar to the audiobooks (you can set your lending period to 7, 14, or 21 days; no sharing with others, etc.) It uses the Overdrive website, but you have to use adobe Digital Editions to transfer it to your device which turned out to be easier than I expected. It requires an Adobe ID and for you to authorize your device before transfer, so it seems pretty secure to me. My favorite part is that when the books are on my ereader, there's a little timer with the number of days left to read it - I never have to worry about late fees because the books automatically expire! You can even return them early if you want via Adobe Digital editions (which you cannot do with audiobooks) - so if you have a lot of books out at once, you can stay under the limit that way :)

    I'm a huge fan of ebook lending, so the HarperCollins situation makes me rather sad!

  4. I do the "Adobe Digital Editions" at my library. The challenge is getting them to my iPhone. Someone advised me to use the Bluefire reader, so I have to download the books to my laptop, then go into iTunes and find the PDF file, add it, and sync my phone. It's this whole convoluted process. It's only been giving me 7 days and at the end of the 7 days it won't open either on my laptop or the phone. But maybe I'm missing where I can choose 14 days? I'll have to look.

    This is the future. While I hope there will always be libraries, I think more and more content will be offered online. From what I've seen, the Adobe Digital Editions versions are very secure, although I'm sure there's a loophole to it, as there is with anything. But I believe the solution is to address fixing the loopholes, not for the library association to wage war with a major publisher!

  5. I've been wrestling with this as well. I've found that iphone4's can't download Adobe PDF, only EPUB files, so I watch for that now. I've successfully and quite painlessly downloaded two e-books,and am reading one no problem.

    Also iphone4's don't open WMA audio files. I haven't yet tried downloading another kind.

    It does seem to work better if I search for the books on my computer with my iphone syncing, then go to my iphone bookshelf on overdrive to download.

  6. I used to work for OverDrive and they were very good about making sure ALL the DRM was in place to prevent any sort of "illegal" downloading. One of my jobs was to test the books to make sure it worked correctly before they made them public. That was a few years ago though and things have increased by leaps and bounds.

    Anyway, I love using the library and putting the eBooks on my Nook. :)The HarperCollins thing saddens me and I hope they change their mind on that.

  7. That's very reassuring and nice! Thanks for your research. :) I was wondering how that worked.

  8. Thanks for sharing this. I haven't tried the downloading but I rent audio versions of books all the time and put them on my MP3 player. I love reading them when I'm exercising and doing chores.

  9. Thanks for sharing! Your non-scientific research was actually very thorough. I don't think my computer knowledge is up to borrowing books like this.

  10. Good and another post from you admin :)