February 16, 2018

OverDrive to Distribute Harry Potter eBooks

This article was updated to include additional information from OverDrive, Pottermore, SLJ and C/W Mars.

And now for a very exciting sequel…. Harry Potter and the Public Library. Pottermore, the Harry Potter ebooks site, entered into an exclusive worldwide ebook and digital audiobook distribution agreement with OverDrive for public and school libraries. This is the first time the Harry Potter ebooks have been available for library lending.

OverDrive will manage hosting and digital fulfillment for libraries of Harry Potter eBooks and digital audiobooks in English and more than 20 other languages. The seven books in the series will initially be available in English, French, Italian, German and Spanish, with more languages to follow. American libraries will have ebook versions of the American English text to lend and U.K. libraries, the British text.

The books are already available for pre-order through OverDrive’s Content Reserve, but a go-live date has not yet been announced, according to OverDrive spokesperson David Burleigh.

However Kristi Chadwick, access services supervisor of C/W MARS Inc., told LJ that according to Content Reserve, the date for both ebooks and audiobooks is April 30. Said Chadwick, “We have also received word both there and from the OverDrive announcements that the titles will have a five year lending limit.”

J.K. Rowling, author of the series, launched Pottermore last July, though the site is still in beta. Until then, the runaway bestselling series was not available in ebook form at all. Rowling chose to make Pottermore the exclusive source of the ebooks, which are DRM free, to make sure everyone got the same experience at the same time, LJ reported. For once, therefore, libraries will have a bestselling ebook that stores don’t, rather than the other way around.

Users will be able to read the OverDrive-provided Potter ebooks on devices such as the Sony Reader, Kindle (US only), NOOK, iPhone, iPad, Android phones and tablets, BlackBerry, and Windows Phone, as well as PC and Mac computers. The digital audiobooks will be available in MP3 format so they can be played on computers, smartphones and iPods.

Rowling wrote some 18,000 words of new material for Pottermore, LJ reported when the site debuted, but those “will be part of the Pottermore website experience and will not be available in the eBooks,” Pottermore spokesperson Rebecca Salt told LJ.

“I love that Rowling and Sony [co-sponsor of the Pottermore site] are including libraries as part of the audience for both ebooks and digital audiobook distribution,” Elizabeth Burns, youth services librarian for the New Jersey State Library Talking Book and Braille Center, told LJ’s sister publication School Library Journal. “It shows that they realize that libraries do not take away from a books audience; but they grow the audience.”

Meredith Schwartz About Meredith Schwartz

Meredith Schwartz (mschwartz@mediasourceinc.com) is Executive Editor of Library Journal.



  1. This should stir a few things–and people–up. Good for Rowling! And good for public libraries. At last, some good news!

    The End of Libraries

  2. Linda Reimer says:

    I cannot be the only one out here that is alarmed by the trend of publishers, in this case J.K. Rowling as a self-publisher, to want to license e-books instead of selling them to public libraries.

    After all any Harry Potter print books we buy for our libraries will stay in our collections indefinitely, barring excessive damage our book mending crews can’t fix, they’ll remain housed on our shelves when not in circulation. And no one will come into our libraries in five years and take those books back, and thus block patron access to those books, because the license to them has expired. Nor will we be expected to pay more money for the rights to keep those already purchased print books on our shelves.

  3. librarEwoman says:

    There is one aspect of this deal that I really do not like: the fact that this is an “exclusive” deal between Rowling and OverDrive. What about the other library eBook platforms that are coming onto the market, like the 3M Cloud Library, and Baker and Taylor’s Axis 360? It looks like libraries that choose to use any other service besides OverDrive will be out of luck. I think OverDrive has manipulative business practices, and it is very unfortunate that J.K. Rowling decided to provide eBooks to libraries exclusively through them. I have no doubt that OverDrive is paying Rowling a big chunk of change for this exclusive deal. Meanwhile, the libraries that do not want to be manipulated by OverDrive’s manipulative contracts and business practices are left unable to provide these incredibly popular books in electronic format to our patrons. Was that extra money worth cutting off some of your loyal readership, Ms. Rowling?

    • librarEWoman:

      You and Linda Reimer are both quite correct, and allow me to belatedly dilute the enthusiasm displayed in my first Comment. Exclusivity is bad by definition.

      I am so keenly aware of the threat posed to libraries by all the bad behavior exhibited thus far by publishers (mainly), as well as Amazon, Overdrive, etc., that I was prematurely and excessively overjoyed at the prospect of libraries at least gaining the right to lend this popular series. I still think it cause for celebration, if a muted one.

      The End of Libraries