I first heard about the Harris County Library project when, in 2012, the author Joe Konrath posted a blog entry about being approached by them to purchase eBooks. It seemed that Harris County, TX, was also purchasing eBooks from publishers, hosting them, applying DRM, and lending them out.
I immediately contacted Joe Konrath via his blog, and apparently, thanks to what he learned from Harris County, he has started a whole new venture for libraries and eBooks - ebooksareforever.com - where authors and publishers may contribute their titles, and libraries can easily purchase them and have them delivered. On a side note, I'm very interested in this project, because they seem to have done a lot of good work on the problem that all of us have, which is an acquisitions module. We are all still using spreadsheets to order, copying and pasting into PO's, which is a lot of manual work and leaves room for error. The thing is, ebooksareforever doesn't actually host anything, so while purchasing is cake, you need to have your own place to host the files, and a way to put DRM on them. For most libraries who don't have this capability on their own, it probably won't be a great option, but I'm following where they go, because I know they're aware of this (I, along with lots of other people, have talked with them about it).
So anyway, leaving Joe Konrath for a little while (I'm sure we'll get back to them in another post, because he's coming at this from the perspective of an author wanting solutions for working with libraries, which I think adds a different dimension to the issue, and fascinates me), back to Harris County, TX.
Their project is called HCPL eSelect, and you can read all about it on their website here:
Harris County Public Library is proud to introduce HCPL eSelect, an exclusive new eBook collection made up of titles purchased directly from independent authors and publishers. The items in this collection are owned and managed by HCPL, so they can be directly checked out from the library’s catalog and are listed in your main library account with any other paper books, DVDs or CDs you borrow.
HCPL’s eBooks are so popular that over 637,000 were checked out last year – about the same circulation as one of the system’s largest physical libraries. Most of us already know about the popularity of eBooks. What you might not know is that many major publishers won’t sell their eBooks to libraries. By working directly with independent authors and publishers, HCPL is able to expand our collection and increase the variety and value of materials available for library cardholders.
Readers aren’t the only ones benefitting from this new model. Checking out books from the library encourages people to try new authors and subjects without adversely affecting their wallets. Librarians will even help guide readers to books suited to their tastes, a benefit appreciated by writers like author Joan Rylen, who had this to say:
“The innovative HCPL eSelect digital library is an amazing tool that connects readers with new authors and old favorites, whether they're self or traditionally published, therefore opening doors that had previously been slammed shut. We're thrilled to have our Getaway Girlz series as part of the launch.”
Jason Aydelotte, Executive Director of Grey Gecko Press, sees the community benefit in eSelect:
“Grey Gecko Press is proud to be able to work closely with our valued partners in the local community, including the Harris County Public Library system. We look forward to providing many more great books for local readers for years to come!”
So, if you’re a digital reader and you want to try a new author, maybe read something local, or need immediate reading gratification at no charge, browse HCPL eSelect.
HCPL eSelect Items:
Check in automatically after 14 days and do not accrue fines.
Currently do not allow hold requests.
Work with Adobe Digital Editions and many free eReader apps.
For further instructions, check the FAQ or ask library staff for assistance.
I heard from Michael Saperstein, the Multimedia Selection Librarian, who also gave me the following information:
Our system is pretty simple as far as the public is concerned. Titles in the eSelect system are added directly into the same catalog as the physical books. We are in the beta testing phase of switching our old online catalog over to the one that supports API's so soon all eBooks will be able to check out straight from the normal catalog. Since our new catalog (enterprise) can filter to just eBooks, we do not really need a separate website to pull out (or highlight) the eSelect titles. Once the site with the API's is out of beta testing, I am hopeful that a customer using our normal site (not the Overdrive one) will see no difference between downloading an Overdrive title and an eSelect title.
There is a link on the record that the customer would select to download the title. If on a computer is would download to Adobe Digital Editions. If on a portable device, it will ask you what app you want to open it in. Once you select you are up and running.
Like most libraries who do this, we use Adobe Content Server to put DRM on the titles.
Thanks, Michael, for the information.