December 10, 2017

OverDrive to Introduce Cost Per Circ Option

OverDrive logoOverDrive announced last week that Simon & Schuster Audio, Baker Publishing, and Lerner Publishing will be making ebooks and audiobooks available for licensing on the OverDrive platform via a cost-per-circ (CPC) model later this year. Libraries will have the option to select ebook and audiobook titles from these publishers and make those titles discoverable in their library’s collection, incurring a charge only when a patron checks out the title.

Per-circ charges have not been finalized, but will vary based on the full price of licensing a title, and will be comparable to similar models already on the market, David Burleigh, OverDrive’s director of brand and marketing communication, told LJ. Burleigh also said that titles from these publishers will continue to be available to libraries under current licensing models, such as one copy/one user perpetual licenses. CPC “is an additional option,” he emphasized.

The CPC model is not new to libraries—services such as Freading and Hoopla, for example, have long employed pay-per-use models, and Hoopla has offered select titles from Simon & Schuster Audio using this model since 2015. Also, OverDrive itself has offered CPC for some streaming video content since 2013. But for OverDrive, this represents a new lending model for ebooks and audiobooks, expanding the growing variety of options available on its platform.

“Libraries and schools can mix and match…on the same ‘shelf’…what they think will bring the most value to them” setting up licensing parameters for collections, or even on a title-by-title basis, Burleigh said. “So it’s not all CPC, it’s not all one copy/one user, it’s not all metered access, it’s not all simultaneous use. It’s a variety, and I think I can see in the future [publishers offering and libraries using], multiple choices of access models on the same title…. You can look at a title and say ‘do I want to get this for the long term? Do I want to see what the demand is going to be, and do that by getting it on the short term?’ That’s the value.”

Budgeting for pay-per-use content is a common concern, but Burleigh said that libraries will be able to set parameters for content and place caps on total usage to ensure checkouts don’t exceed the funds set aside for CPC titles.

“Just like with our holds manager, you can set it to automatically fill holds, but only to a certain point,” or set limits such as price per title, or maximum copies per title, Burleigh said.

OverDrive has been actively working with libraries and publishers to develop new lending and licensing models in recent years. Beginning in 2015, the company developed “book club pricing” arrangements, facilitating the sale of 200 two-month ebook licenses for Mitchell S. Jackson’s The Residue Years (Bloomsbury USA) to Multnomah County Library, OR, for its annual “Everybody Reads” event. That model, OverDrive CEO Steve Potash told LJ at the time, was inspired by licenses for classroom sets that the company sells to K–12 schools.

And last year, at the request of Sno-Isle Libraries, WA, OverDrive borrowed a model popular in academic libraries, developing a demand-driven acquisition (DDA) system for popular ebooks and, briefly, for audiobooks. In an interview with LJ, last August, Sno-Isle electronic services librarian Michael Hawkins suggested that DDA could be a way for public libraries to target a specific audience or area of a collection—such as foreign language titles. [Update 6/12/17: Following the online publication of this article, Hawkins contacted LJ and noted that Sno-Isle reintroduced audiobooks into our DDA program this year, and have added prepub titles. “We are using more controls this time around by only including titles published after December 1, 2016, and limiting the approved publishers to those with the best turnover rates in 2016’s DDA,” he wrote.]

Burleigh suggests that offering multiple licensing options on the OverDrive platform, including CPC, could ultimately enable libraries to respond to needs in their communities, providing access to part of the catalog that they may have been hesitant to invest in due to uncertainty about demand.

“DDA, Recommend to Library, and CPC allow that, whether it’s an underserved population or a foreign language, you name it, libraries can look at [those populations] with these models in mind,” said Burleigh. “We see that a lot with foreign language, where a library might not have someone [in acquisitions] who speaks Spanish or Polish or Russian. But now you can expose the whole catalog and let people choose for themselves.”

When the CPC option debuts later this year, initially it will be limited to titles from Simon & Schuster Audio, Baker Publishing, and Lerner Publishing. However, more may join in in the future. Burleigh noted that major publishers have come a long way since the days when many were unwilling to license ebooks to libraries.

“Certainly we’re seeing more of a willingness” to experiment, he said. “And I think publishers are seeing that this is truly a marketplace where, in order to compete, they need to be flexible with their models and flexible with their pricing. It’s the way we’ve expected it to play out.”

Matt Enis About Matt Enis

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

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